About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Glocal Perspectives on Leadership in Education

Last night was the final night of the Master of Education course I have been teaching this fall: Leadership in Education. I initially proposed the course about three years ago and taught it for the first time this fall. I intentionally did not entitle it School Leadership because one of my objectives was to emphasize the idea of everyday leadership that teachers (and others) can enact. However, after having taught it for the first time, I think I should have added the Glocal Perspectives phrase to the title. Here's why...

As our university president (Dr. Max Blouw) reminded us in our class last night, there is a tendency to be provincial in our focus. I'm not sure that this is necessarily a characteristic of Ontario teachers and leaders (or of educators for that matter). I have certainly experienced this parochial perspective in my work in, and interactions with, educators in other parts of Canada, the US, Haiti, Thailand, and beyond. However, just because that's the "way it is" shouldn't mean that that's the "way it should be." We need to develop a broader, global perspective of educational leadership to enrich our practices here.

An example of this broader perspective was provided last week by Caleb Lucien, the founder of a number of schools in Haiti. Caleb has been engaged in creative leadership in Haiti. He did not do this overtly but he certainly challenged the M.Ed. class to consider lessons in leadership which were based on his vision and experience for education in Haiti. In last night's class, numerous students referred to statements he had made and made connections to a new vision/perspective they have for their work as educators in Ontario as a result.

A second example was provided by another guest we enjoyed in the course, Bruce Rodrigues, CEO of the Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) office of Ontario. Bruce provided a glimpse into the standardized assessments used in Ontario but with a broader understanding of global tests such as TIMS and PISA. There are significant concerns over the nature and purpose (and ideological stances) of these assessments but, like them or not, we have to have a global understanding of the phenomenon to better understand our immediate context.

So leadership in education is not "school leadership in Ontario." Leadership can be formalized and ascribed through roles such as principals and department heads. Yet, that is too narrow of a focus as teachers themselves are engaged in instructional leadership, mentoring of students and peers, and action research. Teachers have the potential to be transformational leaders as much as someone who has been given a position as a leader. So too, we have to consider a more glocal perspective on leadership to have a more robust understanding of the why, what, and how of what we do.

The name of the course will likely not change but I am committed to providing that glocal perspective as I continue to teach courses such as Leadership in Education.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Outcomes and next steps for Laurier's educational work in Haiti

Our M.Ed. course in Fermathe wrapped up successfully on Friday and we arrived back in Canada early Saturday morning. By all accounts, it was a successful trip. Here are five key outcomes:

1. Arrangements made with schools Regina Assumpta (Cap Haitien), Go On (Delmas, Port au Prince), and the state university (UEH, Port au Prince) to support conversational English language programs for a Laurier service-learning team in May, 2014.

2. Agreement with Projects for Haiti to support Canadian teachers who want to be involved in teacher training in Haiti in July.

3. Proposal details discussed with the rector and dean of education at the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien to establish an English Language Institute.

4. Extension of the Digital Mentoring Project to include groups of teachers and principals throughout the country.

5. Extensive training (through workshops and Master of Education sessions) completed on ways smartphones can support educational capacity-building and leadership in education.

There were many, many conversations and meetings which supported each of the above outcomes and I am indebted to those who participated on this networking and training trip. It is clear that Laurier's name is becoming more well-known in Haiti and that our work is being viewed as contributing to the sustainable development of the country, particularly in the north.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BlackBerry, Courageous Conversations, and Emotional Intelligence: All in a days work in Haiti

Today was our final full day in Haiti. Tomorrow, we teach the final block of our M.Ed. course and then we head to the airport to return home.

It's been, yet again, a fulfilling trip. We have had excellent partnership meetings and it is clear that Laurier's name in Haiti is becoming more widely known. We have been part of some highly engaging discussions with educational leaders from across Haiti. We have made new friends and experienced hospitality beyond what we deserve.

This country amazes me. I know that I'll never have a complete grasp of the "reality" of Haiti. It is certainly a country of surprises. The complexities of life here can be touched on in long conversations and in snapshot images. I'm challenged and stretched every time I'm on the ground here.

Today's experiences provide a glimpse into the diversity of experiences we have had. This morning, we drove down to Delmas 33 (down the mountain from where we are and approaching downtown Port au Prince) to meet with Jhonel's brother, Jimmy, about his English school. What impressed me during the time we were together were three conversations with three different people. All of these people have been (or are in the midst of) experiencing economic improvement as a result of a belief that Jimmy had in their ability. It takes courage, both on Jimmy's end and on the receiver's end, to take a chance on someone. Yet, these three individuals represent the hope for Haiti ... people can move out of poverty when given hope and a concrete opportunity.

When we returned to Fermathe, we ate lunch with the students. It appears that not many profs eat with the students. I suspect it's because they feel that the food (which is prepared in a large kitchen) may be unsanitary. I've had four meals there this week and feel great; I prefer the Haitian food to the western food we receive at dinner :). I think there's something valuable about demonstrating to our students that we are not above them in any way but that, by enjoying a simple meal together, we are engaging in a hospitable act. In a way, this emotional connection is a powerful learning opportunity.

After our afternoon class discussion on curriculum leadership, a couple of students met up with us for a relaxed time of dialogue this evening. It was great to hear their questions and to have an "off-the-record" conversation. As we were wrapping up, they were curious about BlackBerry and how they might be part of the work we are doing in Haiti with BlackBerry. It's exciting to have this kind of up-take on something I've been working on for a couple of years.

It's been a day of contrasts ... much like Haiti itself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

diri kole avec ak poul ... and courageous conversations in Haiti

Today was World Food Day. I haven't done research on this but I'm guessing that this day was set aside as such to celebrate the delicious and diverse foods found around the world. I also suspect that the day was established to help us remember that we each have an individual and collective responsibility to be good stewards of the food we enjoy.

Now, I'll admit, I love food. I am fortunate to live in a country, and with the economic means, to satisfy this love.

Being in Haiti on a day like this raises new issues for me. The lunch served at our M.Ed. class today was diri kole avec ak poul (rice and beans with chicken) which is one of the more common meals you will get in Haiti.

I love this dish.

But I also recognize that many in this country were hungry at lunch today ... and again this evening ... and likely tomorrow morning as well.

The students came into our M.Ed. class at 1 pm having had a great meal. They were ready to have 4.5 hours of class and that lunch helped ensure they were focused on the course materials. Ironically, a focus of the afternoon was on having courageous conversations. Communication, and particularly dealing with conflict and confrontation, is a critical skill for school leaders.

In Haiti, and certainly in pockets within my own community in Canada, there are people who are hungry. Not just on World Food Day but regularly through the year. As school leaders, we need to have more courageous conversations around what we're doing about this and to take action to ensure that every child in our schools is not learning on an empty stomach.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Haitian and Canadian Master of Education Students: More Similar Than Different

Tonight we were able to connect a group of my M.Ed. students at Laurier and two recent M.Ed. grads from a program I teach in Haiti. Using Skype video (a first for me in Haiti to have a pretty good connection) we had a great time of discussion about roles and responsibilities.

It was interesting to hear some differences in their experiences. For example, it's very uncommon for students to live in residence in university in Haiti (mainly, because not many residences exist!) whereas this is a common experience for Canadian students.

However, there were lots of similarities in the conversations. Tony, a person responsible for curriculum development in schools in western Haiti appreciated what Jenni (elementary teacher in Kitchener) said regarding integrating subjects. He made a connection with what he is trying to do with integrating subject material (natural disaster preparation) across subjects.

I was most struck by the similarities in areas we didn't discuss. For example, the two Haitian teachers came to my guest apartment on their own time (after a long day of classes) and the four Canadian teachers came to the university on their own time (after a long day of work). Why? So they could develop a better understanding of each other. That shows commitment and interest. I love that!

I have seen lots of fancy and expensive pieces of equipment meant to help with video-conferencing and supporting distance education (yes, even in Haiti I have seen video-conferencing rooms and SmartBoards)...

...In a one hour conversation using free software, I think we were able to support some valuable connections which are worth more than the fancy equipment.

Monday, October 14, 2013

BlackBerry and "leadership educationnel en Haiti"

I just finished a great meeting with Rob (BlackBerry) and Jhonel (Ontario Ministry of Education). Rob leaves tomorrow to start the process of heading back to Canada so we wanted to debrief the week we have spent together engaged in BlackBerry and educational leadership training in Haiti.

It is clear that the three of us are committed to this partnership. Now that we're getting BlackBerry devices in people's hands, and providing training around their use, we have to start doing some research on how people are using the devices. I have some preliminary data on the first handful of people who engaged in the Digital Mentoring Project and have an article just about ready to go out to be reviewed for a journal on that project. However, we need to go beyond this early data and really look at their use and effectiveness in supporting leadership capacity-building.

After this morning's training, we now have people in four regions of Haiti who have completed the training and who have a BlackBerry. We also have a database of who these people are. In the coming months I will be following up with them to see how the training and devices are being used.

Rob and BlackBerry have been incredibly generous in their time and in the donation of BlackBerry phones. This project would not have been nearly as successful without the company and Rob's personal involvement. BlackBerry has gotten a lot of negative attention recently but this trip has impacted dozens of principals in Haiti in very positive ways. Rob has provided them with a new tool which can significantly impact their communication, organization, and accessing of resources. Everyone he has interacted with has been delighted with his help and with the capability of the smartphone.

I'm thrilled that CBC KW contacted me today and I suggested that they needed to talk with Rob about his passion for Haiti and for how he is making a difference here through BlackBerry. So stay tuned and I will provide the details for when his interview will air!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to travel from Cap-Haitien to Port au Prince to Arcahaie to Petionville to Fermathe (and arrive before 3 pm)

Today was a huge transition day. We got up at 5 am to leave the Stella Maris guest house, but not before Ser Solange made sure we had breakfast! We then drove to the Cap airport only to find it completely dark and with one lonely employee outside. So much for needing to be at the domestic flight at least an hour in advance! Piti piti the other employees showed up (and eventually the pilots).

After arriving in Port au Prince, we were picked up by Jhonel's brother Jimmy who drove us to their father's church in Arcahaie, about an hour from PAP. Jhonel preached at the morning service; it was great to be part of this small church in a fairly disadvantaged part of town. The singing was incredible and it was wonderful to be so warmly greeted by the parishioners.

After we enjoyed a lovely Haitian lunch together, we were off back to PAP. The contrasts in Haiti are incredible. We went from poor neighbourhoods and beautiful ocean views to the upscale part of PAP known as Petionville. Here you can buy designer clothes and western groceries (and see people in Porsches and 5 star hotels). We dropped Rob off at a church he used to be part of and we then continued up to Fermathe where the Baptist Mission is located.

The road up the mountain from PAP to Fermathe is amazing with hairpin turns and gorgeous homes with incredible vistas. Fermathe is located at about 1500 metres above sea level so the temperature got progressively cooler the higher up we got. We pulled into the beautiful grounds of the Baptist Mission, complete with lovely children's playground and Haiti's only zoo (!). All this done by 3 pm!

The week ahead includes a BlackBerry training session in the morning and discussion on how principals might use them to engage in the Digital Mentoring Project. Each day, in the afternoon, I will teach a Master of Education course with Jhonel for approximately 35 students. It promises to be a great week!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweet Kasav ... another humbling leadership lesson from Haiti

Highlight of the day ... after six hours of BlackBerry and leadership training for 40 principals and lead teachers, I had gone outside to wait for our group to be ready to go. A student who had been part of the Laurier ESL program in May (Doody) came through the gates of the school where the training had taken place, greeted me, and shared with me a very special Haitian tradition.

He had a bag in his hand and proceeded to take out a piece of sweet Kasav (a type of flat bread). He broke it and then started eating it. I thought this was strange (you're giving me some bread and you have the nerve to take a piece and start eating it?!) until Jhonel explained that this tradition is one demonstrating trust: Doody had taken the bread and started eating it to demonstrate that I could trust it. If I trusted the bread he was serving me, I could trust him. What a powerful illustration of trust and relationship-building.

There were lots of other successes during the day and many relationships and partnerships were nurtured. But to have a young person illustrate his hospitality in such a tangible way was a great lesson and one by which I was humbled.

Tomorrow we leave Cap-Haitien to return to the Port au Prince area but this is a lesson which will stay with me long after I leave.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What does the international "day of the girl" look like in Cap-Haitien, Haiti?

I was struck today by a number of interactions with female leaders in Cap-Haitien. Perhaps the international day of the girl raised my consciousness but I am left quite astounded by female leadership (and potential) I observed today.

Example 1 Ser Danick - principal of secondary school of Regina Assumpta. As we walked the various floors of the school today, I saw Ser Danick interact with students in a caring, yet firm, fashion. Although she has been principal for many years, she is also quite astute and engaged with the students. We had a great conversation about technology and she was very informed. This is a woman who is providing exemplary school leadership.

Example 2 Diana - a 16 year old student at the same school. Diana hosted my own daughter 6 months ago when she experienced "a day in the life of a Canadian girl in Cap-Haitien" (read an earlier blog post about this experience). Diana made a point to greet me and ask me about my own daughter. She demonstrated courage and clarity in that conversation. Diana represents to me the potential of this community - a courageous young woman who has a determination for a better life.

Example 3 Bertrhude and Priscilla - a grad student from University of Florida and a teacher from Gainseville, FL. These two young women have started a NGO called Projects for Haiti (again, read earlier posts about our emerging partnership) and have a deep passion for Haiti and supporting the improvement of the education system. They are in Cap this weekend to meet with some lead teachers, to support the training we are doing tomorrow, and to talk about how we can work together.

Spending the international day of the girl in Haiti has given me some great insight into how women are transforming this society. I look forward to meeting many more of these "young revolutionaries!"

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What does inclusion of students with special needs look like in Haiti?

There were lots of excellent meetings today from those including the director of the Ministry of Education to the dean of the Faculty of Education at Regina Assumpta. Regina Assumpta is one of the most highly respected schools in Haiti and includes a primary and secondary school division as well as a Faculty of Education. We continue to move forward in these partnerships as we look to future endeavours.

However, a key conversation which was not part of our official meetings was what really captured my attention today. After we had met with the dean at Regina Assumpta, a principal at the school wanted to talk with us about students with special needs. She explained that if a student did not perform well academically, the student would not be allowed to re-enroll the following year. She described how she had observed students, likely with learning disabilities, having to leave the school not because they didn't work hard hard but because of their disability.

We talked about this at length and it was clear that she was passionate about developing a way to support these students. In a city of close to a million people, there are no educational psychologists or clinics to help in the assessment of learning disabilities. Regina Assumpta is one of the best schools in the country and has a solid facility and teaching record. If a school such as this cannot provide support for students with special needs, what further challenges would other schools face?

I teach a course at Laurier which has a focus on special education. In many ways, what she is describing is frighteningly similar to the context in Canada 50 years ago. We have made huge strides in Ontario but at a significant price. Is it possible to transfer some of the lessons we have learned and witnessed in one of the wealthiest parts of the world to one of the poorest?

I would love to be part of her vision for developing programs and supports for students with special needs in Haiti. So what do we do next?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Safely in Cap-Haitien (minus our BlackBerries and most of our luggage)

We had excellent flights today with every flight on time. We arrived in Port au Prince at 1:30. Unfortunately, the BlackBerries that Rob McBride (from BlackBerry) brought with him for our training were taken from him as we went through Haiti Customs. Fortunately, we have some contacts working on getting those back so we can use them for our training. It was fascinating to watch the "negotiation" go on over a 2 hour period before we gracefully exited so that we didn't miss our last flight of the day up to Cap-Haitien.

However, when we got off the little plane that I normally take to Cap-Haitien, we realized that none of our luggage made it on the plane! Likely the plane was going to be a little heavy with all our luggage so they probably decided just to leave the luggage off (without telling us of course). So tonight we are enjoying being in Cap-Haitien but with some stinky clothes.

None of that really matters in the grand scheme of our time here. Tonight we met with Thelus Wilson, a key contact in Cap-Haitien, and mapped out the next three days. Over the next two days, we will be meeting with a university president (Dr. Fenol Metellus of the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien), a dean from a faculty of education (Regina Assumpta), the director of the Ministry of Education for the north (Justin Metelus), and others as we work through some practical ways in which our partnerships "make sense" for both Wilfrid Laurier University and the partnering organizations. I am really excited about some of the areas we have discussed, particularly the potential of developing an open-learning website for Haitian teachers and leaders (see an earlier blog post about this). It's all about sustainable capacity-building and this will be a key part of that focus.

Saturday is going to be an exciting day as we host three training sessions on how technology can be used in responsible (and responsive to Haiti) ways. Rob, Jhonel Morvan (from Ontario Ministry of Education and WLU), and I will be leading these sessions. I am really excited about two grad students from University of Florida joining us for this training with a team of teachers they have been working with in the north. There will be school leaders coming from as far away as Pignon (about 2 hours away).

So with about two hours of sleep over the past 48 hours I am now heading to bed, tired but with building excitement for the next few days in Cap-Haitien. Obviously luggage isn't all that important after all!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Partnership Meetings in Haiti from Oct. 9-18: Building Educational and Leadership Capacity

Plans for my October trip to Haiti are now in place:

Oct. 9-12 Meetings in Cap-Haitien including:
-with Justin Metelus, director of the Ministry of Education for the north, as we discuss developing on-line learning for principals and teachers
-with Thelus Wilson, who helped coordinate the May 2013 Laurier service-learning trip, as we discuss the next group of teachers to be involved in service-learning opportunities in Cap
-with a new partnering organization Projects for Haiti (click here to find out more) and its directors who are flying from Florida to discuss how we can support each other
-with Dr. Fenol Metellus, the rector of the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien, as we discuss developing on-line learning for students and an English Language Institute
-a number of other deans and presidents of universities who have expressed interest in establishing partnerships with Laurier

On Saturday, October 12, we will be providing a day of training on using smartphones to access educational resources for Haitian principals and lead teachers. This is being facilitated by Rob McBride, an executive from BlackBerry, and Jhonel Morvan, an agent of the Ontario Ministry of Education. Three different workshops will be provided to those who have been participating in the Digital Mentoring Project or who have been identified as key leaders in the north.

From Oct. 13-18, I will be involved in teaching a Master of Education course near Port au Prince for Laurel University, North Carolina. Jhonel and I will co-teach this course which has a focus on supervision for school leaders. Rob will join us for two days as he gives presentations on the use of smartphones and tablets for educational purposes.

During this second part of the trip, I will also be meeting with a variety of school principals and university officials from Port au Prince as we discuss future working relationships.

I am quite hopeful that the partnership meetings we have been engaged in over the past two years in the north will bear some fruit on this trip as we are able to demonstrate what on-line learning can look like for educators and educational institutions in the north of Haiti. The key in this process is developing a sustainable, professional model with local buy-in.

I keep holding on to the Haitian proverb, piti piti ti pay pay, zwazo fe niche - little by little, straw by straw, the bird builds its nest. It seems that the nest is being built.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A good news story about BlackBerry (or how does a smartphone help a principal in Haiti?)

There has been a lot of negative press about BlackBerry lately as they struggle to compete with the Apples and Androids of the smartphone world. Here are two reminders of some pretty incredible ways in which BlackBerry has made a positive impact, and will continue to make an impact, on one part of the world - Haiti:

1. We have distributed more than 100 BlackBerry smartphones in Haiti. Many of these have been donated by individuals in Ontario but BlackBerry has also donated approximately 25. These phones have helped principals connect with each other (and other educational leaders in North America) through the Digital Mentoring Project. As well, the phones have made a significant impact on the ability of principals to access resources. An upcoming book chapter and journal article provide a number of examples of this - stay tuned!

2. A director from BlackBerry will be traveling with me to Haiti in October and will be providing training for principals and teachers on how to use smartphones to access on-line educational resources and to engage in professional networks. This director is traveling on his own time and money to support the work we have been doing in Haiti. He is passionate about BlackBerry and equally passionate about Haiti (20 years ago he lived and worked for an extensive time in Haiti). His knowledge of Creole/Kreyol and of the smartphone market will be a significant support to our work in Haiti.

So, every time I hear a negative commentary or forecast about BlackBerry, I am immediately reminded that this is a company which has made a significant impact on our community, and in lesser-known ways, a significant impact in Haiti.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What do we mean by open and on-line education for Haiti?

For more than a year, I have been engaged in discussions with various partners in Haiti, Canada, and the US as we discuss establishing open, on-line education for Haiti. The reasons for developing open, on-line learning are fairly clear and I'll touch on this further in a future blog post.

But what do we mean by open, on-line learning?

By open, we mean that we want to create resources that are available for any teacher or school administrator in Haiti (and beyond). If an educator has access to a computer (or smartphone) with an internet connection, he or she could view the resources which are available. Open also means that educators (whether in Haiti or elsewhere) can create resources which they think would be beneficial for all. In other words, open to create and open to access ... at no cost or remuneration.

By on-line, we mean that  the resources would be organized into topics and available via an internet connection. We are currently working on developing a learning management system (LMS) where these resources will be available for educators. A LMS is like a depository of resources but it is also active since it provides opportunities for discussions. During our October trip, we will be meeting with the various partners and unveiling a trial version of the LMS. We have registered a domain name for our LMS (to be unveiled shortly) where people can check out a variety of resources and teaching modules.

Teaching modules will focus on a specific topic (e.g. how to use math manipulatives in primary school classrooms, how to support teacher professional development, how to develop a budget for a school, etc.). They may include a short video featuring a Haitian educator as well as a discussion forum where educators can ask questions or respond to others.

It is my belief that having open, on-line education is an excellent supplement to the various teaching and leadership workshops and resources which are being developed and initiated in Haiti. Stay tuned for more exciting details on open, on-line education for Haiti!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Next Steps for the Digital Mentoring Project and Haiti School Leadership

Plans are well underway for our October 9-18 trip to the Cap-Haitien and Port au Prince area. A team from Laurier, which for the first time will include an executive from BlackBerry, will be in Haiti from Oct. 9-18. Here's what we will be doing:

Oct. 9-13 Cap-Haitien

a) Meetings with Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of Education for the north, as well as various university presidents and deans as we discuss open,on-line learning and the development of the Digital Mentoring Project.
b) School leadership workshops including a full day workshop on using smartphones in effective ways, especially for educational purposes. I am delighted that two grad students from the University of Florida, who have been doing ground-breaking teacher development work in Cap-Haitien, will be joining us for part of this time.
c) Planning for the WLU May 2014 service-learning trip.

Oct. 13-18 Fermathe (Port au Prince area)

a) Teaching a Master of Education course for 40 Haitian school leaders.
b) Workshops on use of smartphones and educational applications.
c) Partnership meetings discussing how to expand Laurier's work in Haiti, particularly regarding open, on-ling learning and development of the Digital Mentoring Project.

I am delighted that Jhonel Morvan (Ontario Ministry of Education and lecturer at WLU) will be partnering with me again in this work.

Once again, I will use this blog to provide updates on the work while we are in Haiti. For up-to-the minute updates, please consider following me on twitter (@drstevesider) or use the hashtag: #laurierhaiti

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to school ... or how to manage stress in a house with one elementary, one secondary, and one university student!

This week, I have been involved with some activities and classes involving our Bachelor of Education students at Laurier. They start at the university two weeks before the regular programs in September. This is a good thing in many ways because it gets them into elementary schools as teachers are preparing their classrooms and then welcoming children into them.

However, this early start also exasperates the stress in our household as we prepare for the transition for all of us back to school. This year we have one child in gr. 7, one child in gr. 11, and one starting university. This is in addition to me starting "back" into my regular teaching duties at the university, as well as for my wife, who also works at the university, the increase in her hours. It can be a stressful time of the year as so many changes are happening and expectations are developing.

So how do we deal with the stress of this time of the year? Well, sometimes not so well :)  Like any family, we have our share of struggles with making this transition a smooth one.

But I've found a couple of things which can really help at this time of the year. Here are three simple things that seem to work for us:

1. Getting back into the habit of a regular sleep. Children especially seem to be impacted by this. In our case, our youngest child has been up much later than normal during the summer. He functions better when he has had a good sleep.

2. Planning in advance. We try and make sure that we are not too rushed in the mornings by having things ready in advance. This can include everything from having the coffee ready to turn on in the morning, to having clothes laid out, to having lunches and backpacks (and briefcases) ready to go.

3. Talking through the transition and the stress. Sometimes simply voicing our recognition that this can be a stressful time helps "normalize" and validate the stress that we are all experiencing. Last night, I told my son that we needed to make a real effort to get moving in the morning (he to hockey camp and me to teaching - all before 8:30) and the morning went amazingly smoothly, despite fog and backed up traffic. Talking about the stress of the year helps our children give a "voice" to what they are experiencing and observing.

The stress of this time of the year is not necessarily a bad thing but it is important to remember that we need to manage the stress that goes with preparing for school and other key transitions in our lives. Please feel free to comment about how you manage the stress and transition that occurs in your context.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Partnerships with a Purpose in Haiti

Since I first started working with my colleagues in Haiti, I have tried to ensure that we didn't work in "silos." Instead, building partnerships allows us to share resources and collaborate in ways that we would not be able to do if we just each had our specific area of focus.

Over the 10 years or so that I've been working in Haiti, these partnerships have really expanded. We have formal partnerships between universities (e.g. WLU and the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien) and with governmental organizations (e.g. Ministry of National Education). Individually, I also collaborate with other faculty and researchers such as through the newly formed ISTEAH (university faculty from across Haiti, Canada, and the US to support advanced studies in Haiti). We also have informal working relationships with other organizations such as the Sacred Heart Centre in Cap-Haitien, College de la Grace in Pignon, and the Baptist Mission in Fermathe. Each of these partnerships enriches the work we are doing to support leadership capacity-building in Haiti.

Recently, I have been dialoguing with two graduate students from the University of Florida (Bertrhude Albert, Priscilla Zelaya) as we look to bridge the work they have been doing with teachers in Cap-Haitien with what we have been doing with school leaders. Bertrhude (who is originally from Haiti) and Priscilla have started their own charitable organization (check out Projects for Haiti) as a result of their passion to see teacher development occur there.

As a result of a $10,000 grant they received this year, they were able to take a team of US educators to Cap to provide a week of training for 135 participants. They estimate that 5000+ children will be impacted as a result of this training. Another very positive outcome of the training was a decision by some of the key Haitian teachers to form a professional teacher association so they could provide professional development to their colleagues. Their first PD training event is happening next week! This type of professional association will also sustain the learning which occurs in the face-to-face- training sessions. This is the type of sustainable, locally-owned work we need to see multiplied in Haiti.

Partnerships allow us to demonstrate what authentic collaboration looks like. They also enable new directions to be considered and developed. We are currently discussing with Berthrhude and Priscilla how the Digital Mentoring Project, which has had a focus on school leaders, can be expanded to include lead teachers in schools. I am also investigating options for developing on-line learning opportunities for our teacher and school leader colleagues in Haiti to make use of the digital technologies which are increasingly becoming available in Haiti. 

These are exciting developments and I look forward to fostering this "partnership with a purpose" going forward!



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"So just what do you do in the summer?"

I love being asked this question! Often, people assume that profs put their feet up, smoke a pipe, and brew themselves some strong coffee as a way to pass time in the summer. I wish!

My summer has been busy reading, writing, planning, and teaching. I've been working on multiple papers which I hope to get off in the next 2 weeks. One of these papers is looking at some of the data we've collected around the Digital Mentoring Project, another is around how my university has worked with community and school partners to support peace and social justice, a third is examining innovative leadership practices in education in the developing world, and, finally, there is a paper on the use of assistive technology in classrooms. I also have multiple book chapters which are in various stages of development. Finally, there is a second Haiti educational leadership book (my first one was in 2009) for which I have received all of the chapters from the contributors and which I am now editing.

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to do a lot of reading this summer as I build two new courses I will be teaching this fall. One is a graduate course in leadership and I have enjoyed engaging with the writing of authors such as Warren Bennis, James Spillane, and Michael Fullan. I have also been reading (for pleasure) a book by Jonathan Katz entitled The Big Truck Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. This is a fascinating, and disheartening, examination of the failure of the large international governmental organizations in their attempt to rebuild Port au Prince following the 2010 earthquake. There are many, many lessons which I am noting for my own work there.

Beyond reading and writing, I have taught an on-line course and a two week intensive face-to-face course.

And, of course, I have been continuing the work with the Digital Mentoring Project. I am regularly on-line with colleagues in Haiti (and in Canada/US) as we build this project into a dynamic on-line community for resources and support. Plans are well underway for an October partnership trip and I will post those plans on the blog shortly.

So, what does a prof do in the summer? I think the next time I'm asked this question, I'll just refer people to this blog!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Helping teachers develop a global perspective

Part of Laurier's on-going work in Haiti is actually not as much about Haiti as it is about the perspectives of teachers and principals in Canada. By providing an opportunity for new and experienced teachers to engage in service-learning in Haiti, I am hoping that these teachers will translate the service in Haiti to learning in their Canadian classrooms.

As well, the Digital Mentoring Project is not just about nurturing the leadership capacity of Haitian principals but also giving Canadian principals the opportunity to consider an international perspective on education.

Another way that we can nurture the global perspective of teachers in Canada is through professional learning. Recently, I co-wrote an article which examines how a professional development course can enhance teachers' global perspective. The good news from the research is that PD courses can help shape a teacher's global awareness. The abstract of the article can be found here:

Canadian and International Education Journal

or you can access the full article from my Laurier website:

Steve Sider Research Publications

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Too many teachers? Two more pieces (and some more questions) to consider

There has been some good Q and A on Twitter regarding my blog post from this morning. It made me think of some other pieces to this "too many teachers" issue that we should be talking about.

1. Quality of B.Ed. Program - I can't speak to specific programs but it would make sense that some B.Ed. programs are going to be better than others (we recognize this fact with other programs as diverse as engineering and music). Instead of cutting funding at all Faculties of Education, wouldn't it make sense to reward those which are really good (innovative? community-based? evidence-based?) by not cutting funding in those programs? Now, I work in one of the newer (and I would argue, more innovative and evidence-based) programs in Ontario so I obviously am invested in my program and will think it's on the top-end of B.Ed. programs in the province. However, I am sure that a metric could be used to measure the quality of programs in the province (not just a compliance-type accreditation like what is done by the Ontario College of Teachers). If XYZ Faculty of Education demonstrates that it is providing exemplary programming and supporting high-quality graduates, then let's make sure it can continue to do so (and maybe even consider expanding it) instead of simply cutting everyone's funding by equal amounts.

2. Diversity of B.Ed. Program - for the most part, Faculties of Education provide very similar foundational courses (the OCT requires certain courses and program elements). However, the rationale for, and structure of, B.Ed. programs can vary significantly (we often call this the "conceptual framework") and how courses are approached and taught can vary tremendously. For example, our Laurier B.Ed. follows a Professional Development School model. This means that we work in partnership with four local school boards in providing the education program for our teacher candidates. There is consistent communication between school and university. The teacher candidates can engage in school-based research and staff meetings. Teachers and administrators from the local school boards are involved with helping shape the program. Research from faculty at the university helps inform school board policy and practice. This model provides an excellent opportunity to experience teacher preparation in an engaging, synthesized manner.


I am not opposed to two year B.Ed. programs; in fact, I am quite excited about the potential of what can be done in those two years. However, yesterday's announcement of moving to two year B.Ed. programs makes me wonder: If a B.Ed. is of mediocre quality, why would we want to extend it for another year? Conversely, if a B.Ed. is of exemplary quality, and is meeting diverse, localized needs, should we not encourage its growth and health? I'm concerned that the announcement ensures the former and likely does not support the latter.

Too many teachers in Ontario? Another piece to the puzzle which isn't being discussed...

Yesterday, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities in Ontario announced that Bachelor of Education programs (commonly called "teachers college") would be extended to two years and that the number of student positions in each year would be cut in half (to approximately 4,500).

This has been discussed for a number of years and there have been lots of reports suggesting that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario be extended. It's been interesting to read and listen to the resulting discussion (see Margaret Wente's article in today's Globe and Mail as one example - Overeducated and Underemployed). However, I think only part of the story is being told...

There are certainly some very real challenges to getting a job as a teacher in Ontario and, as a faculty member in a Bachelor of Education program who cares for his students, I certainly want to see each of them get a satisfying job AND contribute to making our education system an excellent one. In fact, I think that providing more practicum opportunities for new teachers is a great idea (being increased from 40 to 80 days). It should be noted that programs such as ours at WLU already do this. I also think that providing more education and support in areas such as special education, mental health, outdoor education, literacy/numeracy, and the arts will be beneficial to children - ultimately, the people we want to make a difference


I find it interesting that the changes are being couched in language such as "better preparing teachers" and "working to decrease the glut of new teachers without jobs" yet no one has addressed that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario's publicly-funded universities are only one contributing source, albeit the largest, of new teachers in Ontario.

I did a quick search on the Ontario College of Teachers (the regulatory body for teaching in Ontario) and could not find a break-down of the number of teachers being certified from Ontario's publicly funded faculties of education versus private institutions in Ontario, those people certified from out-of-province, and those certified with international training. However, this Globe and Mail article (Ontario moves..) indicates that of the 11,000 teachers certified in Ontario each year, approximately 7,500 come from Ontario faculties of education. So 3,500 teachers are not coming from Ontario faculties of education. This also means that these teachers have no (or limited) training in the Ontario curriculum, no (or limited) classroom experience in an Ontario classroom, and no (or limited) knowledge of educational policy in Ontario.

I have three children in the Waterloo Region District School Board and I would hope that all of their teachers would come to their first day of teaching with a thorough knowledge of the Ontario curriculum, practicum experiences to hone their skills with the Ontario curriculum, and a solid knowledge of the Ontario legal framework (e.g. What are the Ontario expectations regarding Individual Education Plans for students with special needs? What are the Ontario guidelines for discipline and safe schools? What are the Ontario requirements for assessment, evaluation, and reporting? etc).

The changes announced yesterday indicate that we will be limiting those teachers who have a solid knowledge of Ontario curriculum, classrooms, and the legal framework but there is no limitation on those who can be certified who don't have this knowledge. Does this not seem strange?

So why are we not talking about the issue of certification of ALL teachers in Ontario and not just those who graduate from Ontario B.Ed. programs? I suspect that some (many?) of those who will now not be able to get into an Ontario B.Ed. will cross the border to Buffalo, go to Australia, or go to one of the private universities in Ontario to receive their teacher training. So have we really solved the problem of a glut of new teachers in Ontario?

This issue needs to be a part of the conversation and it hasn't been.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Congress 2013 - Victoria BC - Mobile Mentoring Presentation

I presented on the Digital Mentoring Project at the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC) annual conference in Victoria, BC earlier this week. The presentation was based on a paper that Gaetane Jean-Marie (University of Oklahoma) and I did for the American Educational Research Association (San Fransisco) in April and which will appear later this year in an educational leadership journal.

The Canadian and International Education Journal coming out next week will also include an article I wrote regarding global perspective building for teachers. I'll post more info on both journal articles when they come out.

CIESC is part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Science annual meeting which brings together some 7,000 academics from across Canada. I always find the presentations stimulating. Sometimes I find myself in a session which I think will have little relevance to my interests and then leave with a new idea for my own research. It's a great way to re-imagine the work I do.

Yesterday, the Governor General was at Congress. It's great to see the support this former president of the University of Waterloo has given to scholarship in Canada.

So, now that I'm on my way home (in Vancouver) right now, I have lots of new ideas and commitment to my scholarship!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The impact of e-learning on women and children: Taking the Digital Mentoring Project to the next level

I have been developing the Digital Mentoring Project (DMP) in Haiti in a fairly casual, organic way. We have about 30 school leaders there now supplied with BlackBerry smartphones. Getting a "tool" in these principals' hands has been the first step, as well as giving them the opportunity to dialogue with each other and myself.

We now need to take the DMP to another level. There is a real need to move from a "professional network" to also providing on-line resources that the principals can access from their smartphones. These resources should include short videos (featuring Haitian principals), web-links, pdf documents, and interactive forums. To do this is going to require some significant financial support and I have begun this conversation with our development office at Laurier.

In conjunction with this, we need to add to the research which has been happening regarding the impact of digital technology on learning, particularly for those who have typically been marginalized. Here is an interesting article from the Gates Foundation which speaks to this issue (in health):

Mobile Phones for Women's Empowerment

I am not aware of anything like the DMP occurring in any developing world context so I think we're onto something very important. Now we have to figure out how to make this happen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Laurier Haiti 2013 Service-Learning Trip Final Thoughts

As we debriefed with the group and as I've reflected on the past 10 days, here are my top 10 key take-aways:

1. An amazing experience for everyone involved. We learned more in 10 days than many of us have learned in a year or more of formal education.

2. The group agreed that the opportunity to travel by van to Cap, and to spend a few days in Pignon, gave them a better perspective on the wide range of schools, communities, and geography of Haiti.

3. The workshops in Pignon were well-received and we could take a group to this community to provide more training for teachers and principals. English lessons at College de la Grace or working at Caleb's camp could also be valuable aspects of a future trip.

4. Tours of a variety of schools, from Assumption College to Dutty Boukman to The Key, provided insight into the wide range of public and private schools in Cap-Haitien.

5. Our afternoon English language program was very appreciated by the participating students. The high school students we worked with were really hungry for conversational English language opportunities. They were an amazing group to work with and individual relationships were established. We discussed the possibility of future groups spending the morning working with an English-language teacher in a school such as Assumption College and then spending afternoons with students pooled from a variety of schools (according to level/ability).

6. Although the university (UPNCH) was not able to accommodate us for an English language program this time, there are some potential areas of partnership in the future. We discussed opportunities for an English language lab, supporting on-line course development, and involvement in a Masters of Education program.

7. We were constantly amazed at the incredible hospitality we experienced in Haiti. The epitome of this was the hosting of Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of National Education in the north. Justin is a very well-known man in the community and responsible for directing education in the north, yet he took most of his days last week to spend with the group. He toured us through different schools, hosted us every day for lunch, and spent many hours discussing with us the challenges, and his vision, of education in the north. On a number of occasions we asked ourselves, would any leader in a similar position be as hospitable and generous with time in Canada? Would we?

8. Likewise, we were struck by the passion people have to support development, through education, in Haiti. Symbolic of this was Thelus Wilson. Similarly to Justin, Thelus spent almost every day with us in Cap. He has started a new school, about 20 minutes outside of Cap which is meeting the needs of children who cannot afford to go to school. Although this is the first year of the school operating, Thelus has a great vision for building a larger school where more children can attend. It is hard to describe Thelus but three words come to mind: Humble, committed, and servant-leader.

9. We saw that education is not just about formal schooling but also about the overall development of the child and his/her family unit. The Sacred Heart Centre, and the leadership of Andre there, represented this best for me. The nutrition program and early learning centre are providing amazing programs to support those who are impoverished and marginalized in Cap. Although the challenges are immense, piti piti (little by little) these types of programs are making a difference.

10. Contrasts. Haiti is full of them. From the awe-inspiring beaches of Labadee to the over-populated classrooms of Dutty Boukman, there are so many contrasts in/to Haiti. What a wonderful country.

Thanks Betty Ann, Jesslyn, Blake, Sarah, Heather, Jenni, Amy, Karley, and Jhonel for an amazing trip! Piti piti zwazo fe niche!

Typically-unusual last day in Haiti: Haiti isn't the only country to experience power failures

On Sunday, May 19 we traveled home. For me, it was a day of mixed emotions. I was certainly anxious to get home to family and to work responsibilities. At the same time, I felt that some of the inertia we built up over the 10 days was about to end. It's difficult to foster program development, whether mentoring or English language or otherwise, from 2000+ kms away.

Traveling on Sunday was book-ended with two "typically-unusual" (a new phrase for me that pretty accurately describes working in Haiti) events. The first occurred @ 6:45 am as we sat down for breakfast at the Stella Maris in Cap-Haitien. Andre ran into the room and informed us that our flight had been changed from 8:30 to 7:45 am. We called Justin and rushed to eat and complete our packing. Justin arrived in 30 minutes and we were off. We pulled into the small Cap airport at about 7:35 and checked in. You have to understand that the Cap airport is small and we were the only flight leaving. And our flight involved 19 people. In typically-unusual Haitian style, we then waited until after 8 to start boarding. We departed at 8:15. So much for leaving at 7:45. One of the nuns at the Stella Maris said that sometimes the airline will pull this type of manouver in the hope of selling the person's ticket when he/she does not arrive on time.

The flight from Cap, included a "fly-over" of the Citadelle; what a gorgeous view.

After a 30 minute flight to Port au Prince (quite the contrast to the 6+ hours of driving we did earlier in the week to get from PAP to Cap), the group spent the morning touring the city. Jimmy, Jhonel's brother who owns a number of private schools in Haiti, coordinated this time and was a great host. The tour included seeing where the national palace used to stand. It has recently been razed due to the damage it suffered in the earthquake.

The pictures of the crumbled palace were symbolic of the state of affairs in Haiti after the earthquake. The group also got to see the new5-star Occidental hotel in PAP. A key word which we had used regularly to describe Haiti was "contrasts" and the hotel certainly represented this.

Karley had not been feeling well so she and I hung out at a restaurant while the group toured some of the city. In typically-unusual style, Karley slept with her head on a table for about 1.5 hours! At the end of that time, Chris and Kelly Lieb, friends from previous trips to Haiti walked into the restaurant. What a coincidence! Chris and I spent time discussing getting phones to him to distribute to some of his contacts. This will be where many of the donated BlackBerries will go since they will be distributed across the country to some of the more remote communities. This will give a good opportunity to test the Digital Mentoring Project in marginalized areas.

Our flights to Miami and then to Toronto were on-time but our last book-end typically-unusual event occurred when we pulled into the gate in Toronto: The power on the plane went out. We were on time but we had to wait 10 minutes for the doors to be opened and we exited with the aid of emergency lighting and flashlights. I guess the power doesn't go off just in Haiti!

Well, we've come full-circle. We started with a ride to TO thanks to Scott and Red Car Service and here we are getting ready to go home!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Climbing to Citadel, Haiti

Karley Writing:
Today is our last day in Haiti, so we decided to visit the Citadel, a huge mountaintop fortress in Milot. We took the Blanc-Mobile (our name for our trusty pick-up truck) up half-way, and then walked up the steep road of the mountain. We took numerous stops on our way up because the roads sometimes were too steep, and we were all sweating by the time we made it to the top. We had the option to take a donkey up all the way, but we were convinced that we could walk it.

The Citdal is an absolutely beautiful and old building, with an awesome history. It was built by 20,000 workers designed to keep Haiti safe from the French. It's built upon a 3,000 ft mountain, and you can see all the other mountains and valleys around it. We saw all the cannons and cannon balls that were never used as well. Henri Christophe, the general in the Haitian army, started the building of the fortress in 1805. The Citadel rises 130 feet, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Haiti. When Christophe died in 1820, the building construction was stopped, therefore it was never finished. It was also never used, as the French never attacked them.

On our way back, it was all downhill which got us places much faster. We stopped a quarter of the way down to have a coconut and mango break, since it was already a good 4 hours since we had eaten breakfast. We shared our food with our tourist guides and looked down at the awesome view below us. We saw some locals as well and by the time we got to the bottom, everyone was tuckered out. What an awesome experience!

Workshops with teachers and school principals in Cap-Haitien

Yesterday we were able to lead a two hour workshop for teachers and principals on using manipulatives in math and on school leadership. Jhonel Movan and Amy Lin from the Ontario Ministry of Education led a nearly 2 hour workshop on using manipulatives. They both did an amazing job and it was very well received. Thanks to Amy's work, we were able to leave over $1,000 in manipulatives for the Faculty of Education at Regio Assumption College and for the new school that Thelus Wilson, one of our hosts for the week, has started (in the photo below, are Thelus, Amy, Jhonel, and a math teacher from Regio Assumption College). I concluded with a challenge to the group regarding school leadership which seemed to give a good conclusion to the afternoon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Break time in Belly Beach, Labadie

Karley writing:

I am currently typing this blog while sitting on Belly Beach, a beautiful and private beach that the whole group is enjoying after a long week of working. It's been a great week of teaching English classes, but now we get to enjoy the scenic and relaxing part of Haiti! We took a long car ride around the mountain, and stopped at  some small ferry boats. From there we took one ferry boat for about a 5 minute ride, all the way to Belly Beach. We've ordered a lobster and some drinks, and are passing the time by swimming in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea waters. You can see the mountains in the background and I've even gotten some practice in for a triathlon that I'm going to compete in when I get home. All the girls have been tanning on the beach, while the boys are enjoying the snacks (typical). We will be going to more workshops this afternoon, but for now everyone is enjoying the sun and water! Sarah was given a whole bag of mangos yesterday as a gift from one of her students, and we're opening them up at the moment! It's been nice to sit down and relax for the first time in a while!

Pictures will be posted later!

University Agreements

Today, we had our second meeting with the president of the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien as well as his senior administrative team. We have been discussing ways we can develop some programs as a result of the partnership agreement we signed last year. Some of the areas we are discussing are:

1. English Language Lab (centre) - for students, faculty, and local professionals to develop their conversational English language skills.
2. Supporting the development of on-line courses.
3. Scholarship opportunity for a student to attend Laurier for a semester.
4. Developing a Master of Education in conjunction with other Haitian universities.

These are all very exciting opportunities but each has some significant challenges. We are planning on meeting again in October, with a team of other Canadians representing different groups such as BlackBerry and University of Ottawa, to see what we can accomplish together.

In a separate meeting, we met with the dean of the Faculty of Education at Regio Assumption College in Cap-Haitien and started discussions about developing a Memorandum of Understanding with that school. It is an excellent school in the heart of Cap which may provide a suitable alternative location for some of the same areas.

We are still having very slow Internet connections so we'll try and get some pictures posted tomorrow!

English as a Foreign Language classes come to a close

Today was the final day of our EFL program. What a week it has been! We had about 60 students participate in the classes. It was great to be able to recognize all of them today with a certificate of accomplishment. Many of the students did not want to leave and kept taking pictures and talking to our Laurier team members.

I have been incredibly proud of our group. Despite the HOT classrooms (and some upset stomachs) they each persevered and kept the students as their focus. I feel honoured to have been part of this group and they certainly represented themselves, our university, and Canada extremely well.

We are still having very slow Internet connections so we'll try and get some pictures posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Day in the Life of a 16 Year Old Canadian Girl in a Haitian School

Karley Writing

Today was a very busy day, at least for me! I woke up this morning at 6 o’clock this morning to get ready to go to the Regina Assumption College school. I was going to follow around two girls to see what an average school day would be like for a 16 or 17 year old girl in Haiti. I was very nervous about today, and felt that I was out of my comfort zone because it would be my first day on my own, in a school full of girls that did not speak any English. We had one of the Sisters from the Stella Maris drive us, and we got there exactly at 7, which is when school starts. The two girls, Ellen and Diane, met me at the office and walked me to their classroom. From there we went through the following subjects: Math, Haitian Literature, Algebra, English, Chemistry, and homework. Thankfully, Ellen spoke very good English and translated many of the teachers and students’ questions for me. In math, the teacher spoke some English, so we chatted for a while. The class asked me about school life in Canada, and I tried to speak slowly and in small words so that they could get an idea about what I was saying. It was a rough start, but by the end of the first period, Ellen and I had gotten the hang of talking together. They also sang me a song which I recognized, My Bonnie. Here are the lyrics if you’re not familiar with the song:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie is over the sea,
My Bonnie is over the ocean,
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me!
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me!

I thought this was very sweet (they even changed the name “Bonnie” to “Karley”) until they wanted me to sing the song all by myself. That was extremely out of my comfort zone because I don’t sing and am extremely self-conscious about my singing, but I did it anyways because I didn’t want them to feel like I was being rude. I don’t know if my singing has improved, or if they were just being polite but I got a standing ovation at the end. We had Haitian Literature next, which I didn’t understand at all since it was all being spoken in French, but Ellen told me that they were learning about Haitian artists. 

I also had a conversation with some of the girls about Justin Bieber. They asked me if he was my favourite singer and I said yes, for conversation sake (let it be clear that I do not like Justin Bieber’s music, whatsoever). I told them the story about how he came to one of my soccer games once, and how my town is basically right beside his, and they were all pretty impressed. After Haitian literature, Ellen and Diane took me down to the cafeteria, where I was swarmed with many little girls who were excited to pet my hair and stroke my skin. The group of girls shared their food with me since I hadn’t brought a snack (it was only 9 o’clock in the morning). After snack time, we went back to the class to learn Algebra. They were learning about the formula for the sides of triangles, which I found easy to follow along (it’s ironic because math is one of my worst subjects back home). 

At this point the girls had gotten very comfortable with me and started to send me notes in English. One girl asked if I loved her, so I responded with a ‘yes!’ because I was not sure what else to put. Other girls asked me some more basic questions, such as my favourite sports and what I liked about school. Some girls complimented me on my smile, and asked if they could comb my hair for me, which was an interesting combination but I agreed nonetheless. Some topics that came up quite frequently were if I was married or if I had a boyfriend. When I responded negatively, they cried out with outrage. When they asked me why I didn’t, I didn’t quite know how to respond. I ended up saying that I liked being single because it was fun. The group didn’t quite believe that; most of the girls had boyfriends or really wanted one (one girl stated that she had two, and I’m still not quite sure if she was joking or not). After Algebra, English came fourth which was the easiest out of all the subjects so far (obviously). The teacher had me to participate in some of the activities, which were pretty easy (thank goodness, how embarrassing would it be if I couldn’t complete proper grammar in my first language?). They were learning about the differences between using “will” and “going to” and when it was appropriate to use them. After English came Chemistry and then a homework period. Those went by quietly and when my Laurier group came to pick me up, I gave some gifts to Ellen and Diane to thank them for helping translate English to French. 

I ended up giving Ellen my email, and I hope we stay in touch! 

Pictures posted tomorrow!!