Written By: Kelsie Wright
My introduction to the parents in Pearl Lagoon was shortly after our arrival when our supervisors asked us to prepare a workshop. At this time the school directors had just told the parents that they were no longer allowed to be at the school/in the classrooms with their children. They were often doing their children’s work, disciplining their children in class, talking to other parents and distracting the teacher and the children. At one school, the parents were told they weren’t allowed to be at the school by the directors removing the chairs they sat on. The parent’s reactions were described as a civil war, where the parents ended up walking from their houses with their own chairs to sit on.
The workshop we developed was regarding positive parent-teacher relations and touched on the benefits of play based learning, good forms of communication as well as how important a positive teacher relationship is for early childhood education. Throughout the workshop there was a lot of opportunity for the parents to share their challenges and discuss ways to mitigate them. The parents opened up a lot to us, which helped us with our next step in creating a Parent Action Plan.
The Parent Action plan was developed by Jay and I in July, as a guide for the rest of our time in Nicaragua. At this point I had already been here for two months and was aware of some of the difficulties parents had expressed and also the mandated workshop we needed to do for the MyBEST project. From information gathered from the first workshop and discussions with our supervisors we chose to have 30 first time parents, or parents who have showed interest in learning, to take part in a series of workshops called the MyBEST Parenting Series. The series consisted of 4 workshops – Good Parenting/Goal Setting, Violence and Discipline, Parents Working with Teachers, and Parents working with the Parent Board. We decided to carry out the action plan in three different communities: Pearl Lagoon (including Haulover, Raitipura and Awas), Orinoco (including Marshall Point) and Tasbaponi.
The first workshop on good parenting/goal setting went very well and was a great introduction to the MyBEST interns and the series. The workshop focused on parent roles, being a positive role model for your child, and setting and achieving goals. The Pearl Lagoon parents loved the baseball diamond for setting goals, as it was a great visual to see how they progressed. Orinoco Parents, having enjoyed the workshop so much, suggesting that we try and have more males come to the next workshop on violence and discipline. The women wanted this so they could work together with their partners to try and deal with problems happening in the home.
After finishing workshop number one in Pearl Lagoon and Orinoco, we believed that the Tasbaponi parents were going to enjoy and get just as much out of it as the other parents. To our surprise, this was not the case and parent participation was a challenge. There could have been many influences that contributed to this, such as: the community being further removed and unaware of whom we were, potential language barriers or lack of interest in the topic. After making the best of the workshop we consulted with our supervisors and decided that it would be best to have our supervisors (locals) facilitate the second workshop to hopefully increase participation. (We have yet to do the second workshop in Tasbaponi but we have plans to be out there by the end of this month.)
The second workshop on violence and discipline looked into the local perspectives about what violence is in their community and what are appropriate forms of discipline for their children. Some of the highlights from these workshops were that the parents in Pearl Lagoon wanting to be better at complimenting/ being positive with their children, which led to us spontaneously add an activity where all the parents came up with a sincere compliment for another parent. This created a great vibe for the rest of the workshop and we decided to use this as an icebreaker when going to the other communities. Another highlight was when the parents had time to work on an advertisement about their child depicting something they are proud of. There were a lot of great drawings and some of the parents were proud of how their children share nicely, how well the play baseball, and how they dance freely.
It is now October and at this point we are on the third workshop in the series – parent teacher relations. The series has been cut down due to budgeting and time constraints, and the parent and teacher relations’ workshop has become the last part of the series. Our progression has been moving at a compromise between Nicaragua time and Canada time, so we are still making plans but know they will change and we are always ready for the unexpected speed bumps (like being stuck out on the lagoon in a storm when the boat engine dies or having no gas in Pearl Lagoon because the truck can’t make it to town). We’re really excited for the next workshops as so far they have been really rewarding and a lot of fun for everyone involved!