During the month of May, 2013, we three volunteer teachers from the Diocese of Broken Bay and Parramatta travelled to East Timor to support the teaching of mathematics to year 4, 5 and 6 teachers in the city of Same.
This is part of a program developed, implemented and funded by the Dioceses of Broken Bay and Parramatta and has been ongoing since 2004. Each year, three groups of three teachers are sent to Same to teach English and Mathematics.
After an initial arrival in Dili we made the trek to Same. The 90 kilometre trip took us just over four hours. During the four day lead up, we explored the town. We visited the markets, experimented with different food choices and prepared the Teacher’s Resource Centre for our two weeks of teaching.
By the time it came to teaching, we were feeling very excited but a little anxious. Once we entered into the teaching component we were instantly at ease and enjoyed every minute. The Timorese teachers we were working with were eager to learn, engaged in the learning at hand and enthusiastic. We explored three strands of mathematics; number, geometry and measurement. Within these strands, we demonstrated a variety of teaching strategies and games they could use with the children in their classes. What we were demonstrating was a whole new way of teaching where the children are actively involved in their learning. Although it was a challenge relying on a translator to interpret every word we were saying, we quickly adapted and were soon able to speak many mathematics words in Tetum!
The teachers stated that they found the course valuable in regards to learning new methods and strategies to teach their children. Although there were limited positions to attend the course, all the teachers said they planned to share the resources provided and teaching strategies with their colleagues.
While we came here to support the Timorese teachers, what we gained ourselves, was equally valuable. It was a privilege and an honour to be part of such an amazing program; to truly make a difference to these teachers’ professional lives; and to be warmly welcomed into the community in which we lived and worked for three weeks.
We wish to thank the Parramatta and Broken Bay Diocese for allowing us to take part in this worthwhile program.
Yvette Owens and Emily Goodway (Diocese of Broken Bay)
Anne Bracken (Diocese of Parramatta)