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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, September 14, 2016

Innovation and Education: A New Way Forward for Teacher Professional Learning in Fragile Contexts

Education provides the tools for young people to achieve diversified career options, higher income levels, sustained health, and active citizenship. How do children access a quality education that leads to these outcomes? Through skilled and competent teachers and school leaders who have the capacity to foster these abilities.

I have been engaged, in partnership with colleagues in Haiti and North America, with fostering teacher professional learning in Haiti for more than 10 years. We are now scaling this work through week-long, face-to-face professional development and on-going, on-line support and learning. We are particularly committed to supporting the capacity of female educators and students who are often under-represented in the subject areas we have focused on (mathematics, science, critical literacy, special education, early learning, and school leadership).

Our vision is founded on a Haitian Creole expression: Piti piti, ti pay pay, zwazo fe nich : little by little, straw by straw, the bird builds its nest. The bird is not external to Haiti; it is a Haitian teacher or principal who has the capacity and vision to make a difference. It is the collective efforts of dozens of such teachers and principals who want to build the social and economic capital of Haiti. 

How do we support the bird in the building of its nest? What is the "new way forward" in this nest-building process? It involves modeling effective teacher professional development practices through face-to-face sessions. It involves "co-mentoring" where Canadian and Haitian teachers learn from each other in all aspects of teaching and leadership. It involves Haitian teachers working with Canadian teachers to support the learning and growth of their colleagues. It involves on-line modules and resources that support and extend the learning. It is a collective effort built on reciprocity, authenticity, and trust.

Over the past few years, I have witnessed a growing number of Haitian educators who are passionate about supporting effective classrooms and schools that can provide a strong foundation for students. Our framework of professional learning is well situated to serve as a catalyst for this "nest-making" and capacity-building opportunity.

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