A Reflection on Learning

by Cameron Cummings

Lunch conversation with Manuel and Pati today centered a lot around our classroom observations at Colegio Tupac Amaru and a number of the things we've been noticing there. Maddy and I brought up a number of the disrespectful and discouraging behaviors we'd seen, which fueled a medium length discourse on Manuelito's part about the challenges of being A). a teacher and B). a student who actually wants to learn here. He talked a lot about the effect of such an environment and I could very much agree with his opinions, based on what I've witnessed the past two mornings. 

It also really put this afternoon's taller in context. To see kids from Pasaje Ivan and Aguas Blancas, both, voluntarily (or mostly so) attending and participating in the workshop meant a lot to me. I had a newfound respect for their level of self-organization despite all the barriers to their progress. For many, their parents don't support the youth groups as they perhaps think them a waste of time or fear that they're an excuse for children to get out of chores and likely fool around. 

We as GlobeMed and Kallpa know those not to be true and have supported the youth a lot, even meeting with parents in el Aguaje last year to talk about our group, what we do, and the importance of respecting and supporting these autonomous youth associations, from our view. 

Tonight I even found myself a bit more surprised than ever before when the teens barely entertained any side conversation throughout the activities. I think in part it helps that we're young adults ourselves and that everything we were doing was very hands-on and engaging, though some of the school activities don't seem so bad and are met with rude and inconsiderate behavior on many students' parts nonetheless.   

I suppose a change of environment helps all of this. Like Manuel was saying, when parents don't discipline their children for how to behave in school and when they themselves may not have attended or been engaged, it's harder to expect their children to know how to behave appropriately there. When respect for teachers isn't enforced at home and when parents may not have direct contact with teachers or school administrators, it's more difficult to see where students will learn the lessons that we as American students expect to see in a classroom. Most of what Manuel and Pati were saying is that it's an environment problem and when your home and community don't set you up to behave 'properly' in these spaces, where else will you learn it?

I struggle a little to see why the youth group activities should be so different then, though I do recognize the importance of self-organization, free will, and youth-led initiatives when recognizing the differences. Perhaps it's some mix of these factors, coupled with the validation of Kallpa's support that encourages kids to come back and to continue making positive contributions to these groups, time and time again. 

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