It’s a rare week at my school, Teodoro Gomez de la Torre, 
if we actually have five full days of classes.  
Here’s a glimpse into the culture of our school
— where there’s always something going on …
Mingas and Our New Playground
One day a minga was organized.  A minga is basically a community work party.  Each class was assigned a different area of the school to clean, or refresh.  These students were cleaning the weeds from the basketball courts, and the courtyard/ parking lot.  I saw other students cleaning the swimming pool, repainting murals, and cleaning/ repainting classrooms.  Some classes were working in the school garden and others were making new gardens.  This commitment to community service really resonated with me.  I wish we could replicate this idea in the United States. 
Parents also came to the minga to help disinfect desks, repaint classrooms, pick-up garbage and help keep the students busy. 

I stood and watched these parents for a long time.  They built a fence and then 
planted grass to try to improve the playground. 
Then, the following Monday, this happened…  The Mayor decided to provide city funds for a new playground.  When we arrived at school, we were all surprised to see a front-end loader in the courtyard and the Mayor, followed by the local TV crews, ceremoniously laid the first stone.
In reality, we all know why this happened: the Mayor was up for re-election one week later and Teodoro School is the largest school in the city.  He was banking on some votes
for his very generous project.
But, if I was a parent who spent all day the previous Friday trying to plant the grass, I’d be mad.  Perhaps this was part of the reason why the Mayor didn’t get enough votes to win.

So, now, this is what our playground looks like. The kids have no place to play,
except the parking lot, for the rest of the school year.  

Cross-City Championships
Sports is king here in Ecuador, and the month of March meant the cross-city championships between rival schools.  Two students from each class were selected to be on the “Selection Team” to represent Teodoro in futbal and basketball for their grade level.  My brother, Pablo, played for the 3rd and 4th grade Selection Team for indoor soccer and he was able to miss many days of classes for practice and competition.  
It ended up that his team won their grade-level championships and 
were treated like royalty by the local TV news.  
Pablo is on the right sporting his new blue shoes.  He was so proud to be apart of this experience. 
Foundation Day

Again.  Again?
“Didn’t we take a week in October to celebrate the founding of our school 
with parades and speeches?”, I asked.
“Yes, we’re doing it again- but just for one day.”
It was a beautiful morning for an assembly of all 4800 students on the basketball courts. 
Then, there was an evening torchlight parade with balloons, fake torches and the school principal and student body president leading us all downtown in the back of a pick-up.  Here you can see 
Margarita and Jose in the bottom right walking in this parade.  All the members of Jose’s family, including all of his siblings, most of his nieces and nephews, and now his children, have attended Teodoro.  He is a Teodorista through and through!
We paraded downtown to the original high school where a plaque was placed to commemorate 135 years since the founding of our school, and the years of historic importance in the community. 
Then they let the balloons go….
And the band led us all back to the school. 

Día del Maestro

In April, it was Día del Maestro- or Day of the Teacher… and the kids and the teachers love to take the day for food and fun.  It is tradition for students to shower their teachers with roses, chocolates, fruit baskets, cake, cards, lots of food, and speeches of appreciation. 

Some classes gave passionate speeches about the importance of teachers in their lives.  They also read poems, sang songs, or performed a special dance.  And teachers go from class to class 
all day long absorbing the fanfare.  One class of students gave me a little plaque, too. 

Culture and Geography English Club

And finally, Kendall and I pulled off another English Club for our International Baccalaureate Students.  This time we focused on geography and cultures around the world.  For five different weeks, we studied maps of each region, and then participated in activities to learn more about the history, the language, culture, music, dance, stories and food from Israel/ Palestine, New Zealand, Ukraine, Ethiopia and India.  When our sessions were complete, we asked students if after learning about these places, would they like to learn and travel more around the world? They all raised their hand.
Mission accomplished.  The students obviously enjoyed our club,
and I learned a lot from my site-mate and resident culture expert, Kendall.