We are up and ready to travel this morning. I am so thankful that we are all safe and healthy and had a great experience. After breakfast, the ITE 2015 team will depart for the airport and our journey home.
The faculty and staff on this trip have had a wonderful experience working with these young people. They are great ambassadors for the U.S. and our University. They all agree that they have become better teachers and better people. Each one of them has made a difference in the life of a child. The dedication and commitment to teaching is evidenced by all of them.
At this time, I would like to say "THANK YOU" to the families and friends who shared these amazing young people with us during the past 12 days. You should be very proud of them. They have represented themselves and your family in a wonderful way.
Thank you also to Dr. Karen Karp, Dorothy Dr. Todd Brown, Shavon Wagner, and Rachel Williams for their great contributions to this experience. You have worked hard from early to late but always with a smile and a willingness to make this a great experience for our students. I appreciate you all so much!
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dean Ann Larson who has the vision and commitment to international education experiences. Without her dedication to our efforts, the experience would not be nearly as powerful and meaningful as it has become. All of us want you to know how much we appreciate your assistance.
As we head home, we leave a piece of ourselves in this wonderful place. But each of us are also filled to brim with a greater understanding of a culture much different than our own while also finding that we have much in common.
Thank you all for following us on this wonderful adventure. I will post more photos as soon as we get a better Internet connection, so stayed tuned until Saturday.
Dr. Margaret Pentecost
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Twelve days ago we arrived in Belize apprehensive and full of questions. What would the teachers be like at our school? Where would the kids be in their content knowledge? Would our lessons be effective? With these questions and more swirling in our minds, we began a week that would change our lives forever.
Jumping into a new classroom seemed difficult the first day, but the teachers’ kindness and hospitality quickly eased our fears. At the end of the week, the teachers shared with us how thankful they were that we were there and showed us how grateful they were with their thoughtful words. Although the teachers were appreciative of us, we were overwhelmed with their dedication to their students and their education. All of the teachers walked or took buses for over two miles to get to school. Then they waded a river with their teaching supplies and walked up through the village. Not only did they travel this to get to school, once they arrived, they were patient with their students, maintained a positive energy, and worked in blistering heat continually to help their students learn.
The first day the children were shy and we were unsure of how to approach them all in class. However, at the end of the week, they had captured our hearts and taught us more about our teaching and ourselves than we had anticipated. Reflecting on the week, we could see how little the children had yet they were content and still worked hard in the classroom. We realized how much we have and the resources that are available to us. On the last day, as we were leaving, with tears in their eyes and ours, we could see the impact that one teacher could have in such a short time. We knew that the students had learned from us and we had formed strong relationships with our students that they could carry with them.
Leaving Belize now, we know that we will carry their smiles, the things they taught us, and the confidence we gained as teachers with us for years. We grew as teachers in our strategies and were renewed in the reasons as to why we chose this profession where we can make such a difference. The teachers and students in Belize taught us more than we could have hoped and we leave being better people for it.
Posted by Margaret Pentecost at 6:26 AM
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Today was an extremely emotional day for all of us.
When we arrived to the school, the principal led a meeting with all of the students and teachers. He reminded the students that this was our last day in the classroom, and that we should all enjoy our remaining time.
We had the first half of the day to finish teaching, and to thank our students for welcoming us into their classroom. Many of us brought treats for our students and spent this time playing math games.
In the afternoon, the teachers at San Pablo made us chicken, rice, and beans for lunch. We were amazed by their gratitude and level of appreciation for us; we thought that we were the fortunate ones. After lunch, the teachers each gave us gifts, pictures of our time in the classroom, and told us how much they valued our work in the classroom. We are so fortunate to have worked with such dedicated, passionate, compassionate, and humble teachers.
After lunch, Dr. Karp and Dr. Brown held a Professional Development event for the San Pablo teachers. This was a great opportunity for these teachers to learn more about additional teaching strategies and methods. During this time, we were able to spend quality time with the students. Many of us walked to the river, and to see the waterfall. We also played soccer, volleyball, and took pictures.
When it was time to leave, it was very difficult to part with the students. I cannot put my emotions into words. Several of the students cried when we left; it was incredible to see the impact that we have made in such a short amount of time.
It has truly been a life-changing experience working with these children. They have been so kind to us, and to say that I will miss them is an understatement. I can honestly say that part of my heart with forever be with these children, and that I will always treasure this experience.
Posted by Margaret Pentecost at 6:46 PM
Today was our last day of teaching at Red Bank Christian School. We started off our day by going on a tour with the student council and Sarah, a Peace Corps worker. We saw many of the homes that our students lived in and met people who live in the village. There were women carrying babies on their back in a sack, clothes hanging up on a line to dry, and chickens, dogs, roosters, and horses roaming the yards. The students also walked us to the river, which was a mile away from the school. It was hot, but it was worth it to see the student council members jump in the water after they had dressed so nicely for us. Upon our return, the principal asked the UofL student teachers to come into a room where the Red Bank teachers were gathered. We met with the teachers that we had been spending the week with, and we were all touched by their kind words and gifts they bought for us. This was truly a special feeling for all of us, knowing how much our teachers appreciated our assistance. For the last couple of hours at Red Bank, we taught fun lessons to our students. As the end of the day approached, we were overwhelmed with emotions. It was such a rewarding feeling knowing the impact we made on our students and teachers. However, we were heartbroken looking at our students knowing we were saying goodbye. Although we are sad to leave, we are excited to see our families and friends soon.
Lauren Nonos and Jessica Rawe
Posted by Margaret Pentecost at 6:27 PM
Monday, May 4, 2015
Another exciting day at Red Bank today! Exhaustion is trying to set in but we are persevering and bringing the energy to the classroom. My students spent all of last week working on writing poetry so today we switched gears and started reading. The students read Maya Angelou’s A Woman’s Work, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s I Am Offering This Poem, and Zarick L. Robinson’s A Little Brother Follows Me. I split the students into three teams and then from there split them into partners. Each team had a different poem and each partner group had a different stanza. The students read each stanza, predicting what may have come before or what may come after, who is speaking in the poem, and what/who they are speaking about. The students had a lot of knowledge of poetry vocabulary, helping me define stanza, line, rhyme, and alliteration, but struggled a bit at first to read the poems. However, once they got into the swing of it and really started looking at the context clues and making predictions, their comprehension was beyond impressive. They were using cues like the word “children” in the first line of Maya Angelou’s poem to predict that the speaker was probably a mother. They noticed the theme of love in Baca’s poem by looking at the repetition of the last line in each stanza- “I love you.”
My co-teacher, Hannah, works in a day care in the states and had her students write letters to our students in Belize. Today at the end of my lesson, to give the students a “brain break” I had them read the letters and write their own letters back. I was completely blown away when the students opted to miss out on recess to continue writing their letters. They told the students in the states all about their homes in the village, their favorite foods, their pets, and what they like to do for fun when they are not in school. They were so surprised that students all the way in the states would write to them and that their own letters would make it all the way back to them!
Since I am teaching two classes and we will have a half day tomorrow, I had to say goodbye to one class today. It was emotional and a tough goodbye but tears flooded my eyes when two students brought me hand-written notes that they had worked on at home. The heat can be tough and the days can be long but I have never been a part of a more rewarding experience and moments like that one will stay with me forever. These students have a passion for learning that is like nothing I’ve seen before and I am blown away every day by their willingness to work hard and try new things. It will be another emotional goodbye tomorrow but I am looking forward to a tour of the village given by the student government while their teachers work in PD. It is hard to believe this experience is coming to an end already but I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of the classrooms and community at Red Bank.
Posted by Margaret Pentecost at 5:54 PM
Sunday, May 3, 2015
After a jam-packed week of teaching, snorkeling, and hiking, today was all about relaxation, and what better way to do that than to spend ALL day at the gorgeous Belizean Dreams Resort. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this place truly blew us all away. From the warm and accommodating staff that went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, to the amenities offered such as kayaking, paddle boarding, massages, hammocks, a pool, and a volleyball court, to its breathtaking view of the ocean, many of us found ourselves never wanting to leave. We were given the entire day to do whatever we wanted. I chose to simply lay on the beach, put in my headphones, and soak up the sun.
Then the day got even better as the sun started to set. We had just finished our beautiful, delicious dinner prepared by Chef Luis when a group of Garifuna drummers and dancers called “One Love” joined us by the pool. They performed various songs from their Belizean culture and encouraged us to jump in and sing and dance with them. At first, many of us were hesitant, but gradually more and more people joined in and soon everyone in our group was up and moving! There were two female dancers who demonstrated all of the dance moves for us to follow along and one of the male drummers lead us in call-and-repeats that we sang throughout the songs. Their dynamic energy made it easy for us to break out of our shells and let loose. My face and stomach still hurt from smiling and laughing so much! It was the perfect way to end this incredibly relaxing day, and I personally feel like it was one of the most fun times we’ve had on the trip thus far.
Although we miss our kiddos back at the schools, being surrounded by palm trees and the smell of salty air today was definitely just what we needed to get our minds right for the rest of our stay here in Belize.
Posted by Margaret Pentecost at 8:53 PM