Smiles at Santoni

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The past week was both hectic and extremely productive for us. We had Alice, one of our great consultants, visiting for the week to pre-test new monitoring and evaluation tools and to conduct interviews with parents, school administrators, and students. Larkin and I had spent the past few weeks working extremely hard to line up interviews so that the week would be a success, but people lead very busy lives here and so I was anxious to see whether the parents I had called would come to be interviewed at the designated places and times.

Monday got off to a good start with our first parent interview, and Tuesday was particularly long. We rushed back from Pacca to arrive at Santoni early for our next parent interview, but realized we had forgotten the girls’ folders that they color at the beginning of class. Larkin went back to the apartment to retrieve them, while Alice began an interview with a set of parents. I had planned to observe this interview, but many of the girls had arrived early that day. Instead of observing, I took the group of girls and conducted a “group” interview with them, which went well — everyone had something to say, and the girls were too excited to wait their turn to speak. I scribbled notes all over the question sheets, and ultimately felt a sense of accomplishment by the end of the process, since I managed to get at least one comment from each girl.

At the end of class, we had our first attempt at a real basketball game. The week before we had handed out and gone over sheets with the rules, so were hoping that the game would run relatively smoothly. Although the girls had tons of energy and it was a lot of fun, the game turned out to be pretty much a long stream of traveling (carrying the ball without dribbling) punctuated by excited screaming. It definitely could have been described as organized chaos. By the end of class, Larkin and I agreed that we definitely needed whistles for Thursday. Before we ended class with the chicas dinámicas cheer, we reminded the girls that if they wanted to play another game they needed to review the rules and come prepared for next class.

On Thursday, we came to class prepared with two whistles. There were no interviews scheduled for this day, but we had planned to test a model for physical evaluation with the girls before getting to basketball. My head was filled with anxiety-laden memories of the strength and conditioning testing from high school, and so I was expecting the girls to be apprehensive. I had forgotten, however, that they are only in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades and are too young to feel that kind of anxiety. In fact, they were all smiles and giggles as we tested them on timed pushups and sit-ups, flexibility, and lastly a timed sprint and “distance” run (five laps is a lot at their age).

It might have just been the promise that they could play Lava (their favorite game) after they finished the testing, but they all cheered each other on through the distance run, and were really peppy and ready to go once they had all finished. A quick game of Lava and one scraped knee later, we were ready for our basketball game. I divided the teams into two while Larkin attended to the knee, and I reminded the girls that this time around I was going to blow the whistle on every rule infraction. Much to my surprise, I only needed to use the whistle once. Compared to Tuesday’s game, it seemed like I was watching an entirely different group. All the girls were dribbling, but more importantly they were making great passes to each other. As usual, they were all smiles, and their smiles are truly infectious. I was thrilled about their improvement and great attitude. I could not be more excited to play a longer game with them this coming week.



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