Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Report Cards

It has taken a long time, since the first bimester ended the 18th of May,but we have 23 of the 24 report cards. Yesterday and today I went to the Primary School Republica de la India to get the cards from the 6 of our girls who go there. Sinilda and Maria Isabel, who when they came to us in January needed to learn how to use all the tools of school in a crash pre-school and kindergarten course have done very well in 1st grade. Their teacher had nothing but good things to say about them and their grades were fine. They both can draw well (and neither could draw anything when they first came)and one teacher mentioned the delicate drawing that Maria makes. As a reminder these two girls are the first women in their family to ever go to school!

Enibeth´s teacher´s (3rd grade) first comment was that she is in the clouds all the time, isn't paying attention. This is similar to much of her behavior in the home. She doesn´t want to study. Here grades were mediocher - but with no failures. ( My English spelling is getting worse and worse).

This afternoon my friend Amando built a duo-decahydron out of paper so I would know how to do it. The way we made it it looks a lot like a sphere. Two of the kids in 9th grade have to build a cone, cylinder and a sphere. Dr. Math tells me that it is not possible to make a sphere from paper. I found two ways, but the thing we built today really had 20 triangular sides, but becasue each side is a triangle within a circle and the edges are folded out it looks really sphere like.

Graciela needs glasses. She has been having a lot of head aches and finally yesterday I took her to an opticion and it is quite likely that her astigmatism in her left eye is causing some or all of the headaches. She should get her glasses next week.

Today I received the report cards of one in 4th grade and two in 5th. We have one more to get - 8th grade - but I would probably faint if she had a failure. That means that only one of our girls had any failures for the first bi-mester.

Estefany has improved a lot in reading - she is 9 and in first grade and has some learning challenges in language (but is better in math). I have worked with her almost every day and she is reading a lot of words and writing them too. I make a lot of vocabulary cards with the word on one side and some kind of little picture on the other side. The beginners can read the word and then check to see if they are right or they can look at the picture and write the word.

Estefany qualifies for special ed help because of her age and difficulties. The best part of this is that she will get a speech and language evaluation as well as eye and hearing test - free. God surely had a had in this as the director and I and Estefany were at the offices if IPHE (Special Ed) trying to get her inscribed and while the director was talking to verious people with no progress, one of the social workers there saw Estefany and I in the waiting room and started to talk to us. I gave a pitch for why I wanted Estefany tested and we received an immediate visit with the speach and labgusge person, got Estefany enrolled (even though she was born in Costa Rica and has no Panamanian identity numer) and an appointment both for vision and hearing.

More later. Tia Sue

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This and that

Little Evelia is learnng / some things good and others we wish she wasn-t learning. She was pulling books off the book shelf this morning and one of the girls called to the child care worker, Judith. Mrs. Judith, Evelia is pulling books off the book case. Very clearly Evelia said / Shut up! *(all was in Spanish of course). On the other hand she can now put together the farmyard puzzle with no help / it is a one piece per hole in a nice farmyard scene / but this is progress. She is also using the lego type big blocks and building things. And, tonight I was very happily surprized. I was playing a picture bingo with Estefani and her older sister and had Evelia on my lap. She actually was able to spntaneously name a picture of a shoe on one tile! This is real progress from 3 and 1/2 months ago when she could-nt name objects and I wasn't sure how much she could see.

This morning I helped a ninth grader in spanish! She is studying poetry and she didn't understnad what she was susposed to do. She needed to learning what various conventions poets use were / each had a name *such as using opposits, describing some thing using other things "the sheep looked like a cloud with little feet' and then after reading some lines of poetry by Panamanian and other Central american poets look at the underlined section and identify what convention the poet was using.

After that came Dona, in 5th grade, puzzled about Statistics / most specifically bar graphs. In her class room the kids don't have math books so she had copied everything that the teacher had written on the board and was confused / I would have been too. I found a math book that taught the same material, we made a bar graph together / she had a little quiz and did well.

She was also studying for an English quiz on some kinds of food / which included, boxes of cookies, a dozen eggs, a carton of milk, as well as orange, meat etc.

That gives you an idea about some of the things I do daily!

More later

Tia Sue

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fathers Day

The girls are all visiting family or friends of the home. At St. Paul's we had a wonderful and typically Panamian celebration. We honered 4 men who have been fathers in the church for many years but who are elderly. Cecil Haynes worked for the Panama canal for so many years that he received special recognition from President Clinton for being the person who work for the US Federal Government for the longest time. He is 93 now and still going strong.

One of the other honorees, now blind, used to play his harmonica at church for peoples birthdays and special days. He gave use to nice harmonica renditions.

The girls will return tomorrow morning.

Tia Sue

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fathers' Day is coming

All of aur girls are going to visit somewhere for the fathers´day weekend. And the very best is that Evelia's dad is coming from Yavisa in the Darien to see her - the first time since she joined us in March. She is five and has talked to her many times on the phone. He is going to be very surprised I think because she is talking a lot - and wasn't very much when she came. She is also more healthy and she has more energy as her hemeglobin count has improved.

Since I've been back I have been developing a 'program' for her and for Carla (our other 5 year old). I pick out and put in a folder 3 little projects - coloring, cutting, pasting etc and one of the girls who have little homework work with them on these for an hour then Guissell reads a story to them. She is in third grade and her teacher suggested that she read outlound each day. After that they go with some age appropriate toys to play in another area and they have one girl with them, since they are still developing play together skills. This has cut down on screamng and tantrums a lot!

Tia Sue

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We are making progress in reading

Just before I left for my vacation in May I realised that Estefani was not catching on to reading. I though that during the month I was away this might happen but when I got back June 1st she was more confused than before. So, I started an immediate attempt to help her. Basically she had not caught on that the letters were the clue to what the word was and not the expression on my face. She said a word and looked at me expectantly - the word was almost always not what was written. I tried with letters on little pieces of heavy paper - but the confusin continued. Spanish is almost 99 percent phonetic and the kids start by learning the 5 vowel sounds (there are only 5 - one sound for each vowel - a bit different than English. After they learn them consonants are added one at a time. She knew the sound for the consonants well but when it came to the consonants, even when we were concentrating only on M, P and L she was confused. My first plan with the letters on heavy paper was a bust - but I tried another approach - first teaching her that at this point each consonant need a vowel next to it and then lots of practice. Today she was able to read correctly 10 or 12 words (all nouns) using the letters M-P-L-S- and N abd then write them. We have a little pile of cards with a picture on one side and the word on the other. Today Maria Isabel (also in 1st grade) joined us and she did well too. The words are mamá, papá, luna (moon), puma (the animal puma) mapa (map) etc. This is a real break through for her. She is one of the girls who has been/is being tested and as I though she is very weak in verbal skills. On the other had she loves numbers and is doing beginning addition and subtraction.

All the girls are going somewhere for Father's day so the home will have no one but myself and the dogs for 48 hours. A number of the girls don't have dads as part of their lives but will enjoy a visit with relatives, with one exception - and she has a nice place to go visit.

More later, Tia Sue

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday is our BIG ironing night

On Wednesdays and Fridays the girls have to iron their school uniforms and the dresses that they will wear to church on Sunday. All but 4 of the girls can iron their own things - that includes Johana and Kenia who are 9 and in 4th grade. Every wednesday they iron two white blouses of their school uniform BUT on Friday they have to iron 3 blouses and two skirts as well as their Sunday clothes and for the acolytes their robes. Since each girl has 5 school items and we have 24 girls at the least we iron 120 things. 4 of the older girls iron the clothes of the 4 youngest.

I have been working hard with Estefani (age 9 in 1st grade) with beginning reading and I think we are making some progress. She doesn't have a big frown on her face and I have finally found a way for her to practice where she can have success a lot of the time. I don´t like having the kids fail over and over nor practice things doing them in the wrong way.

This morning I spent a good bit of my time helping Genesis with division and then study for a quiz in Social Science - rivers in Panama and people and the use of natural resources. We made flow charts of what she was studying.

The teacher of one of our third graders suggested that she read outloud so we have done that the last two days. I think it will improve her reading. I also reveiwed the quiz book (the notebook in which they take all their quizes of one of out fourth graders and it is clear that she needs more help in learning how to study and studying - especially in Natural Science, Social Science and Spanish. They are all connected!

Next week I am going to Leon A. Soto Jr. HIgh (as they call it in English Class) to hear about our 6 girls there in 7th, 8th amd 9th grades. I have heard that one of our 8th graders is skipping classes and also not handing in her homework - so we shall see. Please pray for her (Raquel) as she presents us with a lot of challenges here as well.

Hope to write a bit more on the weekend.

Tia Sue

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Just three days later and look all we are doing.

It is Wednesday and the last thee days have been busy. We have one adolescent and a group of three primary students who are receiving grief counseling. There is a Foundation here that provides it and they are very good. The cost is very reasonable and those of you who have made danations to my work are helping to support this. We have a number of girls who have had either their mother or father die. Part of my work here is arranging this and taking the girls to the appointments. This week we had an appointment on Monday and another today - for the group.

Since on Monday the Oragization of American States met here in Panama there was no school for any of our girls. Since we usually don't have a child care worker during the afternoon school time (12 to 5+) it fell to the secretary, myself and Eva who washes and takes care of clothes. We ate lunch a little later. Then we had a siesta - on the bed and quiet. I was in the room with the youngest and next to the room of the next oldest and after a few admonishments things worked out. After that Beni (our secretary) made bracelets with the older girls and I did a play time and arts and crafts with the youngest. For snack time we had the birthday cake for the girls with birthdays in May.

Tuesday was a 'normal' school day. We did homework and reinforcement in the morning and all the girls left for school at noon as usual. Two came back because theirteachers weren't there and we worked hard to math and reading on the third and first grade level. Estefany (in 1st grade - but 9) is very good in math and we played a new game which involved adding and chance. It was possible to get a good score and then lose it all because it was temping to toss the dice again and a losing combination came up.

Today I worked with Graciela - our most recent additon studying science. She is in 5th grade. They are learning about diseases of the excretory system and hygiene of the same. Then off to the therapist with the little group. Also we started having several of the girls tested by a psychologist - these are girls who seem to have more difficulties in learning than some of the others. Two more will be tested on Friday. The psychologist comes here to do the tests.

Our director is in a week long seminar about raising resources for our kind of program. We had lunch together and she says the seminar is very good.

Then I went to one of the primary schools to pick up the first report cards of the year. We have 10 girls in this school, Arebe de Egypto, and the 8 who are above kinder received cards. All did did quite well. All with have an average of 79 or 80 and up to the high 90s. Johana and Kenia have 4th and 5the places in their classrooms.

More later.

Tia Sue

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I am back in Panama

After a very long time not writing and the entire month of May in Philadelphia (2 days in NYC) I am rested and back in Panama as of Thursday evening.

We are now 24 with the addition of Graciela, age 14 or 15 (I'm not sure) who has spent the last three years living at Children's Hospital here on peritaneal dialysis. Now she is living with us and has already spent a week in school. She is in 5th grade and although there was a teacher a the Hospital she is in the same grade she was in when she entered the hospital. I have already started to work with her on academics as she has a number of holes to fill - the multiplication tables (why can't we be born knowing them?) and other stuff in math - but she is eager to learn. While she was at the hospital the clothes she wore daily were hospital pajamas so it must seem very different to get up and dressed in regular clothing each day. She was presented a a new person at church today and psrticipated very well with a nice smile.

I went to St. Paul's, which is the church I attend, and was a usher. It was good to be back. Our Bishop was there and that is always nice. After that I went over to the Cathedral where the girls attend. It is the first Sunday in June so the service was bi-lingual and at 10 for everyone. The girls go to the 8 AM service usually. The girls all looked lovely and our two youngest Evelia and Carla - both 5 had on really precious dresses.

While in Philly I bought a digital camera (Canon) and the next step is to get pictures into this blog.

Tomorrow I resume taking girls for grief counseling. We have a number who have lost a parent. Right now a teenager is getting individual sessions and there is a small group of 8 and 9 year olds who have group therapy. It is my job to take them to the appointments.

Love, Tia Sue