January 5, 2015

Twenty teachers and our TC Team of 11 spent a full and fun-filled day of professional development today at Nehemiah Autism School in Addis Ababa. We divided up into six tables—the five teams—Konjo (Beautiful), Nebir (Tiger), Faris (Beyond expectations), Zoe (Godly life), and Gobez (Good job). I was the MC of the day, that was filled with laughter and hard work.

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The Tiger Team!

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Good Job Gobez Team!!

The day started with calendars presented by Annie and Michael. Sounds fairly simple until we realized everything had to be in Amharic and Ethiopians follow the Julian calendar. Yes, it was December 27, 2007 not January 5, 2015. Everyone was 8 years younger—great for me, but some of our students were only 15! Annie and Georgia created a song for the days of the week in Amharic with hand clapping and repetition. Michael, our weatherman, modified all 70 weather cards into Amharic. Grace, Georgia, and I introduced literacy and math through the name tags after Georgia “MacGivered” a classroom display from tape, staples, and yarn.

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Amharic calendar!

Everyone had roles—Amika, Ozge, and Lisa (“Edmondes”) showed how to use the classroom schedules including how to elicit more interactive communications from the students. Finally, Sam, Rebecca, and Jayne introduced Social Stories and every team made one. It was a real collaboration especially with Teddy, Nehemiah’s project coordinator and curriculum administrator, who interpreted throughout the day including making sure that the concepts were understood by the teachers. Soliana’s family was indispensible as they interpreted at the individual tables—thanks to Eamon, Tutu, Beth, Waldy, and of course Soliana! Berhane Abera, an SLT at Yekatit 12 Hospital, spent the day interpreting and joined in the activities.

Afterwards we debriefed and found so many peaks:

When Kaleb, one of the teachers said that his classroom’s schedule needed to list “calendar” going forward;

How great the Nehemiah teachers were– open to learning, fully engaged throughout the day, with strong foundations to build upon;

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Name tags–We knew the teachers would use these!

When we saw the lightbulbs go off as the teachers began realizing how much the strategies could benefit their students;

How we could see the value of our field—the school had so much in place but was missing the speech-language piece—and we fit in like the one missing piece of the puzzle;

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Collaboration–Adding speech and language–the only missing piece of the fantastic Nehemiah Autism School!

When we realized how well our TC SLP students prepared themselves and did so well making sure our work here is sustainable.

Maybe the best evidence of how the day went was that when cookies and delicious Ethiopian tea were served and everyone was offered a break after hours of work—NO ONE STOPPED WORKING, because no one wanted to miss a minute of what they could learn that day.

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Collaboration and Teamwork. Sharing strategies!

The one weakness—just not quite enough time. It was a terrific day. We will return next week to make sure the materials are used. If they are being used, each teacher will receive a certificate of attendance!

As we ended each scheduling activity—ALEKA!!! (finished)

Cate Crowley