COMMENTARY: First scholarship in five years for Colihaut Government School: A pause to celebrate and to reflect

There is a cause for unbridled celebration for Nigel George’s family as the recipient of the first scholarship in five years. Nigel’s success also provides a glimmer of educational hope for the village!

Achievements

This school year has been transformative: new school Principal and staff team, renewed parental and community involvement and direct focus on students’ intellectual and academic development. Kerd John, a young local artist and past student provided the artistic direction for a mural of rich vocabulary for children. Highest achievers in the National Reading and the North Spelling Bee Competitions were Dujuana and Dejon George, and Dante Langlais. Jerquan Hussey and Joanna Aaron gained 2nd place in the 4H West activities. Nigel and Dejon George topped the Jeopardy North Competition in Science.

The more kinesthetic learners have reveled in their participation in Bele, Heel and Toe and Flirtation folk dances during Creole Day, Christmas Concert, FREAKY FRIDAY costume modelling, pedestrian crossing painting outside the school, visit to Busy’s Colihaut Apiary (the larger provider of honey to Dominica) in pursuance of learning mathematics, and in their study of environmental science in Syndicate Northern Forest Reserve. At the Athletics Finals in Portsmouth, Omal Charles captured gold and silver medalsin cricket and 80 metre race respectively. Keean George received bronze in the senior girl’s long jump.

Community partnerships

School events are now well attended by an adoring set of parents. Parental workshops have covered
values, self-confidence and self-esteem, discipline and spirituality, child neglect, abuse and protection,
and nutrition. The April sports day was made possible by parents particularly the fathers, and the USA
Diaspora. Sportstrophies were sponsored by Balty Watt, Neehal Philogene and Khan Straun. ColihautBoyz
contributes generously to the school’s feeding program.

The teacher and the head teacher

Given the school’s previous poor student performance, it is a fitting time to reflect on success factors going forward.
Research in top performing countries like Finland, Singapore and Canada suggest that who teachers are and what they do make the biggest difference to student achievement. Who principals are and what they do make the second biggest difference to student achievement.

The teacher’s most common role is to impart knowledge but they are there not only to teach, but also to love and care. Students spend a great deal of time with their teacher and teachers are responsible for the social behavior in their classrooms. Teachers set the tone of their classrooms, build a warm environment, mentor and nurture students and become role models whose actions students often mimic. Effective teachers listen to their students and look for signs of trouble. If the teacher prepares a warm, happy environment, students are more likely to be attentive. If students sense the teacher is angry, think they are unable to learn, do not like them or their family, students may react negatively and their learning can be impaired. Mentoring is a role taken on by teachers to encourage students to strive to be the best they can and to enjoy learning. By taking time to listen, teachers impart a sense of ownership in the classroom. This helps build students’ confidence and encourages them to be successful.

The most important skill of a principal is situational awareness, which is the ability to assess accurately the issues and undercurrents at a school and use this information to solve problems. The second highest skill is flexibility, which is the ability to adapt to meet student and school needs. The third most important element is discipline, the ability to protect teachers from excessive interruptions and allow them to focus on teaching and instruction.

By focusing on the role of the teachers and the principal, reform efforts address almost 60% of the factors influencing student achievement. However, just knowing that these two factors are critical to success is necessary, but insufficient. It is also essential that the teachers and principal act on this knowledge.

Teachers and the school principal have committed to action and special thanks go to them – Ms. Kathleen Pinard, Ms. Panthier, Mr. Sylvester, Ms. Maronie, Mrs. Daniel, Ms. Durand and Ms. Darroux. In addition to those already mentioned, this article also acknowledges the contributions of: Allan John, Officer Laurent from the Traffic Department, Cyril John Forest Officer, sports coach Sir Sylvester, cooks Velma Charles and Wyzel Philogene, Cordelia Thomas, Hon Catherine Daniel and the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, family and gender affairs.

Conclusion

Has the Colihaut Government School turned a corner? We in Colihaut believe so, as evidenced by greater
students’ engagement, a more motivated teaching team, a focused and determined Principal with high
standards, increased parental participation and parental education, and an embrace of the Diaspora’s
goodwill. With focus on students’ attainment first and only, the future looks bright for the students
attending the Colihaut government school.

Reference
1. Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research
to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
https://www.winginstitute.org/what-are-key-factors
2. https://www.education.gov.gy/web/index.php/teachers/tips-for-teaching/item/1603-roles-of

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3 Comments

  1. Jean
    July 20, 2019

    Way to go Kaths. Young blood Principals will bring the turn around in Dominica’s education system. We need visionary, outside of the box leadership at the Ministry of Education.

  2. Roger Burnett
    July 19, 2019

    This heart warming success story sends an important message, not just to parents and the Ministry of Education, but to the entire nation.

    Herbert Read’s definitive book “Education Through Art” was first published in 1943 but it’s message, exemplified by the Colihaut Government School, is as important today as it was then. To summarize: The purpose of education is to foster the growth of what is individual in each human being.

    In my DNO Commentary titled My School Report (Admin please insert link) I tell of similar teaching success stories.
    https://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/features/commentary/commentary-my-school-report/

  3. Colihaut sis
    July 18, 2019

    Congratulations are in order. Proud principal keep it up.

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