Friday, June 8, 2012

An end... and a beginning

The other week I hosted my final seminar for this school year.  Since December I have been presenting seminars, every other week, to a group of around 35 kindergarten directors from around Ulaanbaatar.  When I first met with Bolormaa, the head of teaching methodology here in the country, she was very keen for me to teach some seminars to her directors.  When I asked what kinds of things she would like me to talk about (having never presented seminars to teachers or directors before) her response was "Unlocking the child"- how to really connect and engage with children, how to go beyond the surface level teaching, and how to really draw out a child.  Wow!  I was so thrilled that this was the direction of their thinking, this desire to really connect with children.  It was great!  So the first three seminars I presented revolved around the child, the teacher and the environment.  Since then we have explored topics that they have been interested in and some that I have been interested in.  8 seminars later and I was glad to have had this wonderful experience and opportunity, but also glad to be finished- it was a lot of work! 

At the end of the very last seminar each district from the city stood up and, as a group, presented back to me (and everyone else) the things that they had taken away from our seminars and implemented in their kindergartens.  Wow!  I heard and saw that the practical elements of the seminars had been taken back and the training replicated for their teachers, for their assistant teachers, and even in some case for parents!  I saw examples of teachers stepping back and observing the children's interests and then moving together with the children in those interests!  I saw a mini plant project started where the children planted seeds, watched them grow and then- with the help of some parents- planted them in the playground!  I saw them taking on practical ideas such as setting up invitations for play and exploration, presenting materials for children's independent use and attractively displayed.  I saw children learning about interesting things such as the life cycle of a butterfly!  I saw thoughtful representations of things that we had discussed and explored over the past 6 months.

Presenting back to kindergarten staff

Sharing ideas and "training" with parents

Following children's interests: birthday party play
My heart was warmed by these presentations and the feedback that the directors gave.  When you are standing up the front it can be hard to tell what people are thinking, what they are really engaging with and taking away, if they even really want to be there...  But these presentations really showed me that the things we were talking about were really considered and thoughtfully applied in the different kindergartens.  SO AWESOME!  I am really thankful to Temka and Ariunaa, who faithfully translated for me and made this wonderful learning possible.  I look forward to the day that I can teach without a translator, but in the meantime I am so grateful for their time, effort, commitment and servant-hearts.

At the end of it all we celebrated with champagne and chocolates (the Mongolians do love to through a good party!) and I was presented with a beautiful thank you speech and gift.  I felt so blessed, and proud of these directors who had been willing to come and listen to and really engage with me in these things.  And not only that, but to be willing to take it back to their kindergartens, their staff, their children, their families and begin implementing some of these things.  Small steps.... but small steps still take us forward, right?

Bolormaa made a toast towards the end of our time together- saying that as far as she was concerned this was not the end, it was only the beginning... I'll toast to that!  J

Celebrating in style!

Presented with a beautiful gift

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