Another Big One Wednesday

Yesterday started a little slowly — too much Dominican coffee during Tuesday’s meeting made for a rocky night in the sleep department. But, I finally did get going, in time for the weekly Holy Communion service at the Oficina Diocesana, Padre Brooks officiating.

I spent the rest of the day emailing and blogging and reading/studying Spanish. The big news came at Colegio San Andres in the early evening, during their annual event to recognize student achievement and thank parents for their support.

My attendance was mandatory, Miguelina informed me, although I didn’t understand why until I was seated at the head table and prepped for receiving the school’s Man of the Year award. Many nice things were said at the presentation and I tried to return those sentiments in my “acceptance speech” in Spanish. I was also pressed into service awarding academic achievement medals to deserving students. A 98% average across all subject areas was a very common academic record for these kids. I was impressed (I didn’t see 98% very much while I was in school).

The guest-of-honor was the national secretary for early childhood education, who gave a speech and joined me as a medal presenter. Students danced and joined teachers in inspirational songs that saluted parents and praised the Lord. An innovate parade through the church featured children (and parents) dressed in the work clothes the parents wear every day (with the theme: I want to be like you!).

As is my habit this trip, I’m going to let the photos tell the story.

So many moments touched my heart during the ceremony. A girl with physical handicaps receiving recognition for academic excellence; parents rushing to the podium to photograph their children earning medals; the San Andres staff all dressed in gray business suits with red ties/flowers (these people are professionals, after all); prayers and pledges of allegiance led by children; so many good students that I recognized.

My last posting from this trip will happen tomorrow, likely from an airport on my way home. I fly to Omaha (through Atlanta) tomorrow afternoon. As always, I thank you so much for your support in thoughts and prayers.

Bendiciones!

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Big Day Tuesday

As the school year winds down (a world-wide phenomenon for teachers and administrators, whether they speak English or Spanish), La Junta de Educacion held a retreat for Rectores y administradores at La Oficina Diocesana. The topic involved strategies for bringing the school year to a positive close and featured a representative from a educational publishing company with experience as a motivational speaker, as well as Diocesan staff members with responsibility for budget and finance.

Much of the day, though, was spent with the nuts-and-bolts of bringing el ano escolar to a successful conclusion. The Bishop spoke at length about new directions for the Episcopal schools and highlighted the creation of a Diocesan Departamento de Educacion. He also took many questions and attended closely to comments by participants. Miguelina Jorge served as facilitator and Melvina Dinsey closed the day with comments about the values that Episcopal schools must espouse. I spoke briefly (I was advised to take 5 minutes . . . I took 7 . . . about as brief as I can get!) about my work as consultant to La Junta de Education.

A terrific day. An example of the sorts of things that the Diocese (on its own initiative) is doing to improve its school system. The pictures tell the story.

My time here is drawing to a close. I will leave como un chico feliz because of events like this one. A Big Day Tuesday indeed!

Monday, Monday

Work, work, work . . . Busy, busy, busy . . . I hardly had a moment to myself. Well, sort of. Monday was definitely a work day. I wrote a summary of our activities this past week, sent several emails and read a newspaper to build my Spanish vocabulary. I worked and definitely kept busy. It was a productive day.

Still, there were distractions at the Oficina Diocesana that kept me smiling. For one thing, the office has a tradition of celebrating the birthdays of staff members. We came together in the afternoon for biscocho, musica y Coca Cola to celebrate the birthday of the Bishop’s administrative assistant, Charlenne. We had a wonderful time and I am closer to learning the words to “Happy Birthday” in Spanish.

Here’s the photographic evidence of our celebration together.

Tom

Tuesday is a big day. The Bishop is hosting every Rector and Principal in the Episcopal school system to an end-of-the-school-year retreat. I’m attending. News and photos soon.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow . . .

All good things come to an end. Friday the team began returning home and departures continued through Saturday afternoon, so we had several airport runs. We again enjoyed una cena despedida (a farewell dinner) and some opportunities to visit the sights/sounds of Santo Domingo’s Old Town. I’m thinking that we might not be the most intuitively brilliant team, but we rank among the most photogenic.

Saturday, the tone shifted a bit as I had an opportunity to attend a milestone event in the Episcopate of Bishop Moises. He welcomed roughly 25 new lay ministers who received their licenses after a series of workshops and study sessions. The joy of recipients and their families was inspiring (a word I use a lot while in the DR).

Not much happening today (Sunday) beyond blog posting and reading/writing. I have some newspapers to read (building my Spanish vocabulary) and a nap to take (what I refer to as a napocito confusing anyone who speaks Spanish rather than Spanglish). I have already sent my Mothers Day wishes and apologies for not being at home on a special day. My excuse (partly) is that Dominican Mothers Day comes the last Sunday in May. So, I have another shot at gift-giving.

The meetings/work sessions kick-in Monday and continue throughout the week. So do my blog posts.

Sweet Thursday

By now, we all know that I’ve been known to “borrow” a blog title (or twelve) from popular music. I’m not sure why Thursday has been neglected, but it took a while to find this Johnny Mathis song title. The best part is that it really captures our day in Haina, working with Colegio San Marcos and Colegio San Matias, Santa Ana Bani.

Workshops and spaghetti sauce (stay with me, readers) have a thing in common; even if you follow a recipe, you never quite know how they’ll turn out. Every once in a while, you get the spicing perfect and simmer for exactly the right number of minutes. You get something really special. That’s what happened Thursday. Not that the other days weren’t wonderful . . . it just seemed especially tasty at San Marcos.

As always, the photos tell the story. We had lots of the usual: inspiring introductions to our task, strong presentations, happy winners of the quiz game, great hospitality, a swell lunch and a bit of dancing besides (featuring the Solid Gold Dancers, for those of you old enough to get the reference).

What we had every day (maybe a little more on Thursday?), was an intensity to the small group work, including impromptu meetings with team members to learn more about their areas of expertise. There was also a joy in sharing action plans and many demonstrations that team members were friends as well as colleagues.

Don’t get me wrong, Gentle Readers, we had 4 terrific days “on the road”. All of them A+ if I was grading them. Maybe Thursday was A++. ?Quien sabe?

The Longest Day

Our title today isn’t a value judgement or anything like a criticism of how Wednesday felt to us (it was hugely satisfying, in fact, and left us feeling really good). In terms of distance traveled and time elapsed, though, it was the longest of our work days chronologically.

We got up around 5am, loaded the guagua, drove 3+ hours north to Colegio La Anunciación in Santiago de los Cabelleros, worked with two very motivated small groups (Anunciación and their “neighbors”, Colegio Jesus Nazareno, San Francisco de Macoris) and returned to Santo Domingo. One day. Pretty long. Very good.

These fotos (with accompanying wordy captions) give a good sense of how the day went:La Parada Jacaranda, a one-stop motel, coffee shop, souvenir store, restaurant and takeout palace (with clean restrooms) at about 7:00am. From my experiences, you cannot travel much north of Santo Domingo without stopping at Jacaranda.

There is a story here. The Colegio Anunciación gave each team member a chocolate bar sampler as a welcoming gift. Padre Tony (Rector of Iglesia Anunciación) explained that the group Corazón Dominicano serves women who have been abused or abandoned; the women are cared for in a safe environment, then taught food processing skills; they can work producing this chocolate for as long as they want or need to. Indulgence for a very worthy cause is a good thing in my book.

Padre Tony opens the session with a prayer. Miguelina expresses her appreciation to Directora Iris for the great job her school has done in hosting the event.

During Dr. Joe’s session, participants competed in a quiz that engaged them while demonstrating a free, easily downloadable program to promote similar levels of engagement in the classroom. Above, the winning team celebrates a crucial point then “takes a bow” after the friendly competition is decided.

I particularly like this photo series because it shows how Melvina and Miguelina use warm-up activities to relax participants and focus them for the job ahead. The last two photos show the level of engagement that teacher teams showed throughout the week; Colegio Anunciación y Colegio Jesus Nazareno worked hard and produced viable planning documents. Like every other group we worked with.

My Tuesday with Miguelina . . .

After our work at Colegio San Andres (partnering with Colegio San Jose, Boca Chica), we traveled a bit farther — out east to the city of La Romana and its 2 Episcopal schools, Colegio Todos Los Santos and Colegio La Encarnacion.

Once again, we found leadership teams (including lead teachers in technology and teaching/learning English) that were eager to dig into their task, producing workable improvement plans grounded in learning theory, curriculum design, needs assessment and a love for learners.

We have a certain order to these events. We begin with a prayer of dedication, deliver several presentations in relevant areas (including a spirited competition involving an instructional program, Kahoot.it), a great lunch and then dig into an afternoon work session. We reserved plenty of time for teams to share their plans and give constructive critiques to help make them even better. We always close with a benediction from the Rector at the host school and a group photograph. The photos tell the story.

Time for a quick lesson in Dominican culture. Our team sampled one of the great resources of the Dominican Republic, Cerveza Presidente. Here is an important phrase for your next visit here (if you don’t already know it): Vestida de Novia (the bride’s dress). Presidente is best served very cold, almost frozen; upon arrival at the table, cold bottle meets humid air and a white frost covers the bottle. Vestida de Novia. Try one asap.