More photos HERE!
I just visited an indigenous school called Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Barrio las Palomas, San Miguel la Labor, Municipio San Felipe del Progreso, State of México, and did we have a party. They even called it that- una fiesta pedagógica – a pedagogical party. It sounded strange at first but I realized this must be the one of the best things ever.
Education or pedagogy is usually (at least in my culture) associated with high stress, with tough competition, or something with heavy content. We think of education policy, education reform, ministries of education with high-flying personnel- education is serious business. I hardly think of educational parties, or spaces where the community can “party” academically. Even as I’m writing this now, the phrase “academic parties” sounds slightly odd.
A team and I were at the primary school for the day, for the grand opening ceremony of the state’s very first classroom for tutoring (tutoría). The day began first with tutoring teachers from the school and the surrounding area, followed by speeches by officials and presentation by the students in the new classroom, and ended off with a tree-planting ceremony to mark a commitment of the people to nurture and grow their students. At Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, so much emphasis was placed on the celebration of education, and that meant the celebration of people. For all the academic authorities, their students were at the heart of the celebrations, and I saw that in the little things.
1) Cutting the ribbon.
During the opening ceremony, Mtro. Bernardo Váquez Irineo, the academic technical advisor for the region asked the representative of all federal primary schools in the State of México, Profra. Esperanza Elizabeth Pacheco to cut the ribbon but she said, with a big smile on her face, “No, let the children cut it. This classroom is for them.”
See the whole day here!
2) The front row.
This row is usually reserved for the fancy authorities but in their place, were the students who were both tutors and tutees. While there was still the panel of speakers, Juan Pedro Rosete, National Advisor for the Integral Strategy to Improve Academic Achievement (or EIMLE for its Spanish abbreviation), and Profra Elizabeth wanted students to be seated there. They kept reminding me- the children are the center, they should be in the spotlight.
3) Eating together.
In many of the other schools I’ve been to, I always didn’t like that I had to eat away from the children in the school. My body would be with the authorities, but my heart and mind would be outside in the yard, longing to get to know the students more. There never seems to be enough time to be with the children. But at Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the children were interwoven with the adults, with the authorities. We were eating together, and that made me and them the happiest.
When we talk about education reform, it often starts from the top-down, instead of the bottom up, and at the bottom lies the heart of education – our children, our students. As Juan Pedro noted in his speech to the group, if all the fancy things we do on the top doesn’t reach them, then what we do is useless. Often there is too much talk with big words and not enough little voices, there is too much politics and not enough parties. There is too much talk about schools being lost, and not enough talk about schools being in love with what they do.
The words we use matter. And here in México, I’m learning a new vocabulary. Instead of just implementing change, the call here is to live out the strategy. Instead of a talking about politics and trying to buy-over policy-makers who are clouded by self-interests and other big things adults talk about, we talk about getting them excited and getting them to fall in love with what can be done in schools. Instead of a competition where each student or teacher is in a race against the other, we’re creating a competition to see who can share more. In fact, just two weeks from now, we’re having a huge fiesta in the capital where representatives from every state – 2 students, 1 teacher, 1 authority and 1 parent is going to learn and share their knowledge with the other.
I believe by changing the way we think about education, we could really create a world that is more in love, with more people who live in peace and a generation that is more alive.
Here in México, the words of this song, Come Home echoes in me.
“I get lost in the beauty of everything I see,
The world ain’t half as bad as they paint it to be.”
There’s a lot of good in this world, a lot of good in México. The people here know how to be excited about education and how to celebrate it. So as laughter and claps fill the room and fistfuls of confetti are tossed into the air, as it was last week – it’s time to party.
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