Like in the United States (and I presume almost every other country around), Colombia has both private and public schools. This is true at all levels (pre-school, primary, secondary, and university). Since private schools tend to have a lot more resources than public schools, Peace Corps Volunteers in the education sector here work in only public schools. Most PCVs work with one educational instutition; I work with two. This complicates things a bit because each has its own culture that I am still learning how to navigate without breaking down crying in frustration every week.
Educational institutions cover both primary and secondary, called primaria and bachillerato here. That is to say that the rector(a), or principal, of a school actually leads all sedes, or campuses.
There is also one or more coordinador(a), or coordinator, at each sede. Often there’s an academic coordinator and another one that I don’t remember the name of.
And most schools have two jornadas, or schedules, one for the morning (6:45-12:30ish) and one for the afternoon (12:45-6ish). This doesn’t mean that everyone goes home for lunch and a siesta and comes back for the afternoon; rather the students, teachers, and staff change entirely.
Therefore 1 sede often has 3-4 coordinadores/as…which means that between my two schools and three sedes that I work with, I have two principals and eight coordinators that I work with, and of course not all of them have the same expectations or work styles. See last sentence, first paragraph, about frustration and breakdowns.
One last note: students graduate after 11th grade here. There are some schools that have ciclo complementarios, or complementary cycles, which consist of a 12th year that mostly involves training the students as teachers. Some of our PCVs with more teaching experience are working in these schools focusing on that teacher training element.
One of my schools has 1 sede. In the morning there is K-2 and 6-11. In the afternoon it’s all primary; I’m honestly not even sure, but I think in addition to 3-5, there are additional K-2 classes.
My other school has two sedes. They’re also doing construction at the main sede that would allow them to unify, but it’s four years in the making and the end date is at least two years from now. At the smaller primary sede, K-2 meet in the morning, and in the afternoon you can find 4th grades and a 3rd grade class there. At the larger sede, the morning schedule has 6-11 and one 5th grade class, while the afternoon has more 6-11 and more 5th and 3rd grade classes.
Take those two principals and eight coordinators and add in countless teachers and students and a very complicated schedule that I honestly don’t even 100% have plus countless unexpected things like a lack of electricity on a super-hot day or the lack of water on another super-hot day or a really heavy rain in a town where there’s no good drainage system which means the roads are flooded, and you might understand when I say that I literally don’t know what’s going to happen on a given day.
So while sometimes I feel like I make my days right now, because I get to determine which classes I’m going to observe on which days at which schools, I also feel like I have absolutely no control over my days. For those of you who know me, you know that’s hard for me. But one of the reasons I wanted to be a PCV was for the challenge. After all, they call Peace Corps “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
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