Schools in Ecuador come in all shapes and sizes.  Some schools are only elementary, middle and high, while others are K-12.  Here’s a glimpse into two Ecuador schools.

An elementary school in Guayaquil.  Along the coast, schools are in session from May – February,
avoiding the hottest months of March and April.  When I visited, the students were already on their summer vacation.

A functioning computer lab with 5 computers
Centro Tecnico is a technical middle and high school in Quito, where students can focus on automotive, industrial arts, electrical science and other trade programs.  I worked in this school for a 4-week practicum experience.  Schools in the Sierra Mountain region are on a September- June schedule to avoid the hottest months of July and August.
This school in built entirely around a giant concrete courtyard and bandstand where PE classes occur, as well as all school assemblies. I got to see an all school assembly honoring the women of the school on International Women’s Day.  A Mariachi Band played on the bandstand and the entire student body stood in their class lines for 1 hour. 
Here is a typical class of high school students hard at work in their textbook.  In Ecuador, students are assigned a classroom and they stay in that classroom all day while their teachers of math, science, language, English, etc. rotate through the classrooms.  In my observation, this creates a strong classroom community among the students, but it also makes the teacher seem like a guest in “their classroom”.  Students tend to really “run” the class.  They decide if their classroom floor is neat or messy, the walls or desks are clean or graffitied, or if they should sit in their assigned seat. Because teachers share all the classrooms, they are not allowed to hang any papers on the walls or post any resources/ information for the students.  Therefore, classrooms are stark and all information is kept in student notebooks to memorize.  Because students don’t need to leave the classroom between subjects, the school can eliminate passing time.  Teachers are expected to run to their next class. When they arrive, all students stand up and provide a formal greeting until they are told to sit down.  Since all students are tracked into the same classes every day, I have seen no evidence of modifications for student needs such as Special Education programs or advanced curriculums.  That said, many high schools offer an International Baccalaureate program. If students earn high marks and are accepted into this program, all of their classes are spent together with this higher academic focus.  These are the students expected to go on to specialty careers in the University. 
I shadowed “Teacher Gabby” through her English classes of Juniors and Seniors, and helped teach many of the lessons. This month, one class was learning vocabulary and grammatical structures of the active and passive voice around the theme of traditions. I taught a lesson about the US holiday of Thanksgiving.  Then, she asked the students to form groups to research, and present, different Ecuador traditions to “Teacher Becky”. 
These high school students worked hard on their researched presentations and their English pronunciation, but in truth, I think Google Translator worked even harder.  

You will notice that these students are all wearing casual uniforms. This signifies that they are having PE that day.  On non-PE days, they wear their school’s dress uniforms of dress sweaters, slacks or skirts.  All schools in Ecuador require uniforms in which the parents have to pay for.

One group taught me all about the New Year.  I found out that I’m supposed to wear yellow and red underwear at the New Year to invite wealth and love into my future. Another group taught me about the Ecuadorian traditions around El Dia de Los Muertos.
The best part of the presentations was that students asked if they could bring food to showcase the foods that are typical of each holiday.  For the New Year, they brought me 12 grapes for good luck.  For Dia de Los Muertos, they brought me Colada Morada, a sweet and warm strawberry/ mixed berry syrup soup.  Delicious!
This is traditional Fanesca, a thick soup made of 12 different grains and toppings representing each of the 12 apostles.  Ecuadorians eat this dish during Easter.  It tastes great, except for the salted cod included with it.  
They also brought some “espuma” (think shaving cream) to spray me with as part of a group’s celebration of Carnaval!
Since Birthdays are a big celebration in Ecuador, the last group insisted that they teach me about what to expect on my birthday.  I knew what was coming, but I played along.  After singing the English and Spanish versions of Feliz Cumpleanos, I received the royal treatment!
I was so lucky to work with Teacher Gabby and her great students!
 The students were so sweet.  Since this was my last day, some of the groups wrote me a thank you card and made me a sign to take to my new site.  I’m not sure what the card is supposed to say – I could only help with so much English instruction in my 8 days there- but I loved the sentiment and their appreciation of my impact on their classes!
Thanks to the whole English Department of Centro Tecnico Colegio (High School) for making myself, and some other Peace Corps Volunteers, feel so welcomed and loved.  In addition to mentoring us, they made it a point to invite us to dinners and dancing!  They are such a fun group.  I hope to keep in touch and visit them again, soon!