Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lost in Translation ?, but Making Progress

Tuesday started with 14 students and was filled with having students go to the Central Park area of Leon to observe behaviors and collect data after clearly identifying the target behavior.  They selected very interesting target behaviors:  number of people taking photos of the large La Gigantona, number of people who bought water from a stand, the number of women who went into the catacomb at the Cathedral, the number of people who used the restroom, etc.  After collecting data and comparing with their partner, they put together some nice graphs that were shared with the class along with their interpretation of the information.

On Wednesday we had a total of 19 students, but not all 19 were there at one time! Thursday we had 18 students in the morning and 17 students in the afternoon. Just part of the fun of planning when we really do not know who will show up and who will stay all day!! We get to rearrange the room many times! Wednesday and Thursday were spent examining the UDL principles and determining how to plan lessons taking the three principles into account.    Below are some examples while presenting Multiple Means of Representation:

We have worked with 3 different translators throughout the week. At times, it has been difficult to adjust to the differences between amount of transitions between English and Spanish, but we are teachers, so we are flexible!

We have made progress this week but we modify our plan each evening. Tomorrow will be on Day 3 of our original plan, but it is our final day of presenting information.  We keep looking for the most applicable concepts and how to continually reinforce concepts.  Flexibility is the key in teaching, and we wouldn't make it through the first morning if we weren't always adapting lessons and utilizing what we are learning about our students.

Another Nicaragua experience! The La Gigantona is a VERY large doll, often 9 feet tall, that is worn and paraded down the streets with drums.  We experienced this interesting tradition several times from the 30 feet tall La Gigantona in the park, to the children with the smaller La Gigantona who chased us, to Jenifer bringing in artwork for us with tradition represented.
Children with La Gigantona-
who were about to chase us!
La Gigantona by the Cathedral

It is always a learning experience.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It is what it is...

WOW! I am not sure where to start as so much has happened in a mere 24 hours! The celebrations continued all day and into the evening...lots of fireworks and music. It is difficult to get away from any of it with the open courtyard at Casa de Protocolo.

At 2:50am we hear the doorbell ring multiple times and the rolling of luggage as our compadres from Spain were leaving to return home.

At 7:00am we found out that Maria was not here because it was another "free day" due to the festivities over the weekend, therefore no breakfast, lunch or dinner (this was not in our plans).

Around 8:00am we have 2 students here and Indiana arrives. At this time another compadre from Cuba indicates that he has reserved the room (that we are teaching in) for a conference on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. At this point, Kris and I begin to panic a little knowing that Plan B is go to the room with the computer lab (not ideal for group work). Francisco shows up and takes care of it and we stay in the room!

As more students trickle in at 8:30am we begin for the day with 12 students. One additional student joins us at 9:00, therefore total student count for the day was 13 out of 24! Below was an introductory activity...create your own flag....

We engage in a variety of activities throughout the day and gain additional information about the content knowledge our students are retaining from the previous Modules. A positive.....they know the rules of the classroom that we created in Module 2!!! Yeah!

They have retained some basic surface level knowledge, but are not able to apply the information....this is disappointing, but a reality when there is 5 months between trainings.

Currently, we are reworking our original information for Day 2, so we can review more about target behaviors and data collection. We will be sending the students out to apply the knowledge they are learning by collecting data in the real world!

What will tomorrow bring?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quién causa tanta alegría? (Who causes so much happiness?)

We arrived last night in Managua and were whisked away this morning to Leon.  We arrived in Leon on December 7th with firecrackers to greet us.  Just when we think we have heard it all, there is a new and louder celebration.  La Griteria is celebrated on December 7 in Nicaragua with fireworks and firecrackers at 12pm, 6pm, and 12am.  The good news is that we arrived in time for all three!

Ulises, the worst tour guide in Leon (you can't even find him on TripAdvisor), took us on a walking tour of Leon in the afternoon and then took us to Subtiava so we could see all of the houses decorated (and I think we saw one or two) for the La Griteria celebration.
Mural at a school in Subtiava- Julie this is for you!

We listened to the 6pm firecrackers from the safety of Casa de Protocolo and then Ulises took us out to see the celebration on the streets with the children and adults going to houses to shout and sing to the virgin Maria after which they receive candies, toys or other gifts from the home owners.  

Iglesia San Fransisco Church
There is a lot of singing throughout the evening (and fireworks too!) Quién causa tanta alegría? is the saying....Who causes so much happiness? I think celebrations in Leon cause a lot of happiness- as do fireworks! (not so much happiness for visitors like us)
The crowd at the Cathedral in Leon
An alter at a house with people SHOUTING!

The fireworks did continue throughout the night and the happiness goes on! The midnight celebration was the loudest we have heard in all of our travels to Nicaragua!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Maia's Reflection

          This is Maia Delkamiller.  I am 14 (almost 15) and will be a sophomore at Marian High School.  This is my third trip to Nicaragua with my mom and each trip has been very different. 
         This is supposed to be an overview of the entire trip, but how do you fit an entire trip into a few paragraphs? Its not like this was a resort vacation where all you have to do is write “Laid on the beach all day”. Well, we did go to the beach, but let me start at the beginning of the trip so I don’t get myself confused.
Ulises orders lots on Amazon and we bring free shipping.
          My mom and I flew in late on the 13th. We stayed at Camino Real and then went to Leon in the morning. It was a nice surprise to have my “brother” Ulises ride with us. The first week we went to the deaf school, which is the main reason I love Nicaragua. I am like a friend, or a big sister to these kids. I missed them as soon as they left at the end of the day. It was even nice to see the teachers again. I told my mom that in 2 years, I am going to spend my summer at Ulises’s house so I can go to the deaf school every day. We only got to spend 4 days with them this time because they didn’t have school on Friday (because of the revolution celebration).
          We decided to spend the night out at the beach then had Samba lessons from Ulises and lobster for dinner. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunset. The last 2 times I have been to Nicaragua, I haven’t been able to see the sunset at the beach because we never spent the night there. So worth it!
Me and Anna figuring out how to eat lobster

          Then on Sunday we went volcano boarding. It has always been on my list of things to do but the timing has never worked out. Wasn’t an easy hike but the actual boarding was worth it. Got to see how almonds and chayote were grown also.
          The week after was training and Anna and I did all the background work. Making review games, checking people in, etc. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but it helped our moms. Then on Friday they threw a party for us, gave us presents, and made us food. It was sooo nice of them, I was a little sad to see them go. Then on Saturday I was sad to leave Dona Maria!  
"twins"-- Jordan and I were born on the exact same day--
 not sure who is really older though
2013: working with the youngest students
 I can’t pinpoint one reason why I love the deaf kids, because there are so many. It’s really a collection of a lot of things. I mean, after all, Nicaragua is already in survival mode, and on top of that they are deaf. Deaf people have no rights there. I just think about all the deaf adults I know that are educated as well as hearing people and then I see these kids already behind because it’s Nica, then even more behind because they are deaf.
          I think that in turn, I want to become a pediatrician to help kids like them. So when I get older, I want to be involved in “Doctor’s Without Borders”, ideally in Nicaragua.  So all in all, I love Nicaragua, it improves my Spanish, and I love being able to come back and see all of our friends :-)

(ok Anna Swain-- your turn to explain beef jerkey, baby food and bug bites!  :-)  )

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(the long version of the airport saga)

People often opine about illegal immigration—however, legal immigration through Houston International Airport is quite difficult.  We had an hour and seventeen minutes between touch down and take off.  We soon found out that thousands of people had the same time schedule and there were approximately 2.5 people working at immigration. Next time, I am pushing Travel and Transport a little more because 30 minutes is not enough time to get through immigration. 

Fortunately Kris had the idea to pay extra to get us toward the front of the plane instead of the last row.  So worth it!  We sprinted our first leg of the race between the airplane and immigration.  Long lines. Not enough workers. We waited. Moved to another lane. Stalled.  Moved to another lane. Waited more.  Finally got through…… and………. Maia and I began the second leg of the relay.  Sprinting between immigration and baggage claim.  Maia grabbed the suitcases off the carousel and pushed them toward me.  I caught them and pushed them down toward the customs lane. Then, we just left our bags at baggage check…. And the race continued.

Maia and I took the lead with Kris and Anna close behind.  We raced past babies in strollers and people in wheelchairs only to stand in another line for TSA security.  We caught our breath, took off our shoes, politely told another person that they could not cut in front of us while we smugly knew the inside lane was faster. We gathered our stuff, carried our shoes and ran toward the shuttle.  I put my shoes on while riding the escalator up, Kris ran through the airport barefoot (I wish I had taken pictures or video).

As we disembarked the shuttle towards terminal C—Maia and Anna nearly wiped out an airline pilot waiting for the shuttle.  He looked at them with awe at their blazing speed (or was it irritation?)  The girls used their long legs to sprint the final leg of the airport and with the finish line in sight, the gate agent hollered out “Omaha?” and the girls yelled back “Yes!!” and then started cheering.

The gate agent had to open the cabin door for us and Maia said, “no matter what anybody says, an hour for international arrival is NOT ENOUGH!!”  As we boarded the plane, clearly trying to catch our breath, the baton was passed to the pilots to take us home.  Leon the flight attendant had an empty beer can and I asked how many of those he had left for us.  He promptly gave us all a glass of much needed water.

The cabin doors are closed.

Nope…. They are open again….. four more people boarded the plane after having a similar race as we did. 

There were still eight passengers left behind.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On our way out.....

We took advantage of the later flight to return to the Cathedral plaza one last time.  With it being recognized as a UNESCO sight, it is finally being renovated. With the renovations we weren’t sure if we could go to the top again, but Maia wanted to have her annual picture there.  Thankfully we went up and asked because there was a back way to the top.  We were escorted through some very narrow, spiral stairs that would never pass inspection anywhere else!!  The view was spectacular!!

Maia, Anna, and I also paid an extra $2 to go to the catacombs in the basement.  When people talk about my height, I usually say that it’s ok because I fit better on airplanes.  Well…. now, I think I can say that I fit better in the Nicaraguan catacombs and the tunnels between the churches.

Mom/daughter--  volcanoes and cell phone towers
Mom/daughter-- top of the Cathedral

Maia with Dona Maria--  Maria will be 73 in September and has worked at la Casa de Protocolo for 25 years.

We returned to la Casa de Protocolo to wait for Luis, our UNAN-Leon driver.  And we waited.  This is where intermittent reinforcement was not positive.  I’m used to Nicaraguan Standard Time but Luis has been a bit early the last few times.  This time, he was 45 minutes late.  Yep, back to NST.

The ride to Managua was hot, sweaty, headache inducing and somewhat dangerous.  After passing on the opportunity to buy an iguana at the Nicaraguan drive-thru, we made it to the airport for the beginning of many lines for the day.

Loading up the pick-up
Iguana a la plancha anyone??

Back in May, we made our flight reservations.  I was skeptical of the 1 hour and 17 minutes connection in Houston, especially with immigration and customs.  It was stressful!!!  Numerous international flights arriving at the same time, maybe 5 people working in immigration, and a lot of ground to cover in 13 minutes.  In a nutshell, we pushed suitcases down the hall, sprinted through the airport and the cabin door was opened for us.  Still, 8 passengers were left behind.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


On time for class in the morning and afternoon
Daily homework completion!

We knew the participants were planning something—because—well, we were observing behavior.  :-)  They were collecting money, keeping lists and asking both Ulises and Maria what I like to eat.  We figured it was some pastries and drinks, but we were surprised with much more.  It was for the "despedida" or the going away party.

Kris and Ulises

We began the day with Kris finishing up the math portion of DIBELS (or IDEL in Spanish) and then reviewing a case study to bring all components of the week together.  Then, the fun began!  Maia and Anna explained the review boards they had created incorporating Nicaraguan themes. One game board was designed around the Nicaraguan flag and the other was a volcano.  The volcano game board was a version of Chutes and Ladders but it had individual pictures of us from the previous Sunday volcano boarding.

We wanted to have a group picture taken with the UNO flag but the participants took over the agenda.  Each person stood up and expressed his/her gratitude for the training.  They looked so sincere and the comments were authentic.  Several individuals mentioned that they knew we were sharing our knowledge with passion and love.  Oh my goodness—I definitely had the tears flowing!! (I am very passionate about teacher training and I love the people of Nicaragua).  Furthermore, they recognized that all of us (and our families) had made sacrifices to be there— both financially and in time.

With the confusion in taking the picture, we didn’t even realize the flag was upside down!

Then, we were presented with four colorful ceramic butterflies for each family.  Butterflies are symbolic of transformation, new life and hope which is perfect for empowering teachers with special education information. 

People began to scatter, moved tables and began serving plates of food.  Johanna had prepared a native Nicaraguan meal and gave us way too much of it!!  Luckily, Ulises and Omar were there to clean up after us.  ;-)  The chicken was so tender and the yucca was flavorful with the parsley and the pico de gallo.  Absolutely delicious!  

The Nicaraguan culture is very relational with lots of hugs being shared—much like the Deaf culture of the United States.  Love it!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Learning Continues- Module 3

The UNO Group in Leon
Julie Delkamiller, Kris Swain, Jeanette Harder, and Ann Coyne
We are very fortunate to be here while Ann Coyne (Queen Ann) is here.  This is my first time being in Leon with Ann who has 25 years of experience working in Nicaragua.  Jeanette Harder has joined her this week as they are teaching a class for the Master's in Social Work that is being offered at UNAN-Leon.  This is Jeanette's first trip to Leon so she is learning a lot.  I said that is was nice that I could go to Nicaragua to get to know UNO colleagues.  This place is so busy with so many different classes going on in many different disciplines.

Anyone who know me, knows that I love data collection so this has been fun having them learning how keep data and how to use that data.  However, this module has challenged me in many ways as we adapt the content for what can be used in the Nicaraguan schools.  The data that the teachers report they have collected in the past has included attendance and grades.  We have been showing them how to graph information this week so we are using their homework completion and being on time to class as examples with Anna and Maia helping us with our great graphs.
Graph of Homework completed- 100% on Tuesday

On Time to Class Graph
An amazing moment on Tuesday was when the students all started clapping when I showed them the class pretest scores and then the posttest information on the first two modules.  The students had increased the scores by over 20% for each of the two modules.  They were so proud of their improvement and it really helped them understand how data can be important to students.

A little movement anyone?  Julie gets the class ready for the day!

Anna and Maia have been working hard to get our game boards ready for a Friday review game.  I love their creativity, and I am sure that our students will love playing "Hike and Board" and "National Symbols".  You may not be able to tell from this picture, but they have added actual pictures of us volcano boarding on the game board.  This will be such a great learning and fun activity on Friday.
Hike and Board Review GameBoard
National Symbols GameBoard

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Diplomado Module #3-- Day 1

Data Collection is the theme of the week.

Kris collected a lot of data immediately:

7:55-- 5 students, no projector
8:01-- 6 students, no projector,
8:05-- Omar and Ulises arrive (our super hero translators)
8:15-- 10 students, no projector, Omar riding motor bike to get one
8:37-- projector is here and hooked up
8:40-- time to start-- still no Indiana
8:50-- introductions began

This is very Nicaraguan.  :-)

We spent the majority of the day reviewing modules 1 and 2-- from December and January.  It's been 7 months so the review was necessary.  It was also great to get feedback from the participants on how they have used the information.  Repeatedly, they commented on positive reinforcement being so powerful (kudos to Beth & Mitzi!!).  A few of the teachers mentioned how they are sharing the information with others in their schools, so I reinforced that as exactly what we wanted to have happen.  We need this ripple effect to reach other classrooms.

Anna and Maia were responsible for letting people in the front doors and getting them registered.

 I began with an activity where the participants observed changes in another person and highlighted how everyone put things back to where there were originally (earrings, watches, collars, etc.)  People want change but don't necessarily want to change.  We expect others to change and expect our students to change, but as individuals we resist change and go back to what is comfortable.  Then, we spent time asking how they have changed and implemented change in their classrooms this year.

The Nicaraguans are very literal and concrete-- which is a direct result of the current education system.  The lack of critical thinking skills permeates every area of life.  So, we started with a concrete graphing activity to lay the foundation for data collection on behavior and academics.  We used Skittles-- which they got to eat when we were done. :-)

We reviewed classroom rules and began brainstorming for a token economy.  The kinds of data the teachers currently collect are related to attendance and homework.  So, we are going to reinforce being on time and completing homework.  Some of the rewards they would like are: chocolate, pens, gum, and even cards to recharge their cell phones.  :-)

We are planning to graph their progress and hopefully--- we will reach 80% so we can let them out early on Friday.

This is not a reading culture so giving reading homework each night is a stretch.  When I handed it out, they all counted the pages!  Julio Pinedo-- one of my most favorite Nicaraguans-- stopped by to visit as well.  He mentioned that a recent survey on the news showed that only 1% of college students said they read regularly.  1% -- and these are college students.

Julio was captured and tortured by Somoza's men and he told us about a reenactment that will happen on Tuesday. We understand it is a big celebration in Leon for the day of the student, and they are commemorating when Somoza's people killed 4 students. However............with all the loud firecrackers-- ok, cannons and bombardas-- we need to graph the amount of sleep we might actually get.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Adventures in Nicaragua

Anna and I arrived in Managua on Wednesday and met up with Julie, Maia, and Ann Coyne in Leon on Thursday.  We were able to go to the Deaf School with Julie and Maia on Thursday afternoon, and Anna really enjoyed seeing what is happening in the school as well as helping out with teaching Twister and jump roping for the students.

Friday all headed to the beach as the July 19 celebration for Liberation Day (i.e., fireworks and cannons) would be taking place.  We had a wonderful time talking with Ann about her experience in Nicaragua and the book she is writing about her 25 years of experience in Nicaragua. The beach was beautiful, and this was a wonderful way to relax and avoid the celebrations that would be taking place in Leon.

An added bonus was Ulises coming out to visit us at the beach and giving us all dancing lessons.  Samba anyone?
Anna, Ulises, and Maia

Saturday it was back to Leon to work on some preparations for the week.  People have been asking what Anna and Maia will be doing.  No worries, we are keeping them busy.  They planned game boards for the review game that we will be playing later this week, and they were so creative with their ideas.  I can't wait to see the finished products later this week.
Maia and Anna planning game boards
Sunday was the last major adventure for this trip as we headed to Cerro Negro to go Volcano Boarding with Anry from Mas Adventures.  The adventure started when he picked us up in a small pickup and after all these years of telling Anna to wear her seatbelt, she is riding in the back of a pickup truck for an hour ride to a volcano.  The trek up the volcano was about an hour and very steep and windy.  We were wearing our buzz lightyear pack, and I felt like I may just take off at times as we were climbing.

We all made is down the volcano and think this was the perfect adventure as we prepare for the third module of the Diplomado as Nicaraguans are so proud of their country and especially the volcanoes.  We can say that we appreciated the beauty from up close and learned a little bit more about this beautiful country.