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  • Sarah Ellis

Education is a thing of the heart

Nicolas, the principal of our host school, has a few sayings up in his office that upon meeting him rings very true. La education es cosa del corazon (education is a thing of the heart) and las huellas de Las personas que caminan juntas nunca se borran (the fingerprints of those who walk together will never be erased). To talk to Nicolas about his school is like seeing a child light up with joy. You can't help but be inspired.

Like most school employees, Nicolas works long hours. Teachers here in Uruguay typically work from 8am to 7pm, and that's just at school. They still have to plan and grade papers at home. Teachers at Nicolas's school also have one planning meeting a month on a Saturdays from 8-12. In fact, we presented to his teachers at the end of their planning meeting yesterday afternoon.

To help teachers at his school improve their school and to feel voice and choice Nicolas gamified the process. He has set up a unique goal setting program for his teachers to incentivise them to accomplish their self-selected goals. The choice goals include creating and leading community workshops, reading programs, mentoring programs, community gardens, recycling programs, taking the classroom outside, organizing school and community clean ups. He makes the whole evaluation process collaborative and posts their progress on a bulletin board in the main office. Once a goal has been completed it is marked in red and teachers can select a "prize" at the next Saturday meeting. These prizes can range from a gift card to the nail salon, wine, or a day off.

While you cannot expect everyone to have the same level of dedication and love for education as Nicolas, you can at least hope that they can learn from him. Here, in Uruguay, una vocacion means "a calling." Education truly is una vocacion for Nicolas, and thanks to this experience I am renewing my own vows to the profession.

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