Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Another Saturday Adventure

We try and keep Saturday free for some new Trini adventure, and yesterday was no exception.

We rolled out of bed at 5:20 a.m., picked up our friend Marie and headed up the north coast road to meet our guide Emil and 18 of our soon to be hiker friends. Our goal, the Paria waterfall. After a bumpy and weavy drive to the end of the north coast road, we parked, hitched up our back packs and trundled off down the trail in search of one of Trinidad's beautiful waterfalls. After 3 hours, a few water breaks, several amazing vistas, 3 turtles swimming in the ocean, a lost camera, a found camera and several super cool plant stories, we reached (that is what Trinis say when you get somewhere)! The waterfall was cool, and the swimming and rock jumping was even cooler.

Don't forget to check out the pictures and video:

After leaving the waterfall, we played in some monstrous ocean waves and I became great friends with about 82 sand flies. At least that is how many bites I've counted on my legs. There was a rugged boat that took us back to our drop off and let's just say ocean swells are pretty darn big when you are in the middle of them with a 75 horse motor. Back on land we enjoyed a German sausage sandwich at this quaint little German restaurant (go figure) and then headed for home.

Exploring some of Trinidad's north coast was a great way to spend our Saturday.

We are excited to have Abby come visit for her shortened reading week this Thursday.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

ADHD Workshop

A few weeks ago one of the administration staff emailed everyone to see if there was interest in attending an ADHD workshop.  We decided to attend, even though it was scheduled for a Saturday.  At the very least, it would become another story for our Edventures.

As most of you are teachers, you will agree that "workshops" can be hit or miss it terms of their effectiveness in the classroom. We often ask the question -- "Is there something I can use on Monday that will make me a better teacher?"

This workshop was a definite "hit".

The event which was held at the modern and beautiful University of the West Indies Graduate school of Business, was hosted by the ADHD Society of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a relatively new group of who are dedicated to raising the awareness of ADHD.  Attendees at the workshop, the second in the series, included educators, parents, clinicians, ministry of education staff. The highlight of the day were the sessions lead by Ben Glenn (@simpleadhdxpert,

Ben was diagnosed with Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities while in grade school. As an adult he learned that he also had ADHD "and suddenly everything about my life made perfect sense".

Ben was an energetic and funny speaker who entertained us with stories of growing up with 2 brothers who also had ADHD.  He told of interactions with his parents and how he was inspired by one of his teachers to "snap out of it". One of his daughters is "just like her daddy", so he is seeing things from the other side now.

Ben had many messages for us:
- "you can't discipline a Neurological Brain Disorder"
- "the biggest struggle is that the kid feels stupid"
- "ADHD kids will hyperfocus -- usually on the wrong thing"
- "sometimes the teacher is not the most sparkly thing in the classroom"
- "only you can unlock your potential. Teachers and parents can give you the keys"
- "When you find the thing you love, pour your heart into it and you'll make a difference"
- "ADHD kids need 'relentless encouragement' over the long haul"
- "you have to find a way to build their confidence"
- "find the good"

Ben took a few minutes during each of his two sessions show us his creative side by making chalk drawings. The music was loud and the audience silent as Ben worked at his canvas. The drawings took 12-15 minutes to create.  I was amazing to watch him work -- focus, hard work and a lot of chalk dust. You can see photos of him working in the Gallery

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Teaching Physical Education at Maple Leaf

As you may know, two-thirds of my teaching timetable here in Trinidad is physical education. Some may not know that my original career plan was to become a physical education teacher, however, when I left university I was given the opportunity to teach computers. Computers and I get along quite well, so the original plan was quickly shelved!  While I was a little concerned with my lack of experience when moving to teach PE at Maple Leaf, I was also very excited to have a new opportunity.

After some initial learning about the "system" here, I think I have a pretty good handle on things. We have a very limited facility. There is one covered outdoor gymnasium.  The north west corner is bordered by a rock face that leads up to jungle.  During a hard rain (which happens almost once a day) the concrete floor gets wet and it's unusable. There is also a paved courtyard area which is a little larger.  The gym is used for periods 1, 2 and 3 by elementary classes. Secondary has period 4 only. There is no field or outdoor grassy space. This doesn't hold our students back from playing hours of "small goal" football (soccer to most North Americans) and other sports.

The Maxis we ride in
Since I have a period 3 class, we must spend our physical activity time off campus.  Everyday we load up two maxi taxis (vans that hold about 12 passengers) with students, a security guard and myself and head to a park, community centre or the Savannah.  At typical class looks like this: 
10:45 am get changed
10:50 am load the maxis and take attendance
10:52 am leave the school

A loaded Maxi. We take our gear with us!
10:52 - 11:10 am -- travel -- depending on traffic and destination this can be anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes. I usually budget for 15 minutes each way.
11:10 - 11:45 am - physical activity (give or take)
11:45 am -- load the maxis and head back for lunch.

Yes, that's only about 35 minutes for activity so we have to maximize all opportunities by getting moving very quickly.  The students are very good and understand this, so they form up quickly and get active. Sometimes we use travel time for goal setting and instructions. Which is far from perfect because I can only be in one maxi at time. Sometimes I ride with half the students on the way and the other half on the way back.

Orienteering at King George V Park
Although we have some external factors that we cannot control (e.g., rain, traffic, other groups using the facilities), the students are great and understand that flexibility is important.  On Friday, as my senior class arrived at the park, the rain started to pour (hard).  Undaunted, they left the maxi and began an energetic barefoot small-goal game (not our planned activity).  The rain let up a little, but didn't ever stop.  The maxi driver was not impressed with the muddy and wet students getting into her van at the end of class.

I think any physical education teacher would agree that, despite the plan,  the success of a class can be measured by the number happy, dirty, wet, sweaty kids at the end. 10 / 10!

BTW, I mopped up the mud in the van with some wet pinnies and the driver was pleased too!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Photo Gallery

We've added photo gallery to the blog. You can click the tab at the top to see folders with our recent pics. Make sure you open the pictures to the slide show so you can read the captions.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Last 30 Hours

Hi all,

It's time for another update from Trinidad.

The last 30 hours have been jam packed for us. Our Friday started as normal - up at 5:40, to school by 6:40, classes beginning at 7:40. Our teaching day was a short one with 40 minute classes, ending at 11am. There is currently a high rate of illness from chickenguna, a painful viral infection that causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever and joint pain. So it was decided that the school would be sprayed to kill mosquitoes, and everyone had to be out by 11am.

Off we trundled at 11am, bound for the blood donation bank downtown in Port of Spain. A colleague from school and fellow Paul has been biking with developed a serious bacterial infection in his leg and needed blood for a surgery. Here in Trinidad they encourage friends and family to donate blood for specific people in need. It seems like a smart plan, making blood donation more personal. By 1:30 Paul had donated (I'm a bit of a fainter so decided against donating) and we headed off to pick up our Red Cross First Aid certificates from the course we took two weeks ago.

We arrived home by 2:30, vegged out and watched Catching Fire.

At 6 pm with yummy mashed potatoes, green beans and salad, we headed off to our Principal's home for a Canadian Thanksgiving potluck dinner with about 30 people from school. Let me tell you, cooked turkey and a full spread including pumpkin pie and apple crumble was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Still full from Friday dinner, we crawled out of bed at 6 am (this is unusual for me as I kind of like to sleep in on Saturdays) and drove downtown to meet for a 7 am hike. There we met up with 3 ex-pats and headed up a steep road into Hololo, a small little community with big, growlly dogs that were luckily behind fences. As we summitted the mountain to the end of the road (literally), it started to sprinkle, and then downpour! The rainy season strikes again. Our wet adventure eventually dried as we headed back down the road and ended with doubles, or deep fried breads with a chick pea sauce.

Tonight we are taking in a dance performance, with tickets we won (not through trivia). Perhaps it will be blog worthy.