East Timor Training Report
Two Seisen teachers share a service trip journal from their training visit to our sister school in East Timor.
Day 1 - We arrived at the convent's Kindergarten, where we were presented with a traditional East Timorese, hand-woven scarf. We played circle games, held relay races and sang action songs with each of the 3 classes. We were lucky enough to be able to observe a language class, in progress, where the students were learning sounds in Portuguese, using techniques and materials which they had received from Seisen International School, during previous visits. The students seemed to enjoy our activities and the staff were keen to learn how to play the games, so that they could continue with them, once we had left.
Day 1: This was our first day of Professional Development, with teachers from the convent Kindergarten, the local primary school and some of the other schools in the surrounding area. We played ice-breaker games, which they could also use as teaching tools, with their students. Each teacher created a Vision Board, which illustrated Personal, Teaching and Whole School Goals for the future. We asked them to provide feedback on the day's training so that we could tailor the rest of the workshops to their specific needs.
Day 2: Following a very bumpy ride, a few miles along the road from the convent, we met the staff and students of the local public school. There were over 180 students in total, ranging from Grade 1 - Grade 6 and they assembled in neat lines, to greet us as we arrived. They learned some Scottish Country Dancing, did relay races and played circle games. In spite of the high temperatures in the midday sun, the students were energetic and enthusiastic. We left behind some sports equipment so that they could continue to play the games, after we had left.
Day 2: On a rather overcast afternoon, Sister Mingas, who is an East Timorese national, took us on a walk around Bazartete, near the convent. We met people from the community, many of whom have children who attend the Kindergarten or the Primary School, which we would visit the next day. They live in simple brick or tin buildings, relying on the land and the free-range farm animals to provide their food. The soil is very fertile, so fruits and vegetables grow in abundance. Cockerels, pigs, cows, cats and dogs roam the streets and the trees are adorned with papaya, mango and banana. Medical care is very scarce, here in Bazartete, (Dili, is a 2 hour car journey away) but the villagers know the medicinal properties of each plant and so are able to treat even the most complex of illnesses, using the leaves, skin and seeds of the vegetables and fruits.
Day 2, 3 and 4: Our mornings were spent at the local Primary School, which is run by Portuguese Sister, Carlota and several other sisters from the convent. We were greeted by students, who treated us to a Traditional East Timorese dance and led us into the courtyard, where the whole school sang songs, in Portuguese, to welcome us. We received some hand-woven gifts and then began the morning's events by learning a Scottish Dance. The students danced the Virginia Reel and the older students (who picked up the dance steps very quickly) also tried the Canadian Barn Dance. We were served a simple, but delicious lunch - the ingredients of which had been grown in the school garden.
On the second afternoon, we played different sporting activities, using the equipment which we had brought from Seisen and adapted the games to suit the three different age groups: Grade 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6.
Our final morning's event consisted of 3 different Art activities: 3D colourful lizards for G1/2, decorated birds with concertina wings for G3/4 and collage fish for G5/6. Students were eagerly engaged throughout and seemed very pleased with their creations.
We felt down-hearted that we had to leave everyone we had met there, but the students gave a short farewell speech and presented us with a poem, in Portuguese, as a memento of the time we had spent with them.
Day 3: We began our second afternoon of Professional Development with more games and activities, which they could adapt for use with different abilities and subjects, within their own classes. We demonstrated the process required to make several different types of book, using simple materials - paper, card, scissors and glue - and suggested a wide range of uses for these books, as a method of getting students more involved in the learning process. Materials were provided so that they could make their own examples to take away and hopefully use in their own lessons. Again, we asked for feedback at the end of the workshop, so that we could see how successful they felt we had been in providing useful, practical ideas. The results were very positive, with many teachers saying that they were looking forward to implementing with their own classes, some of the things they had learned.
Day 4: Our concluding workshop aimed to bring together all of the ideas, games and activities the teachers had gained from the previous days. In groups, they were given a specific concept which they had to teach, by creating their own game. They had to consider the Learning Intention, the rules of the game and the materials they would need. Once they were ready, they taught their game to the other groups, who carried out peer assessment by providing them with feedback on the successes and areas for development. Groups were asked to create a game which would teach throwing and catching, one which would teach multiplication tables, another which would teach the vocabulary needed to write about local animals and the last group had to think about teaching the process of how plants grow. One common goal which most teachers had mentioned in their vision boards was that they wanted to develop their creativity and they certainly seemed to have tapped into their creative side through this activity, inventing a card matching game, a sequencing activity, a team ball game and a letters/categories game.
Participants were each presented with a certificate to mark their attendance at the workshops - teacher training sessions are few and far between and so it was important for them to be able to provide evidence of their participation.
The workshop participants, with their certificates.
A gardening project, run by Sister Julie (an Indian national) is located adjacent to the Primary School. The aim is to teach some of the teenagers in the community how to grow their own crops, as well as how to care for rabbits and fish. A wide range of planting and irrigation techniques are used to successfully grow many different crops, including lettuce, cabbage and carrots. All of the crops are harvested and sold by the youngsters not only to provide them with a small income in the short-term, but also to furnish them with the skills they may need in the future to support a family in this remote community. Water is scarce, outside of the rainy season, so they have developed different measures to reduce water wastage and recycle water wherever possible. Through hard-work and dedication, the participants of this project can gain the skills they need to practise self-sustaining agriculture, which they can then pass on to future generations.
On our final day, Sister Monika ( a Japanese national) took us to the Dili Museum, where we were reminded of the struggles the East Timorese people had faced in their fight for independence. It was difficult to understand the level of suffering which was endured back then and yet how the people of East Timor remain positive, warm and welcoming. Sister Monika and Korean national, Sister Tom lead a larger team at Dili City's convent. They made us a delicious lunch before we bid them farewell and boarded the plane at Dili Airport.
The sisters are so grateful for all that Seisen International School has done for them and very much hope that the support can continue, next year and beyond.
Nicola Speirs and Kathy Mitsui
- East Timor
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