Emelie Parker’s observational notes of the Matènwa Community School. Winter 2014
Things we learned from interviews or observed in general are:
Joyful teaching joyful learning
It was so so so wonderful.
Matènwa is everything I had hoped for and so much more.
In the Classroom
Children lead the opening of day with flag ceremony and drums.
We saw integrated learning through math, reading, writing and science with the garden and with music. Science journals were kept with drawing and words from seeds to harvest and weighing and measuring
Lots of leadership opportunities for 6th graders with responsibilities at opening of the day—principal or teachers also give announcements and encouragement/challenge for the day.
Homework: first grade on up had homework; one teacher assigned the children to write and draw a story on folded paper that was a booklet.
There was uniformity of the day/expectations across the school. It all started with silent reading and discussion of what they had read; responsive classroom type discussion of what went well the day before and what didn’t go well; whole group lessons; small group work and independent work;
A song is often used to move from one subject to another.
Enthusiastic, energetic excited learning is accepted and encouraged…acceptable level of noise. Lots of laughter and talk
Part of morning meeting and end of day closure meeting is reflection and goal setting. We saw this everywhere! Even at the Thursday assembly students were asked what had gone well or what had not gone so well in their classrooms. Lots of reflection and goal setting all day long.
Each day’s schedule was posted on laminated paper and referred to by the teacher or students.
We saw that the beginning stages of conflict resolution have been taught.
Silent reading by the students and teacher is in every room always at the start of the day. Books are collected and handed out the next day. It was child chosen books.
We loved watching math manipulative and purposeful learning, for example: use of pattern blocks for study of shapes; measuring room one day and determining perimeter and area the next day; formulas on board and students wrote formula down before the solution; students brought answers back to whole group and shared
We saw the finished Mother Tongue Books that are used in the classrooms for reading. There is a committee that meets to decide which of the many stories will be made into laminated books.
The Arts: basket weavings, furniture making, drawing, painting, loom weaving, music, and physical education.
Furniture and baskets are used in the schools as well as sold to other schools for their use. Beautiful crafted work.
There were eight regular teachers; three assistent teachers; seven specialists; five management – Ezner the Director; Feronel the treasurer, Abner Director of Outreach, Roseline the secretary and Joelle school administrator and liaison; 24-7 security people (one for day and one for night) and the cooking staff is contracted out. There also is a two woman business for selling the rice, beans etc.
The Directors were very active – walking around school, in classes, picking up trash, counseling students, encouraging, holding up very high standards, checking to see if daily schedule was posted.
Four teachers from Jacmel
Teachers spend a lot of time interacting with children during class walking around and checking work, patting their heads, joking and smiling. We saw acceptance of each child and where they were academically; no put downs. Physical touch, eye contact and focused attention
Anything a child can do is done by a child. You can tell they have spent a great deal of thought on the routines of the day and what a child can be taught to do is not done by the teachers.
Teachers have not been to normal school. They are trained there at the school. Some teachers have been there since the beginning; some went to school there; some get to go every year to US for a couple of weeks for training..
There was very little down time by teachers and students. The teachers are provisioned and ready with each lesson. The children know the routines of where the supplies are and the routine of the lessons. No wasted time looking for pencils, paper or writing things on the board.
Recess was fun to watch: soccer, a circle game, some reading in the library, some chit chatting, some playing chase, jump rope, dominos in the classroom with their teachers; some staying in class writing in their books or reading. The children lined up again to come in for recess. Teachers were monitoring recess.
Organic Gardening and Breakfast Program
Breakfast in the morning and almost all children were there on time to get it
Organic gardening by all grades with compost
We saw large chicken coops with expectation that children in older grades are to eat one egg a day.
Students’ responsibilities all day everywhere: for example cleaning the rooms/setting up the rooms before and after school; passing out pencils and books/ calendar work/attendance/keeping track of who borrowed pencils/drumming/ helping with hand washing for little ones etc.
Teachers’ responsibilities: come to school at 7:30 and write morning message on the board and prepare for the day; put lessons on the board (for example, the math word problems were written) most teachers went to specials with the children and participated in the special. If they don’t go to specials they are to go observe other teachers teach; come to trainings; extra tutoring
Parents’ responsibilities: children come on time and with clean clothes; make sure they get homework done; find someone in neighborhood who can help child with homework if they need help; pay 600 goudes for the year; come to first Thursday in the month meeting at 12:30, if there is a serious discipline problem a letter is sent to the parents and the parent comes to the school
Children without parents live with other families. No orphanages at Matènwa but there are a couple on the island.
Children pay 600 goudes a year.
I taught stand up, hand up, pair up and quiz quiz trade because they wanted different ways to review. I explained to Joelle how they can use “hand up pair up” for teacher directed questions also.
I also taught how to use Bannagrams in different ways. Chris Low had asked me to do this.