Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vatia Reads!

I've been trying to figure out my purpose here... other than teaching my classes... It's been a struggle that I have yet to blog about because I don't want this to be a space for complaints and venting. Some of the realities of teaching here (as an outsider) are tough to digest: corporal punishment (beating kids, hitting with rulers, etc... even though it's technically against the law), teachers who just don't care, smoking in the classrooms and right outside of the windows, unattended classes, teacher absences... It's been hard to figure out what I can do here other than teach my 9 students. I want to make more of an impact, to affect more of a change in SOMETHING... especially as an educator. I'd hoped that the teachers at my school would have been working toward goals to better the classroom environment, but I don't find that is the case. The principal has good ideas and a good heart, but she doesn't have the leadership power and motivational personality to put her ideas into action. So, I've been struggling with feeling un-used....

A few weeks ago, I decided to stop attending church in my village. I've never been a church-goer, but I was doing so out of respect for the culture and for my host family. However, I find that "religion" here is very hypocritical. While literally everyone is Christian and attends church and Sunday school, I find that most people here do not lead very Christian lives. Domestic abuse, lying, gossiping, fighting... all of this is commonplace. Seriously, I could base a soap opera on my village, which sometimes feels like a medieval town of warring families. People do not spend money for their kids. It seems that kids are not valued, except for their ability to do the household chores (is that why families have so many of them - my kids often have 67 or 7 brothers and sisters), yet in one day, the church can raise $10,700 for the preacher and families can go to bingo literally every night. All of this is pretty depressing when you're giving up a year of your life to affect some positivity on a community. I found myself wrapped up in all of these negative realities and feeling like I am making absolutely no difference. I have to remind myself daily that I am making a difference to my 9 students and to the other students in the school who get positive feedback and love from me. However, that's still not enough - not if I'm going to live in this community; not if I'm going to leave here in a year and reflect upon what I spent my time doing...

So, the Sunday after I decided not to attend church anymore, I went for a LONG walk to the next village and back. In all, it took over 2 hours, on the road over the hill and along the coastline. It's a magnificent walk, and on Sunday morning, not a soul is out there. I have FINALLY found my space to be alone! I set out on this walk with the intention to keep walking until I felt better... until I found a way to get out of this horrible funk that was just sitting on my spirit. And... I came up with an idea that excites me to the point that I get tingles when I think and talk about it: Vatia Reads! A community outreach program to promote the importance of literacy from infancy through adulthood. Using the books and supplies that YOU have graciously donated, I'll be running literacy sessions for target age groups as well as holding open library sessions to give kids access to books. In case you didn't know, there is NOWHERE to get books on this island. There is one teacher store that has about 30 titles of books. There is a public library, but it extremely difficult for kids from my village to access it... My kids don't own books at home... With no internet, no awareness of or Schol.astic book clubs, the children of Vatia do not grow up knowing how to love books. So, I'm going to share that with them. I'm going to copy and paste my project proposal here. I'm waiting for final approval so that I can hold the sessions on the school campus. If, for some reason, the DoE does not agree to the proposal, I will be holding the sessions in my host family's house instead, carting the books back and forth to my classroom as necessary. I cannot wait to get this program underway! :)

Project Title: Vatia Reads!
Coordinating Teacher: Jennifer Smith
Proposed Launch Date: November 8, 2010

Project Objective: To promote literacy among the community, and to give the community (the children, in particular) access to the resources necessary to become proficient, habitual readers
Project Duration: through the 2010-2011 school year
Participating Teachers: Jennifer Smith and Leslie Blaich
Project Description:
Vatia Reads! is a program designed to promote literacy among the community in Vatia. Through regularly scheduled, interactive literacy sessions, we hope to give the community access to books, thereby improving the reading habits and levels of the children of our community. Literacy is the key to success in school and beyond. As a remote village, the members of the Vatia community have limited access to the island’s literacy resources, namely Feleti Barstow Library. This limited access, combined with limited resources on-island has led to a community of students for whom reading is an activity done at school and for homework, rather than for pure enjoyment. This project will provide access to books and organized literacy-based activities for infants and their parents, toddlers, and school-aged children. We hope that the increased availability of resources and stressed importance of literacy will lead to a community of more proficient readers, thereby increasing the opportunities available to Vatia’s children in the future.
Vatia Reads! will utilize a growing library of books donated to WorldTeach by friends and family members of WorldTeach volunteers. These books will be used to create literacy-rich activities to stimulate an interest in and love of reading. During regularly held sessions, books will be made available to read and enjoy. Students of Mt. Alava Elementary School will be able to borrow books from this library, as well. We hope to involve other teachers and members of the community so that the project becomes a permanent part of the Vatia community.
Project Details:
Session Frequency: Initially, 2 days per week (Monday & Wednesday), increasing to 4 days per week (Monday-Thursday) as participation increases.
Session Duration:  2 hours (3:30pm to 5:30pm)
Session Structure:
·         3:30-4:30: Organized activity for target group
·         4:30-5:30: Open library and continued read-alouds (open to all ages)

Target Groups:
·         Early Elementary (Levels 1-2)
·         Middle Elementary (Levels 3-5)
·         Upper Elementary (Levels 6-8)
·         Moms & Babes (Moms, infants, and children under 2)
·         Tots and Toddlers (ages 3-5) (must be accompanied by an adult)
Additional Activities:
·         Weekend trips to the public library. Goal: To set up a regular rotation of parents willing to drive a group of students to the library on Saturday mornings
·         Famous Author Celebrations
·         Young Author Celebrations (to celebrate student writing)
·         Dramatic readings/skits/plays
·         Session activities led and organized by a teacher. The activities will include a read aloud and hands-on project related to the text.
·         Students from Levels 4 & 5 will act as librarians and monitors on a rotational, voluntary basis.
·         Additional read-alouds will be provided by older students (high school, community college), members of the community (parents, village chiefs, etc.), and invited guests (role-models and personalities from around the island).
·         Parents recruited to provide refreshments and transportation for special events
Awareness and Publicity:
The project launch is deliberately planned to coincide with National Young Readers Week (November 8-12). We hope to create buzz about both events through the following avenues:
·         Send home notices with students of Mt. Alava Elementary
·         Create signs/posters to hang around Mt. Alava Elementary
·         Logo design contest among Mt. Alava students
·         Announce the upcoming project during an assembly
·         Announcements during PTA meetings
·         Announcements made and posted at local churches
·         Notices posted at local stores
·         Notices posted at PiCED in Nu’uli
·         Contact Samoa News and local radio stations for potential publicity

Incentives (dependent on available funds):
·         Vatia Reads! pencils, bookmarks, t-shirts
·         Books
·         refreshments
Potential Growth:
·         Increase the number of sessions per week
·         Plant programs in other communities around the island
Sources of Potential Resources:
·         Additional donations of books and materials
·         Fundraising for the purchase of additional books and supplies
·         Scholastic Book Club
·         Research grant availability

November Calendar (Tentative)
Project Launch Celebration!

3:30-4:30 Early Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library

3:30-4:30 Middle Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library

3:30-4:30 Upper Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library

3:30-4:30 Tots & Toddlers

4:30-5:30 Open Library

Field Trip:
Books & Swimming (Library & Swimming)
3:30-4:30 Early Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library
(Thanksgiving Theme)
3:30-4:30 Middle Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library (Thanksgiving theme)

3:30-4:30 Upper Elementary

4:30-5:30 Open Library

3:30-4:30 Moms & Babes

4:30-5:30 Open Library

Field Trip: Books & a Movie (Library & Movie)

1 comment:

  1. AMAZING!!!! You never cease to amaze me, my friend. GREAT GREAT GREAT idea.


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