Friday, June 6, 2008

Teacher of the Year

A list of students for five classes, a new writing tablet, and two automobile tires. It sounds like a writing exercise in a creative writing class. This is what Maestro Pablo was given to substitute teach physical education classes this past week in a private school. Having taught in schools that provide no equipment, often not even a soccer ball, this was just a small challenge for him. He had the kids make paper balls, and set up a makeshift basketball court, or maybe it was a soccer field. After their hour of throwing and kicking paper balls into the tires, races and contests, the students fell in love with Maestro Pablo. He came home beaming with pride. Not only did the maltreatment of the other teachers toward him not affect him, but he showed that initiative and imagination generate success and in this way he earned the students’ respect. By the end of the first day they hoped their regular teacher would not return. Alas, the Maestra did return, and Pablo is back on the massive list of instructors awaiting teaching assignments.
Meanwhile, Pablo is working wonders with the students in our swim school. He now has a 24 year old kid with serious physical deformities and watching Ivan’s first class brought tears to my eyes. What a patient, kind and conscientious soul is Pablo. He is fulfilled at the end of every day after working with these kids. The glowing smiles on the kids’ faces after overcoming a particular fear are priceless. The parents who watch their kids learn to swim radiate with pride. Maestro Pablo is making a lot of people happy.
It pleases me to see Pablo have the opportunity to use his excellent teaching skills. Breaking into the public school system here is a near impossibility. The teachers with tenancy never leave, no matter how old or outdated they become. They certify hundreds of teachers every year and there are only a few positions available. When the school year started, Pablo was driving 90 kilometers to the village of Oxcutzcab three days a week to teach preschool phys ed. The Department of Education did not process his paperwork and kept running him from office to office to try to get paid. Finally they paid him for his work from September through December just before Christmas. Four months work with no pay to show for it, and having to fight to receive it at all. He was instructed to return to class after the Christmas holidays. He taught in Oxcutzcab for the entire month of January. When payday arrived, he was told they did not renew his contract and he would not be paid for his time and he could simply stop going there to teach.
Pablo’s mission in life is to improve the educational system in México. The new teaching methods he learned are quite innovative, but the current government will not commit to making any changes in the old ways. He did not take his dismissal from the preschool lightly. He went to the newspaper. He wrote to all the necessary officials, including the governor. All he got was more run around and more frustrated. Just two weeks ago, four months after the fact, Pablo received a call from the Governor’s office and he was given a meeting with her. If her people actually follow up Pablo is going to receive payment for his work in the month of January by the middle of June. With any luck at all he will be offered a permanent teaching position in the fall.
My vote for teacher of the year obviously goes to Pablo Francisco Chavez Ceballos. He deserves a break today.

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