A Reason to Strut
Schools that strive to reform the way that children learn face problems that traditional schools don’t face. There’s discipline that must seem as though it comes easily to teachers who can simply spank, paddle, or use other forms of violence.
The teachers of ADECA were facing such a challenge. They were organizing activities that require the kids to leave the classroom together, and they needed them to walk reliably, two by two. Keeping an eye on more than 25 third-year preschool students is challenging enough in the classroom, but taking them anywhere is that much harder, whether for a bathroom break or for another reason.
They realized that the problem was keeping the kids’ attention. Marching along, two-by-two, is boring. The kids’ lively minds are almost certain to wander off. The teachers imagined that if they could get the kids to pay attention to the little marches, they would be much easier to keep in line.
So they created a plan. They taught the children to play a game. The class stands in a circle, clapping, as one child after another steps into the center of the circle to improvise a little swagger-step. They shimmy and they shake as they promenade around for a few moments, swinging their hips and arms, while the other children and their teachers shout encouragement. As the game goes on, children start entering the circle in twos, each with the partner whom they line up with when the group goes somewhere together. Each pair does their little swagger-step side by side.
“It’s a great activity,” says Benaja Antoine, a Haiti Partners education specialist assigned to the school. “Getting them into the center of the circle builds their confidence, and they are so happy to parade around that it’s easy to keep them focused on staying together.”
It might be even easier to keep the kids in line with a paddle or a switch, but that’s not what ADECA does. The school is part of a movement striving to eliminate the violence that pervades Haitian schools. The children’s circle game is a good, if small step towards that goal.