A Glimpse of Education in Panama

2014NN_119DSC_0129 (2)

The Principal in the classroom in Panama

Teaching children is a challenge anywhere in the world. Culture, government, and environment all affect the quality of education. Still, it seems that the foundation of any great school is the dedication of the staff to the students.

Recently I was on my second visit to a community about 90 km (60 mi.) from Panama City, Panama. While in the area I decided to research their education system by dropping in on a local school, the Centro Educativo San Jose elementary school.

It should be noted that to truly understand the education system in Panama, I should first be proficient in Spanish, and second, I should visit multiple schools, both private and public, over a period of weeks or months. A thirty minute conversation with the Principal, who does not speak English, and a teacher acting as my interpreter is only enough to give a first impression.

However, there are clues about the quality of education that are instantly obvious and transcend language barriers.

2014NN_100DSC_0118 (2)Laughing children. It is difficult to bridle the enthusiasm of children, but some schools seem to manage to stifle the joy of childhood. Centro Educativo San Jose has not made this mistake. At this elementary school the children were well-behaved, but laughing and smiling. It was obvious they understood discipline, but they were obviously happy to be at school.

Panama celebrates Thanksgiving

Panama celebrates Thanksgiving

Helpful children. When I arrived I first met an adult with several children. I wasn’t sure of her role in the school (she may have been a parent,) but when I asked if she spoke English, she said, “No.” Instantly a young girl at her side pointed at one of the teachers and indicated she spoke English, then the girl quickly ran to the teacher and brought her to me. This girl knew she could help and did so without hesitation. That tells me that the school encourages critical thinking that empowers children with the ability to respond quickly to a situation.

Professional Staff. In the tropics the temperature is near 30° C (86° F) year round and the humidity wraps around you like a wet towel. There is no air conditioning at this school and any breeze is welcome in the classroom. Despite these environmental conditions, the staff at the school looked and acted professional.

What I learned during my visit surprised me. The students have access to computers and they have a ‘Technology Room” filled with computers. I couldn’t tell if the computers were connected to the Internet; however, I did not expect an 80 year-old public school to have dozens of desktop computers with flat screen monitors.

This school is funded by government support, which limits the per/student resources; however, most schools in Panama are private where parents pay $1,500 to $3000 per month for tuition.

Many schools in Panama operate double sessions with one group of students attending in the morning and another attending in the afternoon. At this school the morning session is 7 AM to 12 Noon, and the second session is 12 Noon to 5 PM.2014NN_120DSC_0130 (2)

While most private schools are open twelve months a year, public schools are in session March through December, and have ‘summer’ break in January and February.

I asked about homework and parent involvement and heard what I expected. Once the students leave the school they are not expected to do homework and parents are not typically involved in assisting the staff in school. In an environment of low pay and long working hours, parents likely have no time to be involved in their children’s education.

I was told the biggest challenge is teaching English to the students. The impact of being bilingual is significant in a working adult’s life in Panama, and anywhere else. It is hard to explain that to a child who only encounter with another language is in the school.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to visit the school, and hope to do it again the next time I’m in Panama. I apologize to the Principal and the teacher who interpreted for me. I failed to write their names down before I left. Both graciously gave me valuable time out of their schedule and I appreciate it.

It was a pleasure meeting dedicated professionals who are changing lives every day by caring about the future of the students in their school.

Espanol Version (Using Google Translate)

Enseñar a los niños es un desafío en cualquier parte del mundo. Cultura, gobierno, medio ambiente y afectan la calidad de la educación. Aún así, parece que el fundamento de cualquier gran escuela es la dedicación del personal de los estudiantes.

Hace poco estuve en mi segunda visita a una comunidad a unos 90 km (60 mi.) De la Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá. Mientras que en la zona me decidí a investigar su sistema educativo por meterme en una escuela local, la escuela primaria Centro Educativo San José.

Cabe señalar que para comprender verdaderamente el sistema de educación en Panamá, que primero debería ser competentes en español, y en segundo lugar, que debe visitar varias escuelas, tanto públicas como privadas, en un periodo de semanas o meses. Una conversación treinta minutos con el director, que no habla Inglés, y un profesor que actúa como mi intérprete sólo es suficiente para dar una primera impresión.

Sin embargo, hay pistas sobre la calidad de la educación que son inmediatamente obvias y trascienden las barreras del idioma.

Niños de risa. Es difícil de frenar el entusiasmo de los niños, pero algunas escuelas parecen manejar a silenciar la alegría de la infancia. Centro Educativo San José no ha cometido este error. En esta escuela primaria los niños estaban bien atendidos, pero riendo y sonriendo. Era obvio que entendían la disciplina, pero eran obviamente feliz de estar en la escuela.

Niños útiles. Cuando llegué por primera vez a un adulto con varios hijos. Yo no estaba seguro de su papel en la escuela (que puede haber sido uno de los padres), pero cuando le pregunté si hablaba Inglés, dijo, “No.” Al instante una chica joven a su lado señaló a uno de los profesores y indica que hablaba Inglés, entonces la chica corrió rápidamente a la maestra y la trajo a mí. Esta chica sabía que podía ayudar y lo hizo sin dudarlo. Eso me dice que la escuela promueve el pensamiento crítico que permite a los niños con la capacidad para responder rápidamente a una situación.

Personal Profesional. En los trópicos la temperatura es de cerca de 30 ° C (86 ° F) durante todo el año y los abrigos de humedad a su alrededor como una toalla húmeda. No hay aire acondicionado en esta escuela y cualquier brisa es bienvenida en el salón de clases. A pesar de estas condiciones ambientales, el personal de la escuela parecía y actuaba profesional.

Lo que aprendí durante mi visita me sorprendió. Los estudiantes tienen acceso a computadoras y tienen un ‘Room Tecnología “lleno de computadoras. No podría decir si los equipos estaban conectados a Internet; Sin embargo, no esperaba un 80 años de edad de escuelas públicas para tener docenas de computadoras de escritorio con monitores de pantalla plana.

Esta escuela está financiado por el apoyo del gobierno, lo que limita los recursos per / estudiante; Sin embargo, la mayoría de las escuelas en Panamá son privadas donde los padres pagan $ 1.500 a $ 3000 por mes para la matrícula.

Muchas escuelas en Panamá operan sesiones dobles con un grupo de estudiantes que asisten por la mañana y otra que asisten por la tarde. En esta escuela la sesión de la mañana a 7 de la mañana a 12 del mediodía, y la segunda sesión es de 12 del mediodía a 17:00.

Aunque la mayoría de las escuelas privadas están abiertas los doce meses del año, las escuelas públicas están en sesión de marzo a diciembre, y tienen descanso “verano” en enero y febrero.

Le pregunté acerca de la tarea y la participación de los padres y escuché lo que me esperaba. Una vez que los estudiantes salen de la escuela a la que no se espera que hagan los deberes y los padres no suelen participar en la asistencia al personal de la escuela. En un entorno de bajos salarios y largas horas de trabajo, los padres probablemente no tienen tiempo para participar en la educación de sus hijos.

Me dijeron que el mayor desafío es la enseñanza de Inglés a los estudiantes. El impacto de ser bilingüe es importante en la vida de un adulto que trabaja en Panamá, y en cualquier otro lugar. Es difícil de explicar que a un niño que sólo el encuentro con otro idioma es en la escuela.

Fue un placer conocer a los profesionales que están cambiando vidas todos los días por el cuidado por el futuro de los estudiantes en su escuela dedicada.

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Relations, Education, Information Technology, Internet, parenting, Passionate People, Technology, Travel

Smoke Adds To Global Warming

Morning smoke haze over Reno, Nevada caused by California King fire

September morning smoke haze over Reno, Nevada caused by California King fire

Seventy-eight percent of the Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen, and twenty-one percent is oxygen. Both of these gases do not absorb infrared radiation. The heat from the Sun passes through nitrogen and oxygen. When scientists refer to global warming they are not talking about the two gases that make up 99% of our atmosphere.

Global warming is what happens in one percent of the atmosphere. Carbon, water vapor, and other trace gases/particles absorb infrared radiation from the Sun, and from solar infrared radiation that.is reflected off the Earth’s surface. One percent of our air holds the balance between continuity of our climate and rapid variances.

Some are proud of their role in causing devastating environmental change.

Some are proud of their role in causing devastating environmental change.

This summer one of my friends, Dr. Narayan Adhikari, completed his doctoral theses. He studied the rate of infrared absorption in the atmosphere by using instruments that regularly measured the air over various locations in northern Nevada. His research included two significant events that impacted the air quality in the Reno, Nevada area. One event was a dust storm in June of last year and the other was smoke from the Rim fire in California in August of 2013.

Both of these events gave him the opportunity to measure the impact of infrared absorption when the atmosphere has a dramatic increase in amount of aerosol particulates. The results of his studies indicate a significant increase in heating of the atmosphere by infrared absorption during such events. 

This debunks the idea that clouds, smoke, and other ‘sun-blocking’ events might help cool the atmosphere. Smoke from fires, such as the King fire currently burning in California will trap more heat and cause increased global warming.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Reno, Ethics, Green, Health, Politics, Science, solar, Universities

Forest Service Waved Off Early Air Support of Hunter Falls Fire Near Reno

12:04 PM Hunter Falls fire from Reno

12:04 PM Hunter Falls fire from Reno

On Saturday evening, May 17, the U. S. Forest Service was informed that there was an uncontrolled fire in the Hunter Falls area west of Reno, Nevada. Because it was dark and the area was difficult to reach by vehicle, the Forest Service elected to wait until dawn to attack the fire. On Sunday noon a ground crew still had not reached the fire and winds had picked up. The fire was rapidly growing sending smoke towering over Reno, Nevada.

According to an anonymous source it was 2:15 PM on Sunday before an air attack on the fire would begin and by that time the U.S. Forest Service had known about the fire for at least 15 hours. The lack of rapid response occurred on an active fire where high winds from an incoming front were predicted by the National Weather Service.

When asked about the delay in air support, a spokesperson for the U. S. Forest Service had said that air support was not available. According to the KRNV News in Reno, the Washoe County Sheriff”s Department, helicopter, capable of making water drops on a fire, was available. Another source said that two air tankers from California were in process of being repositioned Sunday morning to the Stead airport north of Reno to attack the fire.

4:55 PM Hunter Falls fire  continues to grow

4:55 PM Hunter Falls fire continues to grow

Apparently those resources were waved off by the Forest Service on Sunday morning. According to the source, the rationale for waving off the air tankers was to avoid dropping fire-retardant in the local watershed. There was no apparent reason for not using water drops from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department’s helicopter.

The choice to send in ground crews, rather than air support, is also questionable. In 1994, a fire on Storm King Mountain fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado killed 14 firefighters when high winds kicked up and trapped them.

Colder temperatures and precipitation over the next few days allowed the fire to be controlled; however, there are many questions that need to be answered regarding the decision to wave off air support considering the weather forecast and the difficult terrain of the Hunter Falls areas. 

Leave a comment

Filed under About Reno, Crisis Management, Government, Management Practices, Public Relations, Recreation

The Grade Negotiation Season

Spring brings forth the failures as well as the flowers

Spring brings forth the failures as well as the flowers

Most people don’t realize that we are in a new season. It happens twice a year at the end of a semester when college professors are bombarded with emails from their students trying to beg, borrow, or steal a few points for a higher grade. It should be noted that the majority of these emails are not coming the students who attended class, turned in assignments on time, and studied for the tests. No, these are the students that missed class, turned in assignments late, and had a party to go to rather than study.

The emails are typically as follows:

Hi,

Could u look @my grade. I need 2 have a c n u’re clas or i lose my finansal aide. i was sure i had a c n u’re class.

Rach

The student often assumes that the professor knows in which class the student was enrolled, and writes as if she or he is texting a friend. The student probably knows that they didn’t deserve a “C” in the class; however, they hope that the professor will feel sorry for them and bump them up. Usually, nothing changes, but the student can say to her or his parents that they were sure they had a “C” in the class and that they even complained to the professor, but he or she wouldn’t change it.

For the professor, these emails take pointless hours of time to review the scores, confirm the grade, and respond. It turns the end of the semester into a circus where all the clowns come out of the woodwork after being absent most of the semester.

There is nothing wrong with a student questioning their grade; however, if a student is at the borderline of losing her or his financial aid, and/or falling below the required grade average for enrollment, the problem is not about one grade, but the overall performance in all classes.

Sadly, professors are not allowed to offer an appropriate response such as:

Rachel Smith
Student
ENG 203 – Writing For Business

Dear Rachel:

Thank you for your email. Your grade is based on your participation in my class and reflects the work you performed. The “D’ you received is not only correct, it is generous. I’m pleased to see that a student like yourself will no longer be offered financial aid, so that a better quality of student can now be a recipient.

I wish you well on your future in the world of menial labor for which you may or may not be qualified.

Sincerely,

Edward Terrell
Professor
University of  Higher Education

 

Leave a comment

Filed under About Reno, College, Communication, Education, Ethics, Generational, Higher Education, Internet, Opinion, Pride, Public Image, Public Relations, Respect, Universities

Stop Using the Fahrenheit Scale

I know you think it’s hard. We were taught temperature in the Fahrenheit scale. It’s all we know. Now forget it.

The problem in understanding the Celsius scale us that we try to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, or the other way around and it becomes too confusing. I say it again, forget the Fahrenheit scale. It’s the best way to understand the Celsius scale.

Why? Because most of the time we only care about the temperature to know how to dress, so try this:

  • -20°C   - Why are you outside?
  • -10°C    - It’s really cold. Gloves and a  muffler with your winter coat.
  • 0°C      - It’s cold. You need a winter coat.
  • 10°C    - It’s cool. Jacket weather.
  • 20°C   - It’s comfortable. Maybe long sleeves.
  • 30°C   - It’s getting hot. Short sleeve and shorts.
  • 40°C  – It’s really hot. Find the nearest air-conditioned room.

That’s it. If you can count by 10’s you can understand the Celsius scale. Okay, I’ll let you see the corresponding temperatures in Fahrenheit:

  • -20°C   – Why are you outside? (-4°F)
  • -10°C – It’s really cold. Gloves and a  muffler with that winter coat. (14°F)
  • 0°C      – It’s cold. You need a winter coat. (32°F)
  • 10°C     – It’s cool. Jacket weather. (50°F)
  • 20°C   – It’s comfortable. Maybe long sleeves. (68°F)
  • 30°C    – It’s getting hot. Short sleeves and shorts. (86°F)
  • 40°C - It’s really hot. Find the nearest air-conditioned room. (104°F)

If it helps, just remember that 20°C is comfortable if there is no wind. Every 10° up or down from that temperature is going to be a significant change in comfort level. It’s that simple.

Okay, if you’re a cook, the Celsius scale is a little more challenging, but baby steps, baby steps.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Reno, Communication, Education, Generational, Government, Lessons of Life, Public Relations, Science, Technology

Five Signs That Should Be A Dealbreaker When Purchasing A Pre-owned House

Greed is NOT good when purchasing a home. The ethics of selling a house have reached new lows and some realtors are little more that used car dealers looking to take advantage of the gullible and the inexperienced. Here are five things that should encourage you to walk away from a sale.

The Angry Realtor
Regardless of the circumstance, the sale of a home should not be a cause for anger. Terms are either acceptable or not, and an overly emotional or condescending realtor is a good indication that he or she is trying to distract the buyer (and sometimes the seller.) The ethical realtor understands that buying a home is one of the big decisions in life and everyone should be happy when the check is exchanged.

Unfortunately, the past decade has seen ruthless and unethical realtors gain a foothold in an otherwise, honorable profession. If a realtor accuses you of being unreasonable, they may be trying to attack your sense of self and create doubt so that you’ll back away from your convictions. Again, the terms are either acceptable or not, and if not, a counter offer or a polite decline are the only appropriate responses.

Buying a home can be a win-win, or win-lose depending on the ethics of the seller

Buying a home can be a win-win, or win-lose depending on the ethics of the seller

Flipped Houses Tricks
Buying a cheap house, fixing it up, and reselling it used to be an honorable vocation. It is no longer.

When profit is the primary motive, ethics of the seller and their realtor become meaningless. Anything in a house that needs fixed or replaced will likely be done at the lowest price with the least amount of quality and work. Here are some tricks in remodeling for profit that you should be wary of when buying a home:

Single pane, aluminum frame windows are great if you like high heating bills and wasting energy

Single pane, aluminum frame windows are great if you like high heating bills and wasting energy

  • New windows trick – Insulating dual pane windows are a standard in today’s home. Homes with single pane windows should have been updated in the during the last 20 years. Rather than updating all the windows, unethical sellers will only replace the windows on the front of the house, which improves its curb appeal, but doesn’t fix the problem.
  • Landscaping trick – Landscaping is a key indicator of how the house was maintained. People who didn’t take care of their yard, probably didn’t take care of their house. The unethical seller will plant a few new trees or bushes, and some decorative stone to cover the weeds and dead lawn. If everything looks new, ask about the drip system for the plants. If their isn’t one, then you know they are just trying to disguise poor maintenance with rock and mirrors.
  • Plumbing fixtures trick – New toilets and faucets make a house look updated, but that can mean it is updated. The unethical seller will use the cheapest toilets and fixtures at Home Depot or Lowe’s and pay an unlicensed handyman to install them on the lowest bid. Run every faucet, flush every toilet, and look for leaks, and/or sloppy installation.
  • New carpet trick – Worn floors and carpet will cause most buyers to walk away from a house. Enter cheap tan carpet. The quickest and cheapest fix is inexpensive tan carpet. A house that has new tan carpet gives the feel of a well-maintained home, but this should cause the potential buyer to look even closer at the home. It is worth the trip to a carpet store before a buyer begins home shopping. A home buyer should know the look and feel of high quality carpet versus cheap tan carpet.
  • Electrical outlets trick – A home with ungrounded, (AKA:  two-prong outlets,) is in desperate need of updating. It means that the house should be rewired (See Outdated Systems.) To disguise this issue, the unethical seller will change the two-prong outlets with three-prong, (AKA:  grounded) outlets, but they won’t replace the wire, nor will they have run a grounded wire to each outlet.

Bidding Wars
Bidding wars on a home is a win for the seller and always a loss the buyer. Home buying is not a game. The pressure of people bidding against each other drives the price up, and the value down. Walk away from a bidding war.

Getting a great deal is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. By shopping for homes over a period of months, the chance of being at the right place and time increases. There is a name for people who expect to spend only a week looking for a new home: Suckers.

Outdated Systems
Because everything wears out, and because newer house systems (heat, light, plumbing, electrical, appliances, etc.) are more efficient, buying a home with outdated equipment means, 1) that the previous homeowner didn’t do the maintenance they should have, and 2) the real cost will be much higher as you will be burdened with the cost and inconvenience making it current. Here are some systems you should ask about before you buy:

  • Water Heater Tanks – The life span of most water heaters is ten to thirteen years. If the heater is older than 2001, it needs to be replaced.
  • Furnaces – A well-maintained furnace can last 25 years. A furnace installed before 1990, is not only at the end of its life, it is costing you money because it is inefficient.
  • Electrical – The electrical system has about a 40-year life span. Any home built before 1975, should be rewired. It’s a tough job and expensive. It is not a job that should be done on the lowest bid.
  • Plumbing – Metal pipes can last for 70 years or more. Newer PVC (plastic) pipe has a much shorter life (25 to 40 years.) Clay pipes (used for sewer pipe in the mid-1900’s, is past its lifespan. A good home inspector can verify the state of the existing plumbing and their advice should be heeded.

High Pressure Sale
Anytime the buyer or their realtor is applying undo pressure for a decision the buyer should be ready to walk away. Used car salesmen have used this tactic for decades to push people into a deal that they don’t want. It also means that the seller may have significant problems with the house that they don’t want the buyer to discover.  

Certainly the buyer needs to make timely decisions, and a seller should not expect to have to pass up other offers while waiting for another buyer to decide, but if the seller is demanding an immediate decision, then warning bells should be going off in the buyer’s mind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Customer Relations, Customer Service, Ethics, Honor, Lessons of Life, Management Practices, Public Relations