For my service this school year, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend two days at my first assigned school, U.E. Teodoro Gómez de la Torre (TGT), and three days at my second and much smaller school, U.E. Agustín Cueva Dávila (ACD).  Since the Ministry of Education sets a calendar for all schools to celebrate the same important days each year, I’m seeing many of the same types of events this year as I witnessed and wrote about last year.  However this year, for many of these events, I have made it a point to be at my new smaller school.  It’s been fun to watch how they interpret the events differently.  
Here is a summary of key events that have happened this fall at U.E. Agustín Cueva Dávila. 
On September 26th, every school celebrates Flag Day with a lot of pomp and circumstance.  This is an especially important day for the Seniors around the country, because on this day they each make a promise to their flag to honor their country of Ecuador.  Also, on this day, the Valedictorian, or the Abanderado, of each school in announced, as this student has the honor of holding the Ecuadorian flag.  This student is the Abanderado for the entire year.  Those students who have grade point averages just below the Abanderado make up the court of flag bearers.  At TGT, over 350 seniors took this oath last year.  At ACD, there are only 8 Seniors, so the ceremony was much shorter!  

To kick things off, the entire body of students from the high school marched 
in formation and sang anthems for Ecuador and the City of Ibarra.
They had been practicing this for many days.
Their green sweaters and dark blue jeans are their school uniforms. 
And then the Seniors entered to the applause of parents, School and District Administrators,
as well as authorities from the city government and active military officers
who were overseeing the public commitment of these students. 
Delia was named as the new Abanderada of ACD, the smartest student in the school.  In this culture, they honor the parents of these high-achieving students as well, and her mom was tasked with tying on her special sash.  A representative of the military presented her with a flag. 
Then, she held the flag for each of her classmates to give their promise to Ecuador.
It was a proud moment for them all. 
During the months of October and November, students from 7th-12th grade formed groups and campaigned to be the next Student Government Advisory Board for all school issues.  For two weeks, students were given some hours out of classes to listen to debates between each of the groups and enjoy the campaigns (which means dance or foam parties in the courtyard).  Ecuadorians take their participation in their government very seriously.  (Remember the National Paro?  If not, see my Blog post from October 2019).  Voting is also mandatory in all elections.  What better way to teach the youth of this country about their citizenship and responsibility, but to hold very serious elections at each of the schools?  In addition to the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary and the Treasurer, students were elected into advisory positions encompassing Healthy Habits and Environment, Creating a Culture of Harmony and Peace, Inclusion for All, Prevention of Violence and Psychological Problems, Developing Life Skills, and the Integration of Sexual Education. 
To certify the winners of the election, a special ceremony was held in November.  The students took an oath in front of parents, teachers, administrators and government officials, who in turn signed the official papers.  This is a far cry from my very short experience with Student Government 
when I ran for President of my 8th grade class under the slogan, “What the Heck, Vote for Beck!”  
I didn’t win. 
Again, parents are also honored in these ceremonies.
Here is Juan José’s mom tying on his official sash. 
The leaders of the new student government: Delia, Juan José, Adely and Luisa. 
Delia, our Abanderada, is also our new Class President. 
In addition to special ceremonies, certain days are designated for emergency simulations 
or drills.  Since all buildings are made out of stone or concrete, fire drills are not necessary.  
Instead, students are taught to evacuate their classroom during an earthquake, 
and immediately form circles to take attendance and start an organized game. 
Other students are trained by the local Red Cross to administer first aid as needed.
During these drills they have to convince their friends to be victims
so they can practice their skills.
During other weeks, the Ministry’s calendar requires all schools to integrate a theme into the curriculum.  Administrators and teachers get to decide how that will happen in their particular school.  For example, in November, a week was dedicated to learning about people with physical challenges.  The teachers at ACD decided to hold a variety of short events throughout the week.  On Tuesday, all high-school students watched two short films with characters who had physical challenges.  They compared and discussed their experiences and that of these characters.   
On Wednesday and Thursday, citizens who are blind, deaf, or unable to walk were invited to speak about their experiences at an all-school assembly.  The man who was deaf, and spoke in sign language, captivated the students as they hung on his every translated word. 
On Friday, the teachers tasked each class to create a game that forced students to 
“walk in the shoes of another” by simulating a variety of physical challenges. 
For example, if you didn’t have the use of your hands, how would you eat an apple
or paint?
If you didn’t have the use of your legs, how would it feel to need the help of your friends?
If your eyesight was compromised, how could you play soccer, or other games?
I was really touched by the empathy and inclusiveness my students showed for others. 
Finally, as we are coming upon Christmas, there have been many different programs 
to honor the traditions of this holiday.  First, most every classroom has made some effort 
to decorate or create a belén, or crèche.

Our music teacher (with the accordion) has also been hard at work parading students 
all over town to various schools and bandstands for Christmas programs.  
If you can believe it, this is the concert stage in the food court of the bus station 
– and it’s a very popular venue.  
Our school can’t afford any instruments, but the student’s voices are lovely.