There are many differences between the schools in Anne Arundel County and the schools in Guatemala City, said visiting teacher Norma Anleu, some obvious, some not so obvious.
"One difference is the buildings," Ms. Anleu said. "We don't have heat, because we don't need it."
Ms. Anleu, 22, has spent over a month at Arundel Middle School adjusting to the heat and many other differences between the school system here and the school system in Guatemala. A teacher of English in her home country, Ms. Anleu has been volunteering her time at Arundel Middle to improve her English and to share a bit of Guatemala with the students.
Ms. Anleu was able to visit Arundel Middle through the College Park-based Heart of the Matter, a nonprofit organization that works to introduce teacher training and educational programs in developing countries through such activities as exchange programs and sending surplus materials from U.S. public school systems to Central American school systems.
Ms. Anleu said one big difference between schools in the United States and those in her country is the amount of resources and materials that can be found in U.S. school systems here.
"The economy is very different here," she said. "Here you have everything the students need. Sometimes it is very difficult for students in Guatemala to get everything they need in school.
"Sometimes it is very difficult to go to school. In my family, I am the only one to graduate," said Ms. Anleu, who has two brothers.
Students in Guatemala attend school until they are 18 to 20, Ms. Anleu said. They receive training in high school for their profession, she said.
During a sixth-grade Spanish class, Ms. Anleu recently helped the students work on a project in which they learned "los cinco sentidos," the five senses. As she moved among the students, Ms. Anleu pointed out a subtle difference between U.S. students and their Guatemalan counterparts.
"In Guatemala, the children like to be close to the teacher," she said. "There is a lot of holding, and I give them kisses to show them I love them. Here, I don't have to hug the children, but they still love me, and I love them. The culture is very different."
The culture may be different, but Ms. Anleu made a big hit with many Arundel students.
"It's cool that she's here," said Kristina Quinn, 11. "It's good because she actually speaks the language. She's from a country where people speak Spanish, so she can correct us on our pronunciation."
And the students help Ms. Anleu on her pronunciation of English.
"She helps us out, and we help her out," said Kelly Ontko, 11.
Ms. Anleu said that when she returns to Guatemala for the beginning of the school year there in January, she hopes to take with her the concepts of cooperative learning and critical thinking she has found in the United States.
"In Guatemala, teachers put stuff on the board and the students can copy it down," she said. "I want to teach critical thinking. But first I need to learn how to think [critically], to teach the students how to think."