Today I received an email from our TMA (Teacher Mentors Abroad) Coordinator in which she shared the reflections from the educators who attended our 4 day Conference in the Dominican Republic in July. As a team, we were thrilled with the positive comments about our ability to inspire our participants, not only during the conference, but as they return to their respective roles this fall. Our audience was comprised of new teachers, experienced teachers, principals and superintendents and therefore our messages about implementation were differentiated in order to meet their needs. It was rewarding to see that we were able to share strategies which our participants could easily translate into their practice. Words like dynamic, fun, motivating and charismatic have a wonderful way of jumping off the page and reaffirming that our decision to take the learning to the next level was appreciated and acknowledged.
The foundational text for our work in the Dominican is the Tribes book. We use that mentor text as we demonstrate how to create a community within a classroom and use various strategies to support a cooperative learning environment. Daily, we modeled many of the energizers and then took the discussion to a deeper level in terms of connecting the strategy to both community building and curriculum connections. As our participants became comfortable with the Tribes book, they took on the challenge of leading the energizers. On our final day, the energizer of choice was the Spider Web. As the ball of yarn was tossed from person to person we reviewed what we had learned yesterday and our expected individual learning goals for the day. As the activity wrapped up (no pun intended), I was presented with the ball of yarn as a reminder of the group and their appreciation. Such a simple, yet complex and thoughtful gift.
The importance of knowing your student as a person and as a learner was discussed through the exploration of Multiple Intelligences. As a consolidation task, we had groups demonstrate how they would teach someone to tie their shoe laces, based on one of the Intelligences. Our Dominican educators love to sing and act, so we had some amazing presentations. The visual group drew a picture of a “conejo” ~ rabbit ~ and proceeded to give instructions about rabbit ears. I immediately shared that I had used the “bunny ears” technique to teach my own children how to tie their shoes. The next day, one of our participants ~ Wendy ~ called me over and proceeded to give me a small pink bunny. Such a simple, yet complex and thoughtful gift.
For the conference this year, we focused on the Dominican science curriculum, specifically the environment, and shared ways to purposefully connect literacy expectations. Their cumulative task was to present a Public Service Announcement based on the themes we had developed in conjunction with the environmental issues plaguing the Dominican. We were completely amazed at how much work the participants did (beyond the hours at the conference) to prepare for their final presentation.
As we came to the final day and the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but become overcome with emotion as the Director and the Superintendent shared their appreciation for our dedication to TMA and for our work with their educators. It is becoming evident that the work of TMA is making its way into classrooms in the Dominican. As with all changes in education, it takes time, persistence, dedication, and an unwavering commitment.
I will cherish my “conejo” and ball of yarn as “simple, complex and thoughtful” memories of our 2016 TMA conference.
Have you received a “simple, complex and thoughtful” gift? What was it for?
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