I will be honest in that I had no idea as to what to expect in terms of educator proficiency in the Dominican. I knew that resources were scarce and that anything that we brought and used needed to be easily accessible and technology-free ~ a very different approach to my usual world of educator presentations. But it became apparent from our first meeting with our DR teaching partners that even though they had little they had an incredible talent for still ensuring a high level of creativity and professionalism. At the plenary, two educators were invited to share what they had created and used as a result of last year’s TMA conference. Their charts were enhanced with intricate hand-cut borders and handmade paper flowers. The materials were made out of everyday objects which we wouldn’t think twice about discarding. One teacher shared a spinner that she had created for her kindergarten class which was made using two old CDs and a marble ~ ingenious!!! The lack of purchased materials in no way prohibited these educators from creating thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating activities for their students.
Handwritten scraps of paper were generously shared and there was never a complaint about “not enough copies” or “quality” of the product. There was such gratitude and the materials became secondary to the deep discussions about pedagogy.
There was also such incredible pride in anything which might be displayed. One of the activities that I shared was the Visual Tea Party ~ an activity to create groups and to have students use their observation and then inference skills. We used it as a prediction strategy before delving into a newspaper article. The educators were asked to brainstorm what they saw and then what the object might be. No matter how many times we shared the instruction, “just write whatever you see, neatness doesn’t count”, our DR friends took great pride in taking turns and neatly (in beautiful, straight-lined penmanship) writing their responses. It was very interesting to compare the results of this activity with the results that we gathered when the Literacy team facilitated the same activity during our Journeys into Literacy sessions this past year.
On the final day of the workshop, as we were tidying up, materials that we no longer needed and were headed for the garbage, became treasures for these educators to share with their students.
I learned many lessons while in the DR, and one of the sobering lessons was how much I have taken for granted in terms of what is needed to impact teacher practice. The bells and whistles of the presentation need to be secondary to the dialogue.
Come write with me……