On Sunday 9/15/13 our team of Little Ripples Expert Teacher Advisors (ETAs) came together at Loyola Marymount University for our second ETA Symposium – a big day of planning and discussion in preparation for our next trip to Camp Goz Amer. As rainy season started right after the construction of the new school site was completed, classes have not yet begun. In October 2013 Gabe and Sara-Christine, i-ACT team member, will be heading to Camp Goz Amer and leading a second training with the Little Ripples teachers, coordinating a second data set collection, and setting up the school opening process. The second ETA symposium focused on three main topics: peace building classroom management tools, health and hygiene strategies, and data collection from the classrooms.
Christina, a preschool teacher specializing in Echo parenting and peaceful classroom management and activities, led us through an amazing variety of tools we want to share with the Little Ripples teachers. Ideally, each day would begin with a peace and quiet time session. As ‘Peace and Quiet Time’ is a very novel concept in the Darfuri refugee community, these sessions will initially start with learning and practicing deep breathing to bring calmness and regulation into the classroom and setting the tone for the day. During the symposium, our team learned that a young child’s attention span is about 20 minutes, so there should be regular transitions or breaks built into the school day. Christina showed us different poses and activities that would spark a child’s imagination and socio-emotional development as well as get the ‘wiggles’ out. Having these regular breaks and stretches throughout the day will help children to refocus their energy and attention.
For the health and hygiene component, we want to keep reiterating the importance of three main practices: latrine usage, hand washing, and covering a cough. We hope that instilling these practices into students at a young age will greatly decrease the spread of infectious diseases, thereby improving school attendance as well as health indicators measured during the in-depth assessments.
Regular data collection will allow us to get a pulse on the general classroom and school environment. We want to be aware of overburdening the teacher’s roles with data tracking and submission, as this can grow to be a very timely process. Right now our plan is to collect three simple data indicators: attendance, number of violent incidents (kicking, biting, hitting), and number of positive incidents (sharing, helping) in the classroom. Teachers will track and record this data every Wednesday and the data will be submitted by our Lead Teacher Halyema to the i-ACT team through Pazocalo.
After this second ETA symposium, just as we were after the first symposium, our entire team is definitely fired up by all the things we want to bring into the Little Ripples classroom. But we have to constantly remind ourselves to scale things down and keep things simple – there will never be enough time for all the teacher training that we want to do (especially with all the hiccups that are to be expected when traveling and working in Chad) – and that’s okay. With the creation of such an innovative program in the refugee camps, there are definitely high expectations. At the same time we understand that Little Ripples will be completely different than what the students, teachers, and community is used to and there will be a steep learning curve. While our team has an idea of what an ideal Little Ripples classroom will look like in practice, we must remember that it will be a learning process (for all involved) to get there – and that picture of an ideal classroom is a flexible, moving target. Every now and then we must practice what we preach – take a deep breath in, slowly exhale, and remember the words: ‘Keep it simple’!
We are always looking to expand our pool of Expert Teacher Advisors in the Southern California/Los Angeles region. If you have early childhood education experience and would like to get more involved with the Little Ripples program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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