Before the Christmas break, I started my literacy pull-out program with 18 third graders in the elementary school. I call it “Leer y Crecer,” which means “read and grow.” I asked the teachers to give me their low-performing readers, evaluated them and put them into three groups of 6, based on reading ability. Working with young kids is very different from working with adults and teenagers. You have to be very intentional about keeping their attention, keeping them well-behaved, keeping them on task. I only got to work with my groups for two weeks before the Christmas break, and I’ve picked back up with them again since school’s been back in session.
I think a few of the kids I’m working with have actual learning disabilities, but aside from that I’m finding that the hardest part is when a child just has it made up in his mind that he can’t accomplish something. If he already thinks he can’t read a word, it’s much more difficult to engage him to even try to do it. I know this is true of all human beings, but it’s disheartening to see a 7-year-old have it made up in his/her mind that he can’t. It’s just an extra barrier to have to push through with them. The good news is that in the five weeks we’ve been working together, I’m already seeing tangible results in a lot of them! I’m already taking two of the kids out of my group, because they’re reading now (and because of that, they’re bored, and borderline disruptive when the rest of the group is working). I’m going to be meeting with their parents soon, and I’m pendiente (thoughtfully aware) of how to keep all of this work going once I leave my town in May.
National Teacher Training Conference
In January, we had Escojo Enseñar, which is a teacher training conference I co-planned with two other volunteers. It was so great! We had teachers from 13 communities from all over the country participate in workshops about classroom management, student-centered learning, critical thinking, planning, working with parents and creating didactic materials with few resources.
The level to which teachers receive training on each of these subjects varies greatly in the DR. A standard for teacher preparation exists only in theory (and sometimes not even then). In some cases, teachers who are “nombrado” (given a teaching position in public education by the school district) may not even have finished their college degree. Overcrowding, low salaries, low support from parents and lack of basic resources (like desks, classrooms and books) are all problems that add to the challenges teachers in the DR face. Escojo Enseñar hopes to provide teachers with tools to respond to the challenges and provide a space for educators to discuss potential solutions among their colleagues. The conference did just that. I brought two teachers and the director from my elementary school with me to the conference. I also lead workshops on critical thinking, lesson planning and helped a group with a quantum learning station.
On my first day back to school, when I went in, my director called a meeting with me and the two teachers I brought to the conference. We set a date for our first charla (workshop) and went as far as dividing up who will cover which sections of the manual! They asked me to bring in the PowerPoints to pass on to them. They are so excited to share this information with the other teachers, and I’m so excited about that! When I started teacher training last year (which was my main project), I wondered how I would really keep it sustainable. The answer is Esojo Ensenar. I’m so excited about their momentum and their desire to want to carry out these workshops on their own, and I’m really glad we’ve given them the tools to do so! You should like our Facebook page!