Merced, a high school English teacher in Manta, Ecuador, has met weekly with Sherry, an ISP team member who works in Quito. Merced wanted to grow personally as well as learn more English. She began participating in mentoring conversations with Sherry.
Now during their weekly Zoom meetings, Sherry coaches Merced in personal growth using lessons Merced can easily teach to colleagues, and Merced practices her English. “My coworker had a difficult childhood… When I shared [the content of these lessons] with her, she told me that [she now] feels peace,” Merced explained.
Merced showed the same content to her husband, Marco, an engineer. “As we sit there and share, sometimes my son [who’s 7 years old] will answer the questions [too].” The whole family is learning together.
Empathy and Education
To help nurture her professional development, Merced takes classes ISP offers on an online learning platform. These classes have helped her develop deeper relationships with teachers and students within her school.
Just before the pandemic flared in Ecuador, Merced finished a course about empathy. When online teaching began, Merced said, “One mother called me crying. The boy’s class met at the same time as her daughter’s class. What can he do?” the mother asked.
“Developing empathy helped me feel that pain. By taking this class, [this newfound] empathy has led me to share with the parents that we are a team.” And Merced changed the class schedule so the boy could attend.
Though Mark and Sherry enjoy a breathtaking view of the Andes Mountains, their access to the outside world has been limited during the lockdown. When COVID-19 broke out, curfews began, schools closed, and shops shuttered. Online teaching became the norm, but unfortunately, more than 70 percent of the students do not have computers or internet access at home.
Zoom Meetings for Teachers
Recently, 87 teachers logged in to a bi-weekly Zoom call with Mark and Sherry to learn about finding joy during the lockdown. Many were so eager that they joined 20 minutes early. Mayra, the minister of education in the coastal city of Manta, invited administrators from 30 schools. Teachers are now inviting co-workers to join future meetings so they can be encouraged, too.
Many teachers have a difficult time managing the technology as they work from home and tend to their children’s needs. And it’s difficult because some students can only connect to their classes through the WhatsApp application on their cell phones.
In the midst of these struggles, Merced and her colleagues find peace because of the ISP program and this peace is giving them the courage to reach out to their colleagues. Merced said, “The teachers might be locked down but joy in the midst of crisis is moving them to reach out [to other teachers].”
At A Glance
- There are 21 teachers involved representing ten schools in Guayaquil.
- Teachers have formed three WhatsApp groups in Quito, Guayaquil, and Manta.
- 102 teachers are involved in leadership training events.