Educational Contexts: Grace Chambers

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Grace Chambers

They have a whole room just for sewing machines, which is a valuable skill for any child to learn, but even more so for a child from a working-class family who may need the skills to mend clothing themselves.

In the course of our first 12 days in Lima, we have had the privilege to visit 5 different areas of the city. People have welcomed us into their homes, administrators have invited us to their schools, and after school programs have given us the opportunity to feel like kids again. We have examined each of these areas in an educational context because the areas in which students live will always affect their education. Each community or school has fallen into one of Lima’s ridged socioeconomic status labels: A, B, C, D, and E. (Side note: upon our arrival, we learned that unlike the United States -where social status is a vague term lacking measurable definition- Peru actually legally categorizes and labels areas as an A, B, C, D, or E, based on the wealth of the particular area). In addition to placing ourselves in educational contexts, we have been reading the work of educational philosophers Paulo Freire and John Dewey.

Colegio Roosevelt

We were able to tour Colegio Roosevelt last Tuesday. It is a private American school, so its community cannot be located on a map. However, upon visiting the school the community presented itself to us. The students who attend this school almost entirely come from a home that would fall into the “A” category. Many students are children of ambassadors or other wealthy and important Peruvian/American men/women. Dewey would love this school. Its facilities and opportunities for exploration in learning are endless, and the children who go to school there certainly will grow in the ways he is looking for. Students engage in hands-on learning, collaborative student-run projects, and service work. Dewey’s educational philosophy matches Roosevelt well because it is a philosophy that partners will with a well-funded school with a large population of typically developing children. Freire would like the school itself because of the opportunities to implement liberation pedagogy, however it seems kind of silly to teach liberation pedagogy to a community that already has the world at their fingertips.

Colegio Immaculada

Our longest time in the field will be spent at Colegio Immaculada. It is a private school that children will attend starting in kindergarten through the completion of secondary school. The students who attend come from mostly “B” class families. It has boundless resources, including a zoo that students use to do research projects on animals, the environment, and endangered species. I observed specific classes at Immaculada, for only the past two days, and therefore can only speak to what I learned in those three classes and what I observed on the tour. The English class that I am working closely with explores children’s innate desire to have and use language, according to Dewey. They have a language lab in which they can practice having conversations in English. Both Freire and Dewey would think that this is an incredible resource for students because they are able to learn how to use language both in academic and social contexts. For example: students watched videos about the use of technology in natural disasters, after watching the videos they were given five prompting questions to answer with a random partner. They talked into headsets with other students in the class about how using technology can help in the event of a natural disaster. This combined academic, practical, and social knowledge to develop their language. The school offers countless resources like the language lab to support students in many kinds of learning.

Fé y Alegria

Fé y Alegria is the school we visited that was in a working class of “C” area. It serves about 1,200 students between kindergarten and high school. We have yet to observe classes, but we had the opportunity to tour the school and meet the teachers we would be working with. The think that stood out to me the most at the school was that they taught both academic and practical skills. They have a whole room just for sewing machines, which is a valuable skill for any child to learn, but even more so for a child from a working-class family who may need the skills to mend clothing themselves. Freire would like this model because education meets the needs of the community and the students.

El Agustino

El Agustino has several after school programs which we have had the pleasure of participating in. These programs are specifically geared towards the community, which would be categorized as a “D.” MLK Deportivo school, La Casitas Social Project, and the “Día de Juegos” are all initiatives to engage children in athletics, arts, and community building activities. Many of the programs in El Agustino started as Jesuit initiatives and have since become integral parts to fostering the community leadership that El Agustino prides itself on. Dewey would like these programs because they highlight two of the four instincts: social and expressive. The programs all teach positive relationship building skills, and they allow students to engage in cultural practices, arts, and sports. They allow for some of the types of growth that Dewey is interested in, as the programs focus on teaching children how to channel their energy in to bettering themselves and their community.

Pamplona Alta

Viewing only the context of education, and not a school itself posed its challenges when we visited Pamplona Alta. But seeing the strengths of the community as well as the challenges it faces allowed us to understand why access to education was limited. Pamplona Alta is categorized as an “E” community, because almost all of its residents are living in poverty. The community was created only by those who live there, which is extremely impressive. However, its location on a hillside and the absence of a city planner makes getting to the once public school in the area a major challenge for students and teachers. The school is understaffed because Pamplona Alta is isolated and teachers struggle to get there. Additionally, many students have to walk very far to school, if there is even a spot available for them. Freire would be likely to look at the community assets, such as the care people put into their homes and streets, to understand education in Pamplona Alta. Dewey would most likely focus on what needs to be improved, such as more opportunities for children to foster their language, social, making, and expressive instinct.

I have enjoyed observing all of these schools because they are all making strides to align education with hands-on justice-oriented education. These two aspects of learning are the two that I have realized that I value most as I begin to think about my personal philosophy of education.

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