This weekend my two site-mates were both gone to Chișinau! That’s because the Health Education (HE) and Community and Organizational Development (COD) programs were both participating in the Fall In-Service Training (IST), which I was fortunate to take part in about two weeks ago with my fellow English Education (EE) volunteers. In all, we spent 5 days together in Chișinau, during which time I:
Practiced a lot of Romanian, learned some new constructions, and had all my questions answered by a fantastic language teacher
Got a wealth of information about working with extra-curricular programs
Got to know my partner teacher even better, outside of the school context
Learned some interesting new tools for working together as a team
Enjoyed the company of some truly awesome people I spent the summer with, who are certainly now some of my closest friends
Shared our experiences in the field, learned from and supported one another
Today the eleventh grade had a special project. Instead of grammar or reading texts from their book, they created a photo greeting in English. Why? To introduce themselves to a similar class of students in North Carolina! My partner teacher (in the picture below) decided to participate in a partnership program that will involve several interchanges of information throughout the year. North Carolina has a history of strong ties with Moldova, and the students are excited about getting to know their fellow students in another part of the world.
Kindergarten. What does the word bring to mind? Brightly colored furniture, and colorful decorations depicting the alphabet, colors, and numbers. Lots of different manipulatives (aka t.o.y.s) for active young minds and hands to explore. Materials for “make-believe” — young learners’ way to discover more about their world.
Lots of inviting books for children to browse through and teachers to read. A barely-controlled buzz of activity at all times, as little ones develop their language and understanding of the world, exploring, interacting and talking. If you are reading this in America, sadly, many of these elements may have disappeared from today’s kindergartens. But I found all of them at the grădiniță (“gruh-deen-eet-suh”)* that I was privileged to visit last Friday.
I’m told that this building houses many classrooms like this, catering to somewhere around 200 children, ages 2-6. The classroom I visited houses 25 students, aged 5 and 6, with their teacher and an aide. They eat a hot lunch in the room, and take a two-hour nap afterwards in real beds.
This is a public school, funded by the government, with some support from parents. (Incidentally, working mothers also get a 3-year maternity leave, with their job held for them, mandated by law). Show of hands: how many of my kindergarten teacher friends now want to move to Moldova?
Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I love little kids. After years as a kindergarten teacher, I miss interacting with them every day. So when I was offered the chance to visit a kindergarten (grădiniță) and watch their Autumn celebration (Toamna de Aur), I jumped at the chance! But I wasn’t prepared for the how talented and well-rehearsed these five-year-olds were!
The show lasted a full hour, and included poetry recitals, dances, a skit, games, and a sort of a cross between theater and make-believe, all woven into a story that kept the little ones engaged and interested while charming everyone in the audience. The kindergarten teacher participated in the show, while an extremely talented music & dance teacher gave cues from the sidelines. Without any adult interference, these little ones fell into formation for at least 6 different dances (some requiring carefully-prepared props). They also performed a skit with memorized lines, and several recited poetry. In between, the teacher, took them on a “search” through an imaginary forest for Zina Toamnei, the spirit of Autumn, with a little help from Baba Cloantsa (a scary, forest-dwelling witch)and a friendly forest gnome. Here are just a few carefully selected highlights (Click for larger images and captions!):
Everyone found their place without help and began to dance!
The forest gnome helping the children and their teacher
My host mom laughed at me when I took this picture. She doesn’t think it really counts as cooking, since all she did was cut up a pumpkin (from her garden!) and put it in the oven, with maybe a little vegetable oil. Bostan din Cuptor (“Bost-ahn deen coop-tor”)* just means “pumpkin from the oven.” But it sure tastes good!