I accompanied Ingrid to pick Talea up from school today. We were allowed into the school courtyard before school let out. It gave us the opportunity to go over to Talea´s classroom and peek in the window. There, sitting in the middle of a room full of first graders, was my daughter. Oblivious to her voyeur parents, she was dutifuly copying her homework assignment into her notebook. Her hair in poneytails, flapping over the shoulders of her starched white uniform shirt, she was fully concentrating on her task. Her table-mate and good friend Lorena sat next to her, appearing to coach her. Meanwhile the good Profesora Ofelia worked at the chalkboard, scratching out an assigment with a stub of chalk. A little boy near the window spied us, and in an incredible feat of intuition, figured we were Talea´s parents. He felt compelled to go over to Talea and announce the fact. I wish I had a camera. Her reaction was beautiful. Eyes like saucers, and a smile from ear to ear, you could see she was proud of herself. It was good being a Daddy today.
Just as pleasing was seeing how much a part of the school community Ingrid has become already. Various staff and parents waved or stopped her to banter. Her personality is universally appreciated. Imagine, tomorrow she begins to help the upper-elementary English teacher. She´s going to own that school by the time we leave. “La Escuela Inky”, I can see it now.
Today I helped administer the national diagnostic exam to a group of third graders (equivalent to our ninth graders). I took the Spanish test myself and scored 100%. We can assume Pepino Suave is at least at ninth grade level in Spanish. That is more or less my English apptitude as well.
The test appears to be a good instrument for assesment. I saw elements of the national curriculum in most of the content. The problem, I believe, like most standardized tests anywhere, is in the administration of the exam. The day is given a festive air. Students and teachers alike know it means a short, light day. Once the test is finished, everyone goes home. I detected a lot of rushed, haphazard test taking. That isn´t a good way to get a real measure of learning, or lack of learning.
Also, like our testing-frenzy in the U.S., kids get tested a lot here: three national tests a year, plus several school-wide tests, not to mention the tests teachers give as part of the coursework. I´m no pig farmer, but I know you can´t fatten a pig if it spends all day on the scales.
Needless to say, school let out early, and the streets were full of students. On my way home, groups of students would stop me and ask if I was coming with them to eat gorditas at one of the many gordita shacks in town. It was like a holiday. I said no, I was too sad because there was no class today. They know my schtick; they just laughed and went on their way.