In August, The Hope for LaGonave teachers joined together in Anse a Galét along with two local school inspectors, our director, and teachers from another village school for three days of training. It was a delight for me to see all the wonderful ways our teachers have grown over the past few years.
In the mornings, we opened with devotions and praises. Our director, Dumerle, has become proficient in English, so he led us in singing This is My Story. To hear the beautiful Haitian harmonies singing the hymn my sweet Granny sang to me as a child blessed my soul. Pastor Beramon always teaches a French folk song, so this year we also taught an American one: You are My Sunshine. If you ever find yourself wandering the mountains of LaGonave and hear a little Kreyol-infused bluegrass, you might be able to trace it back to HFL Teacher Training 2016!
Each day, Pastor Beramon, Dumerle’s wife Terline, and I spent time in lecture and activities with the teachers. Pastor Beramon inspired the pwofese yo to become faithful stewards of Christian education. They collaborated on lesson planning and worked in small groups to better develop their vision as faithful Christian teachers. It is so exciting to see these teachers get into heated discussions about the things in which Pastor Beramon guides them. He is a vibrant educator.
Madame Terline worked with the preschool teachers on early childhood development. This class brought to mind college-level human development classes; Madame Terline is well versed! The teachers delved into gross and fine motor development and how best to facilitate the children’s growth with all the resources available to them. This was fascinating; while the resources might be limited on LaGonave, the teachers are wonderful at coming up with ways to get kindergartners using all their senses to discover God’s world.
I worked with the teachers on techniques for helping their students turn the information taught into their own knowledge. With the preschool teachers, we practiced narrating and acting out the Bible stories of Gideon to help them become a part of a little one’s imagination. It was fun to watch Gideon hide in the winepress from the Midianite armies (the teachers were giggling like schoolgirls)! We also spent time developing hands-on techniques and games for number sense, and incorporating Madame Terline’s teaching, we worked on fine and gross motor games and activities.
The preschool teachers also worked through the French vocabulary of Poisson un, Poisson deux, Poisson rouge, Poisson bleu. Doesn’t it sound fancy in French? It’s really One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Docte Seuss! Although the vocabulary in a Doctor Seuss book seems so simple, we spent two hours on this book and still did not make it all the way through. It can be hard to understand why these two languages, French and Kreyol, are so similar and yet so different. French, like English, has a very broad vocabulary. For instance, think of how many different words we have for cow: calf, bull, heifer, beef, beeves, cattle, steer, chattel… But in Kreyol, if you are talking about a cow, it’s bef. That’s it…only the adjectives amplify the meaning. So, taking great literature books to the teachers on LaGonave puts them ahead of the game compared to many other schools. Because French is generally taught as a second language, it is difficult. Children who hear a language spoken from an early age learn it better. Our teachers can read high-interest stories in French with beautiful illustrations to the children, giving them a leg up. When we first brought French books, the teachers were dubious, and reading aloud in French was difficult. But that is changing. This year, we noticed that a book I brought for third graders, Fontaine’s Fables, is required reading in seventh grade. The teachers were excited that the students would be hearing this book from third grade on because they realized that by seventh grade, “They will be excellent!” My favorite part of teacher training is giving out the new literature. The teachers pour over the books and sparks alight!
Geography is always a surprise hit, and this year was no different. The teachers worked with new blank maps and developed ways to use the world maps they already have to push the students’ geographical recall. We also had a good time with artist study. I was interested to see if any of the teachers would recognize the painting “Starry Night” by Van Gogh because I had read that it was the second most recognizable painting in the world after the Mona Lisa. No one did. I forget how remote the people of LaGonave are until moments like these. They really enjoyed Michelangelo and hearing of his sense of humor, as well. His work in marble is fascinating to behold even if you are unfamiliar with art. Art is a subject that transcends language and everyone can appreciate.
Over all, the teachers are doing a wonderful work, and it is a privilege to encourage them to work alongside the Holy Spirit, our Great Educator. They are eager each year to come and work and take what they learn back to the villages to raise up the next generation of Christ followers!