In my last two posts I’ve been conspicuously silent about the actual topic of my ISP, mostly because I am long-winded as all get out and if I try and talk about two things in one post, that post will never end. I’m sorry! I know the hedging must have been annoying. So, without further irrelevant blathering, this is the post where I talk about my ISP!
In our very first day of seminars here in Buenos Aires, we talked for a while about the inequality in the education system here. One of the topics that the professor brought up was the work done by the Equipos de Orientación Escolar (School Orientation Teams, abbrev. EOE), interdisciplinary teams of clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, social workers, and other professionals that work with each school district, one team per district per level. In the districts in the wealthier regions of the city, the teams have plenty to do, but their workload is manageable, and the families they work with are generally well-equipped to support their children. In the poorer region of the city, however, the EOEs tend to be stretched thin — there are so many social, psychological, and educational problems that come up in those districts that often the teams can only deal with the most severe and urgent cases, and have to leave the (often underprepared) schools and families to try and deal with the rest.
By that first day of seminars, I was already in love with the city, and desperately looking for something to do for my ISP that would let me stay. The subject of the EOEs intrigued me even beyond my frantic search, though: if I looked at the work they did, especially in the context of economic inequality, not only would it be super interesting, but I might be able to tie it into my major! (I’m taking Clinical & Counseling Psychology next semester, and I feel like every little bit of background information will help.) I asked Alicia, our lovely Buenos Aires program assistant/homestay coordinator/jack-of-all-trades, whether it would be possible to observe with an EOE, or at least interview them about what they do. In fact, I asked her three times in as many days, just to be extra extra sure my idea would be possible. With her repeated and exceedingly patient assurances that yes, that was definitely possible, I wrote up a proposal about the consequences of childhood poverty on child development and academic achievement/well-being, asking to look at the types of problems that occur in the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and the work the EOEs do to try and alleviate those problems. My proposal passed with flying colors, my silly program-mates who didn’t want to stay in Buenos Aires flew back to Chile (I miss you guys, come baaaaaack!), and voilá! ISP period.
So far, progress has been good. Everyone on the program gets assigned an advisor for the ISP, someone who has some connection to or professional expertise in the topic they want to study. My advisor is the principal of a primary school in Villa Soldati, one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city, and has frequent contact with the EOE in her district. So far I’ve visited her school, interviewed a maestra recuperadora (a kind of special education teacher that works in the mainstream school system, helping kids whose needs aren’t severe enough to place them in a special school) about what kinds of obstacles and problems she faces with her students and the interactions she’s had with the EOE. While I was there, I also ran into a few of the EOE members, who said they were going to talk to their director and see if I couldn’t sit in on one of their all-team meetings, and talk with the whole group afterwards. I’m still waiting to hear from them about that, but hopefully I’ll be able to get that done next week, and then see where I need to go from there (interviewing individual EOE members, investigating whatever the central governing office for EOEs is, looking at different primary schools, maybe even checking out the high school level). It’s been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait so far — some days I’ll have nothing, and then suddenly the next day I’ll have three different things to do. But I think it’s going pretty well — if nothing else, I’m fascinated by what I’m working on!