An Open Letter to LIFE School

To Whom It May Concern

According to the Robert Muller LIFE School website, their mission is:

“To provide Guatemalan as well as international students with a truly multicultural education based on the humanist philosophy of Robert Muller, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General, and to develop leadership capacity among the local indigenous community.”

As a former teacher, I do not feel that the school is fulfilling that mission. As a result of an oppressive work environment lacking open or clear communication, I was under a great amount of tension and stress, which led to rash actions culminating in my job termination. My goal was to create a dialogue and to encourage more openness, safety and happiness for all community members. My intention is peace.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

I was born on May 30, 1980. I am a 34-year-old woman from Austin, TX, USA. I graduated in from high school in 1998 and from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002. I have been a professional, credentialed school teacher since 2007. I moved to Guatemala in 2009 and worked for three years at the American School of Guatemala. I left on excellent terms. I earned my Master of Education degree in 2011.

In September 2012, I came on board at Robert Muller LIFE School in Panajachel. I truly adored my experience during my first two years. In my ninth year of teaching and my third year at LIFE School, my workload (amount of students) doubled. I was charged with 32 students with vastly different needs, across three grade levels. In addition, the staff, leadership, board and student body all changed drastically. Still, I had been planning to continue in my role on the staff until at least the end of the school year. I was let go with no severance pay at the end of January.

THE ROOTS OF THE PROBLEM

A long-standing, systemic lack of transparency or open communication between the three main entities at the school: the parent-led board of directors; the expat director; and the teachers.

High turnover of foreign staff, leading to a gross lack of consistency in policies, procedures and curriculum.

Many highly nuanced cultural differences between the generally progressive foreign staff and the generally conservative local community here in Guatemala.

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

A system of checks and balances between the three main entities at the school

Due process for any staff member at risk of termination

Due process for any students at risk of expulsion

Appointment of a neutral representative to whom teachers could report if they are not comfortable speaking directly to the board or the director. This individual would not be a member of the board but rather serve as an official liaison.

A work environment that encourages expat teachers and directors to stay for more than one or two years, through implementing systems such as higher wages, proper work visas, meaningful bonuses, incentives or other benefits for returning teachers.

More opportunities for cultural exchange between local Guatemalan community members and the expatriate community members, through initiatives such as social events, parent training courses, and effective professional development and team-building activities.

A functional printer and copy machine that teachers can easily access

A campus that is physically and architecturally safe and cohesive, unlike the current site of the school grounds and buildings

Reliable internet and useful technology for each classroom such as projectors and computers for students and teachers

Healthy, nutritious food available for purchase at snack time and lunch time

A legitimate recycling and reusing program to model the importance of environmental awareness

Meaningful, consistent citizenship lessons incorporating mindfulness practices

CONCLUSION

I appreciate your consideration of these important issues. My intention is to help LIFE School fulfill its mission of peacemaking in the tradition of Robert Muller’s World Core Curriculum by promoting a safe, functional and non-judgmental environment for all community members without exception.

5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to LIFE School

  1. I really appreciate your work and time you are giving to the children,I know you are wonderful teacher and person and I still can’t understand how this can happen, in this paradise, in 2015 people think they find a place with
    Cool and democratic environmental but just the opposite is the truth…if you can’t speak up and communicate,express yourself
    I’m going to visit the school next week and hear what they are going to say

    Tara was very emotionally moved by your leave and she is still sad and don’t understand why?????
    Asked me already to look for another schooling option
    Non of the teachers explain them anything…..she went to the directory and asked for your phone and mail and was left without anything…..peaceful partnership and fair environment for children ….she cried almost all night ,since than they have no homework from school yet
    ,big empty un – explained situation is left in 10 y.old child’s mind and body,no one talks about it,humanity is far from this teAching….

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