Next up is Luis Vallejos Santoni!
This is the second we’ve been working at second-longest, since 2004. The school itself is pretty large with three classrooms for each grade, as well as an entire second day of secundaria classes during the afternoon. We have class here twice a week from 3-4:30 p.m., which gives the girls ample time to go home to change and eat lunch before class after school lets out at 1 p.m. About 12 girls attended during our orientation week in August 2016, and we were impressed with their hockey skills and overall athleticism.
It’s great to have some schools where we teach twice a week because we are able to go more indepth with the sports. The existing athletic ability of these girls made working at Santoni always exciting. We kept consistent numbers for the whole semester, around 12-15 girls, and had a large showing of 6th graders. A core group always showed up early to class, eager to color in their folders and get some playing in before we started warm-up.
We soon realized that the Santoni girls do well with incentive systems, and they took well to our Chica de la Semana program, in which we honored one girl each week for coming to both classes, behaving well, helping teammates, and being an all-around sports superstar. They would always ask us who we were going to select, reminding us about it as we got close to the end Thursday class. Once we agree on one girl, we interview and photograph her to profile her on our social media accounts. They also loved to get involved with the interview process, which always led to lots of laughter and goofy responses.
While we had behavioral discipline problems early, we managed to curb that with a strict “all for one” policy in which the whole team will get punished if one girl breaks a rule. For example, if one girl bought food from the local vendor during class, then everyone had to run 3 laps around the court. This helped enforce discipline and pushed girls out of their comfort zone to be more vocal leaders encouraging their teammates to behave better.
We also had court problems at this school. We constantly asked the boys to leave our side of the court during the fall. It wasn’t until we began to play with them after class–and Profe Alika schooled them in soccer–that they began to respect and listen to us. They seemed to look forward to our soccer sessions after class, and eventually some of our girls would stick around so we could do full matches against the boys. Of course, we always won.
In December, we had our year-end party upstairs in the school. We played music, ate cake, and the girls danced for us while we sat around talking and making Christmas cards. After, we went outside to the court and said a heartfelt goodbye to our 6th graders after presenting them with small gifts and certificates of program completion.
When we returned in March 2017 to start the program again, we were met with a few surprises. First, our court was filled with toys for Carnival, leaving little space to have class. Second, there was a new school director. While the bouncy houses and carousels remained on the field for practically all semester, we found ways to work around them and had to institute new rules to restrict the girls from playing on them during class time. On the other side of things, Director Delia was the most organized director we worked with and was more than enthusiastic to learn all about the program and help us in any way we needed.
We had about 40 girls show up consistently for the first few weeks, the majority of whom were 4th graders. This was a huge shift from our small group of mature 6th graders from the past semester, and our first few classes felt more like we were babysitting than actually doing substantive sports material. After our annual M&E testing, numbers dropped significantly to a core group of about 15 girls. It has been a joy to work with them this semester. Since they consistently have the highest levels of attendance, and we work with them twice a week, they pick up new skills so quickly. It is easy to get through our planned lessons and play full games.
This semester, in addition to the carnival games, parents were eager to play volleyball during our class time. After we played volleyball with them a few days, they agreed to move their game time to after our class. Although we shared the courts a lot, we had mutual respect from and with boys and parents. We’re in the process of getting a key to the court so that we can lock it during class time and create a safer space for the girls. The director, teachers, parents and girls highly support this idea and we’re optimistic that this will happen!
Luckily for us, a few of the Chicas Dinamicas graduates live nearby and attend the same school for secundaria. We have been graced with their presence in recent weeks (due to the strike), and they have grown-up so much in just a few months. It was exciting to have their energy back in class, especially to serve as role models for the younger girls. Unfortunately, recently we have not had class because of the strike, but some of the older ones have Facebook, and we have been attempting to organize a goodbye dinner before we leave. Fingers crossed that we can coordinate something soon!
If time isn’t on our side, we’d like to say: Girls, we have had a blast with you all, beating the boys in soccer games, walking you home after shopping for dinner supplies in San Pedro, fielding numerous questions, and seeing you turn into leaders. You girls have grown up so much throughout this year. We cannot wait to return to Cusco and help you take down the boys in a soccer match. Take care, and please listen to your new profes!!
Profe Lydia y Profe Alika