I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any construction work today. I needed a day to let my hands heal and focus on the children. This morning I worked with a group of kids on their Math & Reading work while Rhiana worked with two students independetly. . I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If my elementary and high school teachers could see me now! They wouldn’t believe it! Although I made good grades, I skipped a lot of school and was no stranger to detention.
We spent the first few minutes in class with hugs and greetings. That was followed by me commenting on all of the boys fresh haircuts and them noticing my freshly shaved face. I have kept a beard for the last few months and they had never seen me without one. They also encouraged me to shave my head like theirs so I wouldn’t get so hot. That one’s not going to happen — at least not this trip!
So, I gathered up a small group and grabbed some materials and got to work. One thing that I have always heard is that the kids here were memorizing words rather than actually learning how to read. I can now say that is 100% true. I was working with a group of 4 students and they begged me to read Story #22. I obliged, thinking that this must be a class favorite with one heck of an ending. After my second group, I realized that they wanted this story because they all had it memorized. I decided to put an end to the reciting game and threw them for a loop when I shut the book and reopened it to a random page. On that page I pointed to a word and said, “What’s this?” Only one boy got it right, but the guesses were good. I tried a couple other smaller groups and the ratio was much the same. Rhiana had prepared me that they were starting to grasp the concepts and it needed to be constantly reinforced. Although, some of them didn’t like my approach, they eventually all started sounding out the words phonetically. This proves that the work Rhiana has been doing with them is really working wonders. The books that we were able to provide thanks to donations are really helping them in this area. Rhiana has been working hard with all of the children and this additional attention and structure is great. There are some kids who give her a hard time, but today worked wonderfully with me. It is mainly some of the boys that I think prefer a male over a female teacher. I feel like we need to stay here longer and continue the work in order for it to really stick. We will see if that is in His plan.
I can relate to the memorizing and I know it is not just a Haiti thing. I did the same thing in many of my classes. In my Latin class, I never grasped the language or the method behind tenses, but I got an “A” in the class all three years. I did it strictly through memorization and mimicking my professor. Another time, I quit piano lessons after my teacher figured out that I couldn’t really read music. I watched her hands, listened to the notes, and could play it by ear. She caught on one day when I missed a note and she pointed to a random place on the page and said, “Start here…” BUSTED! I couldn’t tell an E from an A or a major from a minor. (Still can’t – but I play music for a living – lol!)
The hardest part about any type of education is the connection. We are blessed to be able to homeschool our girls which means that they get specialized attention catered to the way their minds process things. That is not possible in larger scale school settings, when one teacher is responsible for thirty or more children. As a society we constantly recognize that each human being is completely unique and that no two people are the same. It seems to be forgotten when it comes to education. Today, was great because there were multiple small groups getting personalized attention. I think we would see a tremendous difference if we were blessed enough to continue this model.
After a short break we moved on to Math. I was thoroughly impressed with many of their skills in this arena. Today’s worksheets were 3 digit addition problems. They use visual aids like blocks and other items to assist them which is how Rhiana taught our girls at home. It works! I sat there wishing that I had been taught to use this method as a child. I struggled in Math my entire scholastic career. I mean seriously struggled… even had to attend summer school one year. My parents were called into the school and told that I had a learning disability. The administrator said that I would be given a test that would let them know which remedial class I belonged in. I ended up testing out as “Gifted”. Their song and dance did a complete 180 and all of the sudden there was this special small group that catered to the “Gifted”. For the record, I rejected the “special gifted class” solely because I didn’t want to sit in the room everyday with the lady who thought I was “slow”.
Later in life I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that if you ask me, was why I didn’t excel more in school. I was terrified of tests and many times changed my answers because I thought the questions were trying to trick me. Also, when you tell a student that “this test counts as 40% of your overall grade” — who wouldn’t panic?
One final observation from today is that the kids at the Orphanage have an amazing ability to replicate actions. As I mentioned before, the reading – but also looking at a picture and freehand drawing it. Almost every child here has that ability which you don’t see a lot of back in the States. Also, if you say something in English, many of them will not only repeat the words, but also emulate the sound of your voice. All of it is very precise. It is truly fascinating.
After breaking away from the school portion of the day, I helped our housemate apply flea and tick medicine to the five dogs that live at the Orphanage. Dogs are treated VERY differently here than back home. We told stories about our dog Simon sleeping in the bed with us and the people here were floored.
We spent some good hang out time with the babies and toddlers which is always fun. I still get mesmerized by their huge smiles and love to watch their curious minds at work. Once it was time for them to go back inside, I went and grabbed a few of the older kids and asked if I could show Rhiana, Gracie, and Clover their “secret garden”. After promising that my girls could keep the location a secret, we all went and took the tour. It really is amazing. These kids took beans and other left overs from meals and planted them. Each boy had his own plant and was very proud of it’s progress. They continue to amaze me everyday. They all deserve a stable, loving home and I hope they get it soon.
By the end of the day, I broke the promise to myself of no construction. I did some minor repair work in the girl’s and boy’s rooms before calling it a day.
Now, it’s time to pray about our future and get some sleep….