Thursday, May 5, 2011


Homework in the DR. Hmm…bueno. How do I even start this? There are several things that I could say about the education system in this country; however, I will refrain for the most part. I’m an Education volunteer, for crying out loud, so it’s probably better that I remain on the bright side for now.

This does not mean that I am not going to give you a glimpse of the homework system.

I will pretend that this isn’t venting. It’s just an observation that has started to seriously involve me through my vecina and her 5-year-old, which resulted in the mother yelling at her child for trying to do her own homework while, meanwhile, I was being punished for giving Baby Jesus a basket. But more on that later.

So homework in this country works like this: kids can either do their own homework (which I have maybe heard of occurring one time in my town) OR, the more preferred option, they can take it to an internet center where somebody else can do it for them. How many American kids do you know who would choose the first option when the latter option is not only tolerated, but encouraged?

I can’t think of any.

It’s easy:
1. You get your assignment.
2. You take the topic to the nearest internet center.
3. The person at the desk googles the aforementioned topic.
4. Duh. He/She chooses the Wikipedia data.
5. He/She copies and pastes it.
6. He/She highlights the document and changes the underlined parts to normal, and the blue lettering to black. We don’t want this to look sloppy now.
7. He/She prints your masterpiece of a term paper.
8. You pay the person at the desk.
9. You leave.
10. You get a killer grade, sometimes with a “Champion!” note at the top, even though the rest of the class turned in the same exact “essay.”
11. You get your next assignment (Please go to Step 2)

And the process continues.

Seems crazy, right? But I see this happening with EVERYONE. I’ve seen med students- MED STUDENTS!- come in to have someone else Wikipedia their assignments. I feel like somebody should see the problem with their future doctor not giving 2 cents about the whole learning part of school.

One of the biggest problems is that they never learn how to learn. They develop this mindset at an early age, so it’s tough to blame them. So this brings me to my neighbor and good friend, Angelina, and her daughter, Nayelin…

Nayelin is 5 years old and in school. Nayelin loves to draw; however, her mom never lets her. It’s awful. The way the homework goes for the younger students is that they each have a notebook where they do all of their assignments. The teachers write the daily homework assignments in each child’s notebook for the kids to take home and “do themselves.” Once again, you will rarely see this happen.

My first experience with this was when Angelina asked me to “help” her daughter with her homework. Sure! I’d love to. “A la orden siempre, tu sabes” (Always at your service, you know that!). Mistake. The first assignment I helped her with was “Draw a picture of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus.” Huh?

It went like this:

Me: draw Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus?

Angelina: Yes. I know you know how to draw better than I do, so thanks for helping Nayelin.

Me: No problem! Here, ok so Nayelin, let’s start by drawing Mary…

Angelina: NO! Nayelin draws ugly, so you should just do it.

Me: Hmm…well it’s her homework, so I don’t want to do it for her….

Angelina: No, just draw it. Nayelin draws so ugly.

Nayelin starts crying.

Me: Oh Nayelin, I think you draw very pretty. Hmm…well I think the teachers want the kids to learn, right? How will she get better if she never gets to practice?

Angelina: No, I want her to get good grades. I would do it, but I don’t know a lot about drawing. I bet you draw really pretty.

Yes, I'm frustrated. But still not wanting to offend her.

Me: Well I don’t know much about drawing either, but I will try and Nayelin can help me color.

Angelina: No. I don’t want her to ruin it.

Me: Ok…well we will see.

Attempting to draw…art’s never been my strong suit. If in doubt, please refer to my Art post.

Angelina: Well, you know the Mary wore something on her head, you know?

Me: Ok. I will try.

Angelina: …and her skirt was longer, you know. I don’t want to see her shoes. I don’t know much about art, but I think it’s better if her skirt is longer.

Me: You’re probably right.

Nayelin picks up a colored pencil.

Angelina: NO Nayelin! Don’t make it ugly, muchacha! Go away while Heather works!

Me: Maybe it would be a good idea for her to help me…?

Angelina: No. That muchacha has to learn respect.

Me: Ok. You know, in the United States, I used to do my homework by myself and it was really ugly. But little by little, I learned and it made me better because I did my own work.

Angelina: MmHmm. You know, Joseph always holds a staff thing in his hand.

Me: Oh..ok…I will try.

Angelina: No it was in his other hand.

Oh really, Angelina? You know Joseph and he always holds his staff in a particular hand?

Me: So you want me to erase it and put it in his other hand?

Angelina: That’s the side it’s supposed to be on. But it’s your decision. You know more about art than I do.

Me: Oh ok…well I didn’t know that. I will change it.

Angelina: And you know that back in the Bible days, they did not have a bed for Jesus…he should be in Mary’s arms, not in that bed.

Me: Well I don’t know how to draw him in Mary’s arms, so I am going to try to draw grass around the bed and color it like wood…they had those types of beds.

Angelina: Well I don’t know much about art, you know, but I think it would be better if you erased it and put Jesus in Mary’s arms. But I don’t know much about art, you know.

Me: Ya me neither. As I try to scribble in grass around the awful manger. Ok, I think I’m done. Sorry it’s not that good…I bet Nayelin could have done just as good of a job…

Angelina: It’s better than anything I could have done. Thanks so much! I don’t know what Nayelin and I would have done without you!

Um, besides maybe have her do her own homework?

Me: No problem.

Angelina: You don’t know how to build a house out of milk cartons, do you?

Me: Nope. Not at all.

Angelina: Oh well I will have to wait for my husband to do it. That’s Nayelin’s other homework.

Me: That’s nice. Well I have to go!

So that was the first time. The teacher gave her an A and even wrote “Perfect!” on it (which I don’t know if that’s an insult to me? Shouldn’t this teacher be able to tell that a 5-year-old does not have the motor skills to draw and color like that?? Oh well.) Since then, there have been several situations, usually resulting in the same way. I would just stop and put my foot down, but this is the family that I have a lot of confianza with, and I don’t want to ruin that. They help me out a ton- with Mikey, with laundry, and even with meals sometimes- so I don’t really want to offend them since I often feel like I can’t pay them back enough for what they do for me.

The worst part is that I am not that good at drawing, and Angelina lets me know that.

I try to draw a cat…“But that’s a monkey?”

I try to draw a family…”I don’t think the girls need to wear the same type of dresses. You should probably make the baby’s different. And the sun is too big.”

I try to draw her for the draw-a-picture-of -your-mother assignment…”You know that I am fatter than that. And why am I wearing that skirt? I don’t have a skirt like that!”

Good grief. Kill me now.

My plan? Grin and bear it, and try to keep insinuating that this is insane. Before I leave, I swear that I am going to tell them exactly what I think; however; I don’t think anyone is ready for that yet.

Wish me luck, and I will keep you posted. Por lo menos, I might improve my art skills…by doing the homework of a 5-year-old. Goodness, this is my life.

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