Communication comes in all forms

Many weeks ago I visited a great communication workshop at the little school in the jungle. Like the workshop I wrote about in a previous post I went to meet the facilitator, get to know the students a little better, and get further ideas of how to conduct my workshops. The teacher was amazing. Many of the youth in the community are quiet. Not only are they not very outgoing, but sometimes they won’t even respond to questions directed to them. However it is still great that the youth attend. Since the community wants to eventually operate a self-run tourism company, the youth understand that they should enhance their communication skills in order to welcome tourists.

Cielito, the faciliator, was great. She handled it very well when the students wouldn’t respond and she would come up with other ways to encourage participation. Or she would start a new activity. I was very impressed. You could tell see some sadness in her eyes, but never did she express her frustration or impatience.

For example, after showing a short clip, she asked the kids to talk about what they learned from it. Silence. She quickly changed it to tell me the animals of the jungle and this generated some commentary. Then, in order to practice tour guiding, she asked the students to individually come to the front of the class and describe an animal of their choice. None of the students volunteered to present. So she called on me. I felt awful, I wanted to help her, lead by example, encourage the students, but I didn’t know anything about animals of the jungle! I knew names, if that, (and few in Spanish) and definitely was not well versed on their eating habits, habitation, etc. I asked if I could present on a an animal from Canada. Dale, ok. I googled animals from the jungle that night.

She was great, she really is working hard to increase the students’ confidence. She offered constructive but not offensive tips on proper speech presenting: extending hands, using eye contact. The older kids responded, the younger ones not so much. It was one student’s turn, Johnny, one of the brightest I’ve met, but terribly shy. He stood at the front of the class in silence after saying half a sentence. I remembered then that he had impeccable drawing skills and so I suggested draw for us what the Toucan looked like and ate, etc. It took a little while, but the results were incredible. After drawing a perfect Toucan on the board and seeing the impressed faces, he was able to present. The small he gave while presenting, I hope was a small boost of confidence. I’m very glad that I went to the workshop and looking forward to the ones of the rest of the weeks. I saw the challenges that come with participation, with working in a classroom with different age groups, and even language barriers between Guarani and Spanish. I’m glad I am now aware of them and can begin to plan for them, but of course there is much with intercultural learning and workshop facilitation that cannot be planned.

* I should note that many of these blog posts were written on walks home from the community on my phone over a month ago. Please disregard the dates and in the future I plan to post soon after I write.

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