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Teaching in Guatemala

By Tracy Adrian
Tracy Adrian is a teacher at an international school in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Teaching in Guatemala

A woman standing in front of a homemade white flag which says "Tenemos Hambre"
Photo from Reuters taken by Jose Cabezas.

My journey with a program called The International Educator, which matches your resume with postings from international schools, led me to an international school in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I love it here for several reasons. First of all, my school is amazing. As an international school that serves the children of the embassies, people who live in Guatemala permanently, and expats, the population is made up of people all over the world. Most of the students speak more languages than me! Plus my students are so curious and concerned about the world. Even now, during summer and extreme restrictions, my students are running a virtual book club with a social justice theme. At the moment, we are reading How to be an Antiracist.

Another reason I am so happy is because of Guatemala itself. The people, culture, coffee, weather, and pace of life here are all so wonderful. Right now, the President (Alejandro Giammattei) is working very hard to make sure the country remains this way, as COVID-19 changes our daily life. He is putting in a lot of strict rules to make sure we flatten the curve and keep the people of Guatemala safe. While the U.S. opens up, we are closing down. At the moment, restaurants are delivery or pick up only, stores that do not sell essential items are closed, there is a toque de queda or curfew from 5 pm-5 am on weekdays, Saturdays the curfew starts at 2 pm, Sundays are total lockdown, we must wear masks when we go outside, people can't travel between departments (which are about the size of counties in the States), travel by car is restricted by license plate, the borders are closed, and schools are closed.

It feels like COVID-19 has been getting harder and harder. I miss my students especially. We are lucky that at my school the students have enough technology that we can have synchronous classes following a half-day schedule as if we were at school. Getting to see their faces on zoom every day helped. I loved getting to hear from them, see their smiles, or share their struggles. It isn't the same though. This is particularly difficult for those students who I won't see again next year because they are graduating or moving to another country. One of the best parts of being a teacher is getting to celebrate with your students at the end of the year to say how much you love them and how proud you are of them for all of them that they've learned in person. I don't get to hug my students goodbye and that is making me cry some days.

There are some great things too though. I've gotten to see some amazing learning from my students including some great poetry, graphic novels, rhetorical analyses, and interesting discussions. I'm amazed at how insightful my students are even when they are so young and this time period is so new, difficult, strange, and oftentimes traumatic.

For myself, I'm spending a lot of time alone in my apartment. That can make things hard but it can also be super cool. I've been painting, reading, cooking, walking the dogs when I'm allowed outside, gardening, cross-stitching, sewing, cleaning, practicing yoga, and sometimes just being at peace with myself.

My next-door neighbor, who teaches kindergarten at our school, started a program to help feed people laid off during the pandemic. Many of the students at the school are trying to help her. They have been running raffles, a virtual talent show, and making social media campaigns to raise money. The streets have many people waving color-coded flags (white for hungry, red for medical needs, etc) and asking for help. The economic devastation is shocking in the city. I can't imagine what it is like outside of it. Unfortunately, the medical system here cannot handle many cases. There are too few hospital beds. So we can't open up. The kids will not be returning to school until at least 2021.

It is hard and scary at times, but it also feels safer here in some ways.