Hello! My name is Maria Blon and I am the Secretary for the HEART Board and also Mother of Community Liaison, Carina Blon. School director, Shad St. Louis asked if I would offer a teacher training when I was visiting in January 2014, since I was a holistic mathematics teacher for over 15 years, teaching future elementary school teachers hands-on, interactive ways to teach mathematics and learn critical thinking skills. I was very happy to work with the teachers at the HEART school as they are eager to continue learning and improving their teaching skills. I am grateful that Shad and Carina translated for me as my Creole and French speaking skills are at the preschool level.
The training was based on the teacher’s requests:
1. When during the day should we teach each subject?
2. We would like to learn more teaching techniques.
3. We would like to learn more hands on learning techniques, similar to Montessori.
We addressed the first question as a group, asking the teachers what they have observed in their classroom regarding the best time to teach each subject. Each teacher offered thoughtful insights with some similarities and some differences based on the children’s developmental level. The teachers then wrote a plan for what they would experiment with in the future and predicted how that would work. The reason for using this scientific model for having them discover when to teach different subjects is to model where discovery learning can be used and have the teachers experience this themselves and create a plan best suited to their specific students. We talked about how important it is for children to feel safe enough to make mistakes, experiment and take risks when learning. Interactive learning is messier and noisier but more learning takes place. We talked about guiding students to discover answers by asking lots of questions. When a student discovers something for themselves, that learning is with them for life! Repetition is important to learn skills. Balancing discovery learning with fun repetition is important! The teachers then experimented using unifix cubes and playing cards to teach pre-school through third grade mathematics concepts, which you can see in the pictures below:
After this morning of training, discovering and learning, we shared a delicious lunch of cracked wheat and beans, prepared by Rosita Labousse! To finish the day, we watched the French movie, “The Chorus” in our white container classroom. Despite the heat and small screen, the teachers were engaged with this inspiring movie which shows the power that treating students with respect and love can have on a group of troubled youth. Shad said that the teachers continue to talk about how this movie has inspired their teaching.
Thank you to:
- Monica Irlbacher at Middletown’s Thrall Library who found this wonderful movie for us!
- Ginger Hunt, Carina’s Second Grade Teacher who helped me plan this training!
- Karen Weissman and the Corlears School for donating Unifix Cubes!
There were not enough hours in the day to get to the science experiments, so Allison Wilbur did another teacher training in February when she went down to visit. I am proud to say that when a group of teachers from the Art Reach Foundation visited our school in February, they were very impressed with the teachers and students at our school, which is a huge compliment since they train teachers around the world. This school is wonderful because there is so much broad reaching support from so many people. Thank you all for your interest and support to teach critical thinking and sustainable skills to the children and adults in Haiti!