Seminars & Súmate

During the past month, I have attended two different seminars at the Universidad de Chile and the Universidad Católica for work. One focused on the rights of children and the other had a guest speaker from the U.S., Parag Pathak, who discussed his research on the U.S. education system and how his results could apply to Chile. He talked a bit about NOLA (mainly about the charter school system), which made me yearn for po’boys, Audubon Park, and second lines. After my experiences with Súmate and alternative models of education and intervention, I think I would really enjoy returning to NOLA to work with an educational nonprofit or a school. It is embarrassing how little I know about the New Orleans education system after living there for five years, so I have started to read Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children.

During the past month, Katie and I have been visiting the different Súmate program offices and interviewing the team members about the materials they use in their workshops. Súmate presented their new model of intervention on November 6th, and one of the things they want to change is to have more standardization with the different programs and establish a set of materials for each office. The Súmate administration refers to it as a “suitcase” of materials (I am still unsure if my supervisor is talking about a figurative suitcase or an actual suitcase). Beyond improving my professional Spanish, I feel like I have continued to develop my skills in research, analysis, being able to work autonomously, and adaptability.

However, being able to work within a different culture has been one of my biggest learning experiences. Something I have noticed (through that anthropology major lens) during my time at Súmate is that Chileans do not appear to be comfortable giving and receiving feedback regarding their work performance. For instance, Katie and I presented the results of our investigation on Monday and Tuesday. After we presented our analysis of the strengths/weaknesses of each team and discussed some alarming situations that we had observed, the director congratulated us on being “brave” for giving our honest feedback. As she stated, “we usually don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I asked some of the Chilean América Solidaria team members about those comments, and they wholeheartedly agreed with me. Based on what I have seen, I think a lot of the problems we’ve noticed stem from this unwillingness to give feedback. Hopefully, the work Katie and I are doing to examine the program with a new perspective will help solve these problems and strengthen Súmate’s interventions in the different schools. The next couple weeks are going to be filled with Súmate closing ceremonies, various field trips with the kids, and meetings between the members of each team to discuss materials and the format of their lesson plans. Busy busy!

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