“Tutau, Moe!”, “Teacher Moe!”, “Sensei!”. Neighbors, students, parents and co-workers say to me every morning. In Palau, this is what I usually hear on my way to school. It makes me happy sel tutau. If I were in my home town in Japan, I would only hear the sound of the crowd and cars. Neither could I see the beautiful ocean and the tall coconut trees. All I would see are tall buildings and plenty of people. I’ve been in such a different world ever since October, 2014. However, I have to go back home soon like Moana who traveled in the magnificent ocean. I am Moana. Diak, I am Moeri, a JICA volunteer. [restrict]
My main mission was to improve our students’ math skills and teachers’ teaching skills. I found two weak points of the students. One was that the students were struggling in addition and subtraction with regrouping, like 32+9=? and 24-8=?. I saw many students counting with their fingers and toes, even writing plenty sticks on the desks and counting them. I was really surprised when I first saw them. The teachers teach them a strategy and at home their families teach them differently, telling them to use their fingers. I actually allow them to do so if they are dealing with numbers smaller than 10 until they get used to basics. It’s useful to understand plus and minus as number concepts visually and concretely. When numbers becomes larger than 10, I recommend “Make 10”. Students need to drill everyday to master the strategy. But they only had a textbook and a workbook so the JICA Math members made “Math Hero Drill,” which is 10 basic calculation questions to be done timely within 3~5 minutes once a day. If they get them all right, we call them a “Math Hero”. We could see their motivation, concentration and calculation skills improved. Once, I asked the students what they wanted to be and they said “Math Hero!” I believe that whoever doesn’t give up and tries hard can be “Math Hero”.
Another weak point was a multiplication table. Although Singapore Math starts teaching multiplication in 1st grade, students have a hard time memorizing it even if they are 6th graders. In Japan, all students memorize the multiplication table by the time they have finished the 2nd grade. We memorize it easily through a play on words so I made a parody song of “Ikemamari” called “Math Hero Song”. Students enjoy singing and memorizing at the same time. The teachers also enjoy singing and dancing when they teach it. I think it is important to make it fun to study.
Teachers and I thought we needed to teach our strategies and Math Hero Song to students’ families, so I have held family workshops, 9 times so far. The purpose of the workshop is to help parents assist their children at home and also to be familiar with what their children are learning in school. We expected that it would be effective for their homework. I don’t want their siblings or parents to just tell them answers at home. We held the first workshop in October, 2015. There were about 25 families from 1st to 3rd grade gathered at 6:00 pm in the school cafeteria. Students came with their parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunties, or grandparents. This is the Palauan style. When it comes to family events, relatives cooperate and support each other. I was happy to see how they worked together. We showed them strategies, songs and games from each grade. After the workshop we had them fill out evaluation sheets and collected them. There were good points like, “Interesting!”, “Fun!”, and “Very satisfied with the program. Should have more.” We also got some recommendations such as “Give more time to play games.” “Not enough time to do for 3rd graders.” “Please speak in English.” I prepared almost everything and asked the teachers to only give a briefing. So time management was not done well and it didn’t go through smoothly. We gained experience, and the teachers changed. The latest workshop was held for 1st grade on March, 2017. The teacher decided on the activities she wanted to teach. I just advised. Regarding the evaluation sheet, “It was very helpful for parents so we can teach our children the same method at home.” I’m glad to hear their comments. I bet the teacher will be able to hold family workshops in the next school year without me.
I was born in Osaka, Japan as an only child. I had many friends, but I didn’t have a lot of family. Through the family workshops, I have learned that kids are a treasure for everybody. People can help and share with other kids no matter whose children they are. Then kids are growing up. I felt that the Palauan have a deep love of family, it doesn’t matter whether they are your blood relatives or not. I like the Palauan culture of sharing all the time what they have, which I find is good, but when it comes to Math, please do not share answer… During my stay in Palau, I participated in Palauan family customs many times. I have got plenty of sisters, brothers, moms, dads, aunties, uncles, nieces, and nephews in Palau. I’m so glad all of you have accepted and supported me as a family member. If one of my nieces needs me to help with Math, I’m willing to help her. If I get a very delicious sweet, I’d like to share it with my sister.
Lastly, I wish to express my deep gratitude for cooperation. I’d like to thank everyone I met in Palau. Thank you, all related with Meyuns Dolphins. I will never forget the time I spent with you forever. I’m looking forward to coming back to my HOME. I hope I will see you again with big smile! [/restrict]