Report by Sandy Perez
It has been a wonderful time in Haiti! I have come with groups during the summer for several years to help register students and conduct teachers conferences. I am so glad now to be here while school is in session to observe the teachers and students in class and find out more about their needs.
Our goal this trip was to get a better picture for planning the next Teachers Conference (you’re invited – summer 2016!). Vicky, Teresa and I visited classes and helped teach classes on Thursday and Friday. In order to share classroom space (which includes 5 inside classrooms, 3 outside classrooms, and a class that meets in the church), the PreK-6th grade classes meet in the morning, and the secondary students (7th-13th grades) meet in the afternoon. Many teachers teach a variety of grades and subjects, and are here all day.
Most teachers allowed us to jump right in to help the students with their work and to help them teach. I was co-teaching 5th grade Geometry 1st period on Thursday, and the teacher invited me back to teach the lesson myself on Friday! It was great, and with the fantastic help of my interpreter Dodo, we had fun. That afternoon I was especially surprised when I went in to observe the English class. The administrator came in to announce that the teacher was absent, then handed me a piece of chalk and said, “Please teach for us!” How could I say no? – 3 times that day I was handed chalk for an absent teacher! I ended up teaching for over 4 hours – English classes for 12th & 9th grades, along with a double period of 9th grade Algebra. Little did I know God was sending me to Haiti to be a substitute teacher! I learned a lot from the older students, especially how VERY grateful they are for the education they receive, and how very hopeful that it will provide them (and their country) a better life in the future.
There are many differences between a typical US school and this school in Haiti. With all rooms open to the outside and to each other, you hear every sound in every class. There is no electricity, so reading the chalkboard or a book is difficult at best (please pray about solar lighting for the school). The outside classrooms now have 3 walls of concrete block and a tin roof – but the blackboard itself is the 4th wall! Most teachers do not have any teaching books or materials (other than what we have provided). Most students do not have the needed workbooks – parents must buy them and often cannot afford them (there are no school textbooks). Many kids cannot afford the cost of going to school, or are unable to complete the year because of costs (we need more sponsors!). The school is open for use by anyone in the community at any time, so teachers do not have their own rooms – they carry everything they use in a backpack as they must move from class to class (students stay put).
You’re glad for every breeze that blows through to cool things off (except when you’re in the room by the outhouse!). The physical building may look quite different, but we realized kids are pretty much the same everywhere – they have the same hopes, desires and dreams for the future, and many similar classroom behaviors as our students in the US. The standards are very high for the curriculum, and the students must pass “state” (Haitian) tests to move to the next grade (the school we support does very well on state tests). Some kids are out to please their teacher and work hard, others try to get away with minimum effort or distracting others.
Kids love hugs, smiles and words of encouragement everywhere you go and especially yearn for that from their teachers. Some are anxious to answer questions, while others avoid eye contact with the teacher in hopes of not getting called on. The kids in the back row were always fooling around – even trying to use a cell phone!
So I was very privileged to come back to Haiti, to work with the teachers and see the school in full swing. The teachers here are doing a great job with VERY minimal resources, and they are VERY appreciative of our help. Please keep the school, the teachers, and the students in your prayers, and consider what God may be calling you to do to help here. Are you able to come, give, pray, tell others? We’d be happy to tell you more about the needs of the school if you want to check out the website and contact the ministry.