Someone brought a horse to school today. Not a wooden horse or a toy horse but a real horse, a chestnut mare, about 12 hands I would guess. Someone else brought a chicken and tied it to a tree by one of its legs. Two 13-year olds brought machetes. It was a sort of show and tell day!
Today was deemed “El Dia de las Americas” (the day of the Americas) and some of the high school students did presentations on some of the countries in the Americas (USA, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and, of course, the Dominican Republic). The presentations ranged in in quality and enthusiasm from banal to absolutely fabulous. Most of the presentations typically revolved around food and some of the students (or more likely mothers, or even more likely grandmothers) had been busy baking apple pies and cookies (for the USA) and the cafeteria had been working overtime to produce hot-dogs, empañadas (a type of deep-fried pasty), rice, sausages and fried chicken (staples throughout all the Americas apparently as they each appeared on every table).
Some of the students had dressed up in the national costume of their chosen country and prepared a dance routine and an interesting and informative talk and display of foods, crops, flags, coins and photographs. Some of them wore a hat and read from a torn bit of paper, when they could put down their phone and stop giggling long enough to present.
The horse was representing Venezuela but spent most of the morning galloping round the playground offering rides and scaring the living daylights out of the chicken. The chicken tied to the tree was representing the Dominican Republic where the principles of “Compassion in World Farming” are yet to reach. The machetes were being worn and wielded by the farmers from Peru.
There was no evidence of any teacher supervision or input and at face glance it seemed completely chaotic and disorganised but it was really enjoyable and very informative and I enjoyed taking my class around the various displays and learning new information about my Latin neighbours.
Sadly, of course, many of the students enjoyed it far less and took the opportunity of no formal lessons to play basketball through the middle of one presentation, start a fight in another and chat and eat crisps through all the rest.
When the presentations were over, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do some further study on the Americas; to see what the students could remember about the countries they had just “visited” to reinforce their learning and answer any questions they might have. I had prepared other material to teach today (I didn’t know it was a special day until I got to school, that’s how information is communicated here!) but during the break I rushed to my classroom and prepared a worksheet and filled the blackboard with a quiz about what we had just been shown, to develop their ideas further.
I then waited and waited for my eager fifth graders to arrive. It is not unusual for them to be late to class after break so after 5 minutes I went to round them up from the playground. The school was a ghost town. Apart from the horse, and Matt, Ben, Katie and Zach sitting under a tree next to the chicken, the school was completely empty. I should have been here long enough to know that if there is any sort of “event” at the school, as soon as it is finished, the students rush the gate and race home, regardless of how much teaching time is still left. What a fool I am!