While teaching at José Urbina López Primary School in Mexico next to the U.S. Border, Sergio Juárez Correa began using a new teaching method that allowed his students to get the most out of their educational system and unlock more potential than anyone anticipated.
One specific student in Juárez Correa’s class was a 12-year-old named Paloma Noyola Bueno. Paloma was the youngest of eight children. Everyday when she got home she would recite that days lessons to her father. She didn’t expect too much going into 5th grade considering she usually got good grades without trying too much. Paloma had no idea that her school year would be so eventful.
Juárez Correa went into that school year knowing that he wanted to do something new, he wanted to really engage his students help them accomplish as much as they could. The teaching method he utilized came from an individual named Sugata Mitra.
One day in 1999, chief scientist Sugata Mitra got curious about the slums next to his building in New Delhi. Mitra set up a computer in a nook that separated his building from the slum, he had a hunch about what the kids would do. Mitra watched from a distance as children figured out how to use the machine rather quickly. Mitra saw first-hand that given the proper tools the children would teach themselves. By 2010 Mitra had published a study that was similar to his original idea but larger and more specific. In 2013 he was awarded a 1 million dollar grant from a global ideas conference.
Juárez Correa took the overarching theme of Mitra’s study and adapted it to his own classroom. He decided that he would teach his students what they wanted to know as well as give them the opportunity to lead themselves. Along side those principles Juárez Correa presented knowledge to the kids in a way that would entertain as well as enlighten.
One day Juárez Correa brought it in fable from the Internet, it was about a burro (small donkey) that fell into a well. Thieves had broken into the school and sliced the one of the cords to the classroom projector so Juárez Correa was unable to show his clip but he told his class the story as best he could.
He told of a burro that fell into a dry well, it wasn’t hurt but it couldn’t get out. The owner of the burro knew that the burro was old and so he decided to fill the well, kill two birds with one stone. As the owner began shoveling lumps of dirt into the well the burro cried out but the owner didn’t stop. As the owner kept shoveling, the burro stopped crying out. When the owner was finished he was stunned when the burro hopped out of the well. It had climbed up the rising mound of dirt, constantly shaking of dirt, and jumped out of the well when it was close enough to make it.
Juárez Correa told his class, “We are like that burro. Everything that is thrown at us is an opportunity to rise out of the well we are in.” Paloma had a lot of dirt to shake off, on Febuary 27, 2012, her father died of lung cancer. Before he passed away he told his daughter, “you are a smart girl,” he said. “Study and make me proud.”
In June 2012, the class partook in the two-day national standardized exam which Juárez Correa viewed as another lump of dirt tossed onto the shoulders of his class. When the assistant principal saw the results of the classroom’s scores he immediately went Juárez Correa’s classroom to deliver the news.
The previous year nobody in the class received an excellent score in math, but this time 63 percent of the class did. 31 percent failed Spanish before but now only 3.5 percent didn’t pass. The lowest language scores the class got were still higher than the national average but the biggest surprise came from Paloma’s test score. She had the highest overall score in the class, which was 921. Not only was her score the best in the school, it was the best score in the entire country.
Juárez Correa learned a lot in 2012, as did his students. Even with limited resources he succeeded in giving his class the knowledge they wanted as well as knowledge they should know. Hopefully Paloma will become an inspiration to those that need help shaking off the dirt that life throws on them and hopefully more teachers everywhere will give their students a change in learning and help to unlock their potential as Juárez Correa has.
Written By; Garrett Jutte