Collaborating, Training, and Learning with Teachers in Haiti.
I’m a Special Education Teacher, a youth ministry leader, and a thrill seeking explorer. On July 20, 2015 all these passions merged together into one culminating call: a youth mission’s trip to Haiti. Initially, I was hesitant about whether I should go on the seven day mission trip. I read and heard about how short term missions often imperialistically bring American values and culture on the communities they seek to serve. How it develops a ‘hero syndrome’ on the short term missionaries and they often fail to recognize and reflect on their own brokenness. I wanted everyone involved to come back home with more than just having learned,“Wow, I’m so thankful for what I have, because they have so little.” Despite my concerns I still felt a strong call from the Lord to go as a youth chaperon on the Haiti mission trip.
Our team of nine partnered with a local Pastor in Haiti, Pastor Beneet. He has a compound that serves as an orphanage, church, and school for 750 students. During the first couple of days of my stay in Haiti, I collaborated with two other American Teachers, Joan and Amy, (who also were serving at the compound) to conduct a two day seminar for 25 Haitian Elementary teachers. I just barely finished my rookie year of teaching a K/1 Special Education class. Before that I was a substitute teacher for a year and some change. On the other hand, Joan and Amy had a combined experience of 45 years of teaching elementary students. Needless to say, I learned a lot from simply conversing with them and planning how to conduct the seminar. We were very adamant about wanting to make the seminar more of a collaboration effort between us and the Haitian teachers. We did not want to approach the seminar as we the American teachers being the ‘experts’, and them being the ‘learners’. We wanted to affirm that we were all professionals of the same field and can learn from one another. The first day was primarily a discussion. We introduced ourselves and discussed our experience and vice versa. We dialogued about the how the education system is set up in both countries, what’s expected of teacher’s, and what are the needs of our students. To our surprise we had more similarities than differences. Overall, we all expressed a desire to improve reading comprehension and managing student/classroom behavior. At the end of the day, kids are kids, and the same chatterbox Jonny that won’t play nice at recess can be found in any teacher’s class around the world. However, one major difference I learned is a majority of children in Haiti do not have access to education. The children who do receive it value education as a precious jewel. Whereas, American students are often more difficult to motivate and less appreciative of their education.
On the second day of the Teacher’s seminar we taught the latest American teaching strategy for increasing reading comprehension, Depths of Knowledge. This method was also new to me! Essentially, it assists teachers in asking more critical thinking questions surrounding various texts. Less who, what, when, where, why questions, and more compare, construct, assess and revise directions. I was so excited and humbled to lead the application portion of the seminar! It was very empowering to learn from everyone’s abundant
experiences and be able to share some of my own knowledge and experience as well. At the end we donated dozens of math books, science posters, and school supplies. We received great feedback from the teachers, administrators and translator who attended the seminar. As I prepare for my second year of teaching, all the testimonies I heard in Haiti truly inspire me to continue growing as an educator.