Everyday at my school, Teodoro Gomez de la Torre, is different.  It’s true, Monday mornings usually start with a “Civic Moment”.  Students line up by class, sing the National Anthem, the school song, listen to announcements and honor outstanding students or sportsmanship in a quick award ceremony.
In the morning, school starts at 7am.  By the 9:00 recess, kids are scrambling (literally) for a snack.  Generally, students can’t leave campus, so the vendors line up outside the gates to sell their snacks to the students through the bars.  The kids clang on the bars and yell out what they want: salchipapas (french fries with a hot dog), colas or chips.  When the vendors’ trays get empty, they have to run back across the street to their restaurant to get another load.  It’s quite a scene at recess.
However, interrupted schedules and special events are more of the the norm.  Invariably each week, some classes are cancelled for the last few periods of a day, or for several days, to allow the students to participate.  January, I learned, is the month of sports.  And when you have a whole school sporting competition, you need an opening ceremony.  I started getting wind of this event in the days before when I saw students passing out colored t-shirts to each other.  Turns out, each class in each grade level fields a girls team and a boys team for soccer, basketball and volleyball.  The youngest students only play soccer.  The high school students play all three sports.  Each class designs their own sporting t-shirt and shorts and wears them proudly on the days they have games.  
For this opening ceremony, all 4,800 students paraded onto the field with banners announcing their class.  Their colored shirts added to the festive experience.  It was all very exciting!  
Each class also chose a mascot and two Madrinas (always a girl and sometimes a girl and a boy).  These Madrinas added a beauty pageant feel to the whole event, but to be chosen as
the Madrina of your class is quite an honor.
Then, to hype up the crowd even more, a huge gorilla showed up to dance with students who were chosen as mascots of each team.  The whole stadium was dancing and cheering.
And then the games began!
For at least 8 days throughout the month of January, classes were cancelled to honor all the sporting games.  When you have two teams per class, six classes at each grade level, and they all have to play against each other, a lot of time is needed for the games.
This is my brother Pablo and his friends getting ready for their first 
3rd grade soccer game against other 3rd graders. 
This group of 5th graders found the best view by climbing the goal.
 Even the pre-schoolers fielded a team and got some lessons on how to play.
The smallest students played on smaller fields in the courtyard of our school.  
This is normally our playground for recess.
The older students played their games in the stadium.  
Since the stadium is so large, 4 soccer games could be played at the same time. 
At the same time, basketball tournaments were also occurring on six courts outside…
…and inside the Colosseum.

The high school final matches drew big crowds and it was very exciting to see the older students play.

These are my International Baccalaureate Girls who were very proud that 
the “Nerds” made it to the Girls Final.

I was a bit shocked that so many days were taken off the school calendar for these sporting events, but in the end I realized that there were a lot of lessons on teamwork and good sportsmanship that came from these days.  Another example of the Ecuadorian school system raising whole kids. 
About a week after the sporting events finished, it was time for the Baile de los Inocentes, 
or Dance of the Innocent Children.  For this event,  “children” of all ages dress up in costumes and compete in dance competitions.  There is a biblical reason for this event, but it has definitely morphed into a giant costume party experience.  I saw advertisements for Baile de los Inocentes events all over town, and I know several families who signed their kids up for them trying to earn the prizes.  So the schools have events too.  At Teodoro, students of each grade level competed for about 90 minutes against each other and earned prizes for the best costume and most energetic dancing.  
Winners were chosen by judges and an “applauso-meter”. 
The Baile de los Innocentes lasted one whole day for the elementary and middle school kids, but the juniors and seniors in high school competed against each other the next day.  Their competition was a little different.  Each class selected two dancers to represent their class, and so there were only about 15 partner teams dressed in costume and participating in the dance… which lasted for hours.  They had an old-fashioned dance-off, where after several hours, teams, too exhausted to continue, would quit.  The DJ played music from many different countries and many different eras (African, Swing Jazz, Waltz, etc.)  I was amazed that these students generally knew the steps to all these different types of dances and they had costume accessories to match the dances, too (top hats, canes, scarves, etc.)  It was really fun to watch and cheer the couples on.  Finally, with the last three couples standing, they used the “Applauso-meter” to judge the winners.  Two teenage boys from a senior class, who dared to wear nothing but diapers, won the whole competition.  They were so crazy and were really good dancers too.  I wish I had pictures.  Unfortunately, this was the one day this year 
I had forgotten my camera at home. 
I’m not sure if it was planned or coincidence, but I thought it was really neat how an arts event followed a sports event.  It provided students an opportunity to honor their talents 
and represent their class in a different way.   
Last fall, former students of Teodoro school formed a giant protest.  This protest was riotous enough to close school for a day because students were throwing tear gas and burning tires in the courtyard.  The purpose of the protest was to attract attention and it certainly did.  The police, a SWAT team and all the local news crews showed up to get involved.  Even our principal spoke passionately that the students had a right to create this disturbance for our school.  Why?  Because Teodoro Gomez de la Torre is supposedly one of the most historical and beloved high schools in Ecuador.  Unfortunately, as many parents and students feel, it has been neglected by the Ministry of Education for many years.  It is true, its infrastructure is crumbling and the class sizes are huge (more than 40 at all grade levels). Also, as I understand it, there has been a rotation of principals ever two years as the Ministry uses this position as a political stepping stone for up and coming administrators.  Obviously, without this consistency, nothing is getting done for the betterment of the school.  So, the protestors wanted to let the public know what was happening behind the gates of this historic school, 
and try to get the Ministry to do something about it.  
The protests must have worked.  So far this year, I’ve seen several changes at our school.  First, the current principal stayed in his position.  Second, there has been many work crews painting, 
changing light-bulbs, laying new sod on the playground and fixing up classrooms.  
One day, classes were cancelled to celebrate the re-opening (after several years) of 
the swimming pool and laboratories for biology and physics.  Sorry, no photos of the science labs – they look just like modern school laboratories in the US.  
The swim team is happy to use their own pool again.  
It’s nice to see the pride students, staff and parents have for their facilities.