Monday, September 3, 2012

Start of a New School Year: On the move.

This past week I’ve been trekking it to Owatonna, Minnesota, for the opening week of my elementary student teacher training, and let me say, I now have a new appreciation for the word – preparedness.  As the son of a second grade teacher I’ve always been privy to the amount of time, hard work, and dedication teachers (like my mother) put into their preparation for a new year.  But, actually seeing the teacher in-service week (and the weeks and months prior, let’s be honest) I am amazed at the behind the scenes work school communities complete before the kiddos arrive.

In the primary school years, the daily routine is gravy. The learning styles and needs of younger children are reliant on a regular schedule.  A great deal of new knowledge is gained in elementary school, and if students have one less thing to focus on (ie: a changing daily routine) their learning goes much more smoothly. Now there are many facets that make up the classroom routine, but one in particular which I personally have down played or taken for granted … is the need for good facilities.

As a student teacher, I am naturally focusing on the role of the teacher in a classroom. More simply, lesson planning is my new day job. I am gaining experience at planning out as many details as possible for when the students arrive.  If you didn’t know, there are way more of them than us, and it helps to try and stay a couple of steps ahead of them for as long as possible. What I haven’t been focusing on, however, is the role facilities and supplies play in a child’s educational experience. Wherever I have gone to school the buildings and classroom materials have always been, for lack of a better word, adequate. Yes, we are and should strive for more, but every school I’ve seen gets along.  It’s part of the teacher’s responsibility to give the best educational experience to students with whatever the community has.  But it's also part of the school community’s job to advocate for students’ education, and to constantly improve their educational resources.

As many of you may know from earlier correspondence, Empowering Learners recently joined in partnership with the Pastor Philippus Henok Kindergarten, an early primary school in the far North of Namibia, as they seek to build a new facility.  (If you hadn't heard about this effort … SURPRISE!!) 

From what Empowering Learners has been told this is the only kindergarten in the area, and most children travel quite a distance to go to school.  Ms. Helena, the school’s teacher, literally set up the entire school. The school started in a classroom inside Oshigambo Lutheran High School, and roughly five years ago, when it came time to move, Ms. Helena simply gathered up her learners and set up shop across the road.  She is the sole provider for all the school's supplies, and by the time her learners finish their year with her they know enough English to advance into the primary school system.

Pastor Philippus Henok Kindergarten

Ms. Helena, and Pastor Henok (the school’s namesake) wish to have a more permanent and suitable building for their learners. With your partnership, we plan to help them build a brick and mortar building, complete with a concrete floor, a roof, windows, and a door, costing roughly $5,000 USD.  It is our strong hope to send this full amount before mid-October, allowing ample time for construction before the rainy season.

Ms. Helena and part of her kindergarten class. 

A point I feel strongly about:

These young students are learning so much from their talented and gifted teacher, Ms. Helena.  I have been there and can assure you that great teaching and learning is happening.  Clearly they are succeeding as can be seen in this video.  And also this video.  What I know in my heart, however, is that so much more could be achieved with a new facility -- one that wouldn't flood in the rainy season, and one with windows, and more space, and enough tables, and a chair for every child.   Both Ms. Helena and Pastor Henok have asked for our help.  They want to improve the overall learning experience for their students, and that’s a feeling that crosses all divides. 

I just took part in a week of meetings discussing how the Owatonna Public Schools can improve.  It’s what the educational world does -- strives for continuous improvement. We ALL want to improve instruction, become more efficient, and have a greater impact on students’ lives. We ALL look to get better. It’s what WE do.

A point I feel more strongly about:

This new kindergarten building can be built -- especially if we do it together.  Please partner with us today as we seek to raise this $5,000 by mid-October.  If you wish to make a fully tax-deductible gift, please click on the DONATE button to the right.  

Empowering Learners. 

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