What is the purpose of the program?

Project Teach/Konbit Pwof aims to improve the quality of interaction between teachers and students, primarily through professional development seminars designed for teachers and administrators. The seminars, led by volunteer teachers, help participants become more effective in their teaching, classroom management, and school administration by means of concrete strategies. There is a strong focus on positive interaction with children and much discussion about alternatives to corporal punishment and other forms of demeaning or humiliating treatment.

The program emphasizes respect for democratic principles in human dignity, in particular children's dignity, and encourages teachers to consider the role they can play in promoting these and therefore influencing society at large. Project Teach volunteers remind participants what important role models they are for young children, how they shape their students' thinking about the world around them, and the importance of making the children feel valued and safe - free to explore, question, and learn.

Can you explain some of the problems with the Haitian education system?
The education system in Haiti is in a state of crisis. Schools suffer from severe shortages of everything: from physical facilities (doors, walls, benches, desks, blackboards), to basic supplies (books, paper, chalk, scissors, pens, pencils, rulers), to teachers (some city schools have 150 students in a classroom).

In addition to all the other obstacles they face, teachers are further hampered by their own lack of qualifications and training. They lack both sufficient education for themselves and training in how to convey what they do know to students. For example, two-thirds of Haitian teachers have only received a grade six education (this level qualifies them to teach up to grade six). In a test administered to 1,200 teachers in 1996, most failed. Only 400 could alphabetize a list of words and just 41 could arrange fractions by size. Only a small portion of Haitian teachers have ever received any teacher training.

Where do your volunteers come from?
Project Teach/Konbit Pwof volunteers have come from Canada, the United States, and Europe. They are experienced teachers who wish to share their skills and knowledge with colleagues who work under very difficult circumstances. When selecting volunteer teachers we look for people who display a high level of maturity and flexibility: they are able to adapt to difficult conditions (often very different from what they are accustomed to) for an intensive two-week period.

Where do the "students" come from?
All seminar participants must be currently working in teaching positions in Haiti. They are recruited from all types of schools – public and private, religious and non-denominational. Depending on the level of interest, limits may be placed on the number of teachers from any one school who may attend a given seminar. Instead, participants are asked to share the information they gained with their colleagues at their home schools following the seminar.

What sort of curriculum do you use?
Initially, Project Teach planned to use a set curriculum in its seminars. The reality of just how deplorable a state the system is in hit home during the first teacher training. That is when volunteers discovered the extreme range of formal education that seminar participants had completed. Some participants had not even completed their own elementary schooling, others had gone midway through secondary school, and just a few had received some post secondary education. Project Teach does not require seminar participants to have attained a certain educational level; very simply, they must be currently working as teachers and/or administrators.

After some experience with the Haitian reality, Project Teach/Konbit Pwof decided to create a special, tailor-made curriculum. Volunteer teachers would plan lessons that could be delivered on different levels and would adjust their program in accordance with what they found upon starting work with their groups. Since time is limited, the physical education and art portions of the original curriculum were dropped. Classes were also re-organized in closer accordance with the Haitian organizational structure.

What subjects do you teach?
Professional development seminars focus on teaching methodology for specific subject areas (ESL, language and literature, mathematics, science, and social studies). Seminars also emphasize lesson planning and delivery as well as classroom management and community building strategies for working with children of various ages and classes with mixed ages and academic levels. Assessment and evaluation are also covered.