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Six Teachers Heading to Zorangé for the First Time

Six teachers heading to Zorangé for the first time. For three of them, this would be their first trip ever to Haiti. Although there was a good plan in place, I had a major concern: I was not going to be there with them at the airport. This team of teachers would arrive in Haiti four hours before I do. It would be unfair to have them wait. They would have to be picked up by Wilner and Aurele. The good news came on Saturday morning around noon when I received a text from my brother saying that the “pick-up” was done smoothly. This meant that the two groups of people (who had never met before) correctly identified each other at the chaotic Toussaint Louverture airport in Port au Prince. We overcame the first major hurdle.

I arrived on Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we loaded up, prayed and headed for the mountains. There was a very calm and peaceful spirit along the way.

THE TEAM

  • Rae Greer
    Married, 3rd year Teacher, Social Studies- Cedar Hill Collegiate High School.
    Primary assignment:
    Explore for future involvement.
    Secondary assignment/presentations: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Collaborative Learning through Literacy groups.
  • Lauren Hurd
    First year Teacher, Biology, Desoto Independent School District
    Primary assignment
    : Explore for future involvement
    Secondary assignment/presentation
    : Chunk and Chew / Productive/Effective homework
  • Merilee
    Married, 10+ years, 3rd grade Teacher. Duncanville Indepedendent School District.
    Primary assignment: Explore for future involvement
    Secondary assignment/presentation: 5E lesson plans
  • Mike Taylor
    Married, Counselor, Teacher- Waxahachie Independent School District
    Primary assignment
    : Explore for future involvement.
    Secondary assignment/ presentation: Making Science Projects Simple
  • Coach Joe
    Married, Math Teacher- Desoto Independent School District
    Primary assignment: Explore for future involvement
    Secondary assignments: set up intercom system, coordinator, floater, group leader

As soon as we left the good paved road of the Jacmel mountains to the dirt road leading to Trouin, the ladies asked for a pit stop. I pulled over. Fifteen minutes later, as the three of us men stared at the majestic mountains, the ladies returned giggling like school girls. “Ladies, I love you all more now than I did an hour ago,” I said to them. I knew then that was a special bunch. But there was one oddity: Lauren is wearing boots, cowboys boots to Zorangé. It was fitting, daring, and comical. Cowboys boots and nature, perfect match; “wear something comfortable”, did she not get the memo?

Several meetings prior to the trip, I believe, really prepared them for what was coming and they were full of excitement. Along the way, the laughter and fellowship never stopped. At times, I felt sorry for hitting some bumps but it’s not like they were not warned. The mountains, their excitement, and the love in their hearts were just the right cushion for the bumpy road. So we continued. Bumps, rocks, bumps, rocks, rivers. So they hang for dear life and laughed all the way to Zorangé. I did wonder if their energy would last but they were still smiling when they entered Zorangé. From Bainet to Zorangé, I am thinking, “If anything, these guys would agree that we are genuine in our effort,”. All the way to Zorangé, I was able to show them where I picked Elenie; where she met her friend; where she crossed the river; where they put on their shoes and went up the mountains… just like they saw on the documentary.

We arrived in Zorangé at our expected time. After settling down, I took the team to the school and the preparation began. The team took 12 suitcases of school supplies to Zorangé. One particular box was of interest to me. Lauren is still in boots. A few loose ends were tied up; teacher bags made, final plans discussed and aligned. Still no signs of retreat from this group. Everybody had their game-face on. I can’t quite feel Rae. I think she’s concerned about presenting tomorrow. It may be a combination of excitement and an unknown audience. Rae makes me feel at ease although I fell short on some of my assignments (copies, translating etc…). She reassured me that we could pull it off. Mike finds a new home. Being raised in the country, he appreciates space, country manners. Zorangé is his kind of Haiti. During this preparation period, Mike makes a suggestion that will change the way we do things in Zorangé for a long time. Merilee is also full of excitement. I think she’s anxious to see the children. Still in her boots, Lauren is enjoying the moment. She has always wanted to visit Haiti. But she looks tired. Coach Joe suggests we take a break for diner. Coach Joe does not have a presentation. He is the overall leader. He would moderate the workshop, designate the breaks, fill-in, keep us on schedule, keep us charged up etc… I’d simply make sure he has as much info as possible.

Sunday night: The preparations continued until the sky was filled with plenty of bright stars. Lauren was selected to accompany me to the radio station. She and I greeted the listening audience and launched a final invitation to all principals in the region.

The sleeping arrangements were not the Hilton but this team was prepared. I promised them good, clean water and flushable toilets. Nasson and Wilner had taken care of both of these things for me.

We were ready. In the morning, Mike and Lauren were to stay at our school for classroom observation as the rest of the team visits the neighboring schools. I would accompany the second team.

Monday morning, we started with our farthest school (College Etzer Villaire de Tony). The team enjoyed visiting Etzer Villaire school. Each classroom they visit received a bag of supply from them. At the end of each visits the team layed hands and prayed with the Principal.

Monday morning (around 11:30), ‘more people are calling, wanting to attend the workshop, what do we do?” These were the questions I was having to answer. On one hand, I wanted to stick to the protocol, but on the other hand, we were there for them. “let them come, I’ll just have to take my spanking from Vierge later because we prepared food for the 90 who signed up.” I answered.

Monday afternoon, about 115 teachers and 14 principals were seated in our small cafeteria. Rae was at bat and she delivered on Bloom’s taxonomy. We didn’t have enough supplies for the craft section but it worked out okay. Teachers were engaged and excited. The presenters interjected at will, supporting, backing up the concepts being shared.

Lunch. Vierge is right on time. Having the food ready on time was a high priority task and she delivered. Normally everybody would get a plate of food, find a comfortable spot and eat. Not today. Mike had asked if it was okay to serve the teachers. “I’ll make it happen for you, Mike.” I answered. So the room was quickly turned into a cafeteria. Everyone seated while the visiting team served the local teachers. What a sight! What an idea! This is how we will serve food during these workshops from now on.

It was professional, smooth, right, enjoyable, rewarding, unfathomable from the local teachers view.

After lunch, Merilee presented on 5E lesson plans. Like Rae, she also hit it out of the park. Throughout the workshop, we maintained their interests with our consistent raffle drawings, giving them chances to win items. The team made two special bags for two principals who need some immediate help (Seth Etienne, Gusto Brugnol). They were pleased to receive them. We finished the afternoon exhausted but on a high note.

After day one, we critiqued the work and made some changes for tomorrow. There were several reasons why Day 2 would be special. First, it will highlight / acknowledge / validate the hard work of one our local teachers. Our long term goal has always been to produce solid leaders from the region. Language Arts teacher, Ferne Pierre would be is our first step. Secondly, basic, hands-on science concepts will be presented to our teachers.

Unlike day 1, day 2 would a full day. It would begin at 8 am. But it will not be sufficient unless we modify our approach. “There’s wisdom in the counsel of many” (somewhere in proverbs). So the idea came that we should spilt the group. We would have simultaneous workshops running. Teachers would be divided into 3 small groups. What another great idea! Let it be so. Literacy groups in room 2, science projects in cafeteria, Language arts strategies in computer lab.

Tuesday morning, Coach Joe and Merilee handled the logistics and the day began. “Wow, this is actually working great,’ I thought to myself. The small groups made possible that one-on-one approach. We made sure everyone’s suggestions or input was acknowledged. We modified the pace as needed. From here forward, courses will be offered in a menu style approach. Participants will choose which classes they want to take. This will be the new way of doing workshops in Zorangé.

Once we got over the initial hurdles in the morning, things moved very smoothly and Coach Joe and Merilee kept us on track and moving.

Lunch was ready promptly at noon. Once again, the team went to work. The teachers sat and the team humbly served them.

Day 2 ended with a Q&A session and the passing out of certificates. The comments from the participants came like a flood, expressing their gratitude toward the effort. They could not understand why we showed so much care and love for them. Our own principal, Tony Semerzier, reached in his social studies repertoire and pulled out examples of the vast separations between blacks and whites. He could not understand why he was being served. Another stood up and stated that it is like we were paying them to teach them. Hearing these comments, I began thinking about what someone once shared with me. I do not recall if it is was my brother or a young Baptist missionary from North Carolina named Scott Bass in 2004. It is a quote from St Francis of Azizi that reads : “Love them until they ask why”.

So ends the workshop. How much of the info did the teachers really retain? How much will this workshop impact their teaching? Was it really worth it? Only time will tell. Alfred Noncent, a school principal from Doko who attended the workshop, decided to have a 3rd day of workshop on his campus where they sat and considered how they would incorporate the knowledge they gained from the workshop. This is all that we could ever ask for.

As predicted, this was one of the best workshop ever held in Zorangé.

FYI- our school now has an intercom system that reduces loss of instruction time in the morning. Students now enter class immediately in the morning and announcements are to be made using the intercom which has a speaker in each classroom Everything is set, we’re waiting on a component. Please help me express my gratitude to Coach Joe, Lauren Hurd, Kenny Lowman and Midlothian First Baptist Church family.

What’s next? I will send a plan by Christmas detailing the plan for Spring Break and Summer. Meanwhile, please share your thoughts and comments to this wonderful group of people from Texas.

P.S. to my defense of any incoherent thought or typos, I am still under a lot of medications.

By the way, Lauren left Zorangé with her boots on. And a new nickname. She’s baptized ‘Toujou Grangou” meaning ‘always hungry’.

– Louis