Hall of Excellence and Prom 2014

The school year has ended here in Fiji. The school year goes from mid-January to the mid to end of November.  This is the summer vacation from December to mid-January.  The year has gone fast with a great deal of changes at the LDS College. With a new principal with a new vision it has created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm.  For some, change is difficult but for many it was a breath of fresh air.

At the college they do not have a formal graduation but what they call a Hall of Excellence.  This is where academic and athletic awards are given out and the year 13 students are honored for their completion of their academic program.  Parents and community members come to view the ceremonies and honor the students who have done a great job.  The program was well attended and well received.

The LDS Primary School also had a “Hall of Excellence” but a more traditional program with the sixth year students dressed in the caps and gowns.  At the Primary School many students were wearing Salu’s which is an indication of honor. Many of them received them from their individual families.  This was very special to see the student’s families take such pride and honoring their children achievement.

At the college on the Friday night of the Hall of Excellence, they also had a Prom for the upper class students. This was held in the gymnasium which was decorated and very well done.  The turn out was very large and everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best clothes. Here are some pictures of both the LDS College and Primary School’s Hall of Excellence Programs.

Fiji LDS College Hall of Excellence and Prom:

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This is some of the student body composes the choir.  They sung as if there were angels in attendance.  They were awesome.  Very moving and spiritual.

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Some of the parents and community members in attendance.

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Paula and the  Collins (TVet-ITEP Missionaries) being a part of the celebration.

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The “Lion of the Lord” Award for 2014.  This award is given to the student who has demonstrated spiritual, academic and leadership excellence throughout the year.  This young lady was also given the “Head Girl” honor for the 2015 school year. She is a fantastic person who is gifted in so many areas.

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This family has three children who were all identified as High Honors over the year.  There are twin boys and the older daughter.  A very talented family.  They are from Sri Lanka.

These next pictures are from the Prom that was held in the gymnasium on the LDS Church College Camps.

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The 2014 Prom was a huge success and a great deal of hard work from the students and staff went into making this a great experience.

A Senior Missionary Adventure to McGoon’s Lagoon…

The Senior Missionaries here in Suva Fiji have monthly adventures around the Suva and Viti Levu (name of our island) whenever we get a group who want to do something.  It seems that we are always getting together to celebrate a birthday, senior couple going home or some other reason that we can think of to have some fun together.  The past couple of times we had a group go to McGoon’s Lagoon which is a very small village right on the ocean.  The village is one of those places where you do not want to go if the weather if not very good, so obviously the Saturday the group chose turned out to be a very rainy day and was sort of challenging as we will show you in the pictures that will follow.  It really only rained in the afternoon but when it rained, it rained…

The proprietor of McGoon’s Lagoon were members of the church and invited the seniors for a Saturday outing.  They were going to show us how they net fish and show and tell us about village life.  Because of the rain we did not get a chance to do the fishing but we have been invited back to experience that aspect of village life living on by the ocean.  They feed us extremely well but as you will see in the pictures, they are rather primitive people and they do not have many conveniences when it comes to cooking.   We hope you enjoy the pictures of a really great experience in the bush of Fiji.  The first set of pictures shows the senior missionaries gathering at the mission office to pool rides to McGoon’s Lagoon.  This was about a 45 minute ride down the Coral Coast Highway and then turning into the bush on very difficult roads.  We had to drive about 20 minutes on the dirt and very bumpy roads.

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When we arrived at McGoon’s the following pictures shows what village living is all about.  This is a typical home in a village and they rely on nature for everything.  They live off the land and what they can get from the sea.  Notice the cooking stove and how they use it everyday of their lives.

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The next set of pictures takes you around McGoon’s before the rains came…The first picture shows the native’s getting the nets ready to go fishing and the others are enjoying the surroundings of the area.  Just relaxing right on the ocean.

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Waiting to go net fishing (which never happened) we did some discovery learning by walking down the beach at McGoon’s :Lagoon…we found native boys having fun climbing a coconut tree and having fun jumping off a log into the ocean.

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Right after our walk along the lagoon, our cruise ship came in and those who wanted to cruise the lagoon and go out into the ocean boarded and headed out…this cruise was not for the “faint at heart.”

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Well just as you wondered, the rains came while the cruse was going on and when they got back to shore, they looked a little different…

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It rained and rained and rained…while we waited for lunch, some of us relaxed on the front porch and then wait till you see what happened…

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The porch broke and dropped about 6 to 8 inches and you should of heard the comments from those who WERE NOT ON THE PORCH…One of the men who live there said, “No Worries” (which means don’t worry,) we will get some wood from a tree and fix the porch and that is exactly what they did.  Very resourceful when you live in a sea village.  All of us were really upset as we broke their porch and they were no upset at all, they said that the porch had been there for 20 or30 years and it was time to get repaired.

After that we waited for lunch to be served and we all had a great time before leaving and going back to Suva…thevillage people as well as the city people are some of the friendliest you will ever meet.  They live a very, very megar life and many have absolutely nothing but will give you without asking anything they have to make you feel comfortable and at home… amazing.

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The time at McGoon’s was very special, a time to experience a lifestyle that none of us had experienced ever before. To interact with these special people whose only purpose in life is to be happy, Love Heavenly Father and be of service to their fellow man.  These are truly sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father…

Here are the sisters and sinter-in-laws of the McGoon Family where we visited. They certainly were a team to welcome usand make you feel like family.  Job well done, sisters!!

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LDS Primary School-Suva, Fiji

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Sister Decker has found her comfort zone in Fiji.  It is at the LDS Primary School working with the students there.  So far she and Elder Decker have complete the “Learning Styles Inventory” in grades (years) 2-6.  We are also working on completing the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) for those same students.  For professional development, we have been emphasizing organization in the classroom.  This begins with plannning ahead.  Since this school year is nerly completed, we are stressing a “Year at a Glance” which will be divided into “Term at a Glance.”

The teachers at each grade level are compiling a document that shows what they will teach for the entire school year.  Then they will divide that document into three terms.  These documents will be given to the parents at the beginning of the school year and at the beginning of each term. Hopefully, the faculty andstaff will realize that plannning ahead will lessen the stress of beginning a new school year.

We will introduce the same the same concept to the faculty and staff of the LDS College when they have their inservice at the close of this school year.  Our goal is to help the teachers plan and organize their classes so both the students, parents and teacher knows the scope and sequence of topics to be covered and gives the parents an understanding of what their children are learning throughout the school year.

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October, 2014 (The Half Way Point)

Well it is hard to believe that we have reached the half way point in our mission experience.  Our mission has been somewhat of a different experience than we expected as the Ministry of Education here in Fiji has still not approved the church’s application to teach courses through Brigham Young University-Hawaii.  It has been a complicated and frustrating process and at the present time we have just received word that the Ministry is now requesting additional information that was identified on the application but now want to see the documentation of the information. This has somewhat become a three ring circus.  We will try to share with you our experiences of what we are doing but please do not think that we are discouraged or depressed.  This is a unique and wonderful experience and one the Lord is teaching us as we experience another culture in another part of the world.  We continue to learn everyday we are here in Fiji.

We are still providing professional development to both the Primary School and LDS Church College faculty and we feel good about what is happening.  Here in the southern Hemisphere the school year is quickly coming to a close as the school year ends the end of November.  Our efforts have been turned to helping teachers to organized themselves and their classes for the next year that starts in mid-January.  Education here in the South Pacific, at least here in Fiji, has its limitations and deficiencies and is geared on the English system of education.  Since it was previously an English colony for many years they have adopted the English way of educating students, however, there are very few resources available.

The biggest concern is lack of leadership in the schools.  It appears that principals and other school leaders are appointed based on the English model and that is very different than the American model that we come from.  This may sound like a little bit of complaining and frustration but it really is not.  There just is a great deal of work that needs to be done and because of the Ministry of Education situation we are not able to accomplish what the Lord would want us to do and how to help these wonderful people who are desperately eager to learn and become better at their craft.

The church is trying to begin a teacher mentoring program that can help struggling teachers and new teachers that are hired.  This will be a cultural change here in Fiji and we would imagine throughout the islands of the south pacific. The culture of these people is very, very important and anytime there is a change it becomes a very difficult implementation process.

What we have tried to do is to spend time on instructional implementation and working with the teachers on trying new teaching strategies in hopes that they may start to see a difference in the performance of students they serve.  This has been very difficult work as change does not come easy to those who are so ingrained in past practice and cultural tradition. There is a tremendous need to assist the administrators in learning and understanding instructional leadership strategies and skills.  We see very little evidence of administrators knowing what is effective teaching, in fact we see very little evidence of administrators going into classrooms and observing teachers except for evaluation purposes. The problem is they evaluate and do not have a clear vision of what effective teaching looks like or what they are seeing.  In the south pacific, Fiji for sure, and I am sure the other islands as well there is a need to provide professional development for principals and what their role should be in the 21st century school.  From our evaluation this is the only way that the children of the south pacific will be able to survive in a world that is moving quickly in a direction that will leave the south pacific students at a major disadvantage for generations to come.

An example of this is we are working at the Primary School with the reading program and helping teachers learn how to evaluate the reading level of their students.  The Primary School is a school for students who enter at kindergarten through year six.  They call grades here years.  In the US it would be a K-6 school.  In helping the teachers to understand their students reading and comprehension reading level, it is not to uncommon to find some 5th and 6th year students reading at the primer and pre-primer levels.  Just to be fair to those of you who understand what we are talking about here, we also have some students who are reading at the 8th and 9th year levels also, but those students are very few in number.  most of the students are reading and comprehending anywhere between one to three years behind there grade placement. There is no program for remedial reading or resources, either human or material to provide such a program.  There appears that there is no vision or rush to provide such resources and if there were material resources available there are no human resources available to carry out the needed programs.

The present administrator at he college, in his first year in Fiji and first year as a principal has done a very good job in identifying the limitations and needs of the school. Hopefully he will stay at the school for a period of time to implement and see through the initiatives that he is trying to put into place.  He has the potential to be an exceptional leader and one that is sorely needed at this time.

Thanks for reading this post, we are having the time of our lives and we are so grateful that the Heavenly Father has seen fit to call us to serve the people of Fiji.  These are wonderful and beautiful people who are proud of who they are and want to do better.  They love the Lord and we see that everyday in the schools that we serve.  The church schools are strong in spiritual education and the children are getting a spiritual education that will build strong testimonies for the rest of there lives.  It brings tears to our eyes as we watch and interact with these sweet children and youth as they grow and develop the skills and abilities in becoming an adult.  The isles of the South Pacific are a special place.  Life is slow but it is direct and the people are God fearing and want to do what is right.

This entry was posted on October 13, 2014. 1 Comment

August 2014 in Fiji…

Well August in Fiji is a time when the second term at the Primary School and LDS College comes to an end. The school year is organized into three terms, nine weeks of school and two weeks vacation. The school year runs from mid-January until mid-November. In the southern hemisphere their summer vacation is from mid-November until mid-January. During the end of the second term the college was involved in many activities and sporting events. They have their national basketball tournament during this time. All three level basketball teams were national champions in 2013 so they are out to defend their national championships this year. When the tournament was completed, one LDS team (Under 15 Boys) repeated as National Champions. The under 17 team was runner-up and had a very successful year. The Under 19 Boys lost in the quarter finals and did not have a chance to defend their national title. The girls also competed in the national tournament and performed well but were unable to vie for a national championship.

This is the first year in quite awhile that the college is engaged in what is called the Tadra Khani which is where the college identifies a social issue and through sound, dance and acting tries to bring attention to the issue and how to solve the problem. There were 11 schools participating in this year’s competition. We had an opportunity to witness this event as it was held in Suva at the Vodaphone Arena. There were six specific prizes given for such areas as sound, theme, choreography, lighting, and a couple of others. The LDS College received the award in four out of six categories, and was runner-up for the National Grand Champion. The point difference between the National Champion and the 1st runner-up was one point. It was a wonderful evening of seeing many social issues identified as well as having the youth of Fiji present a way to solve many of the problems they face today.

During the two weeks that there was no school, Suva has what they call the Hibiscus Festival. It is a week long event with carnival rides for children, music, booths of every kind, and many live presentations of all kinds. They have a huge parade on the last day which brings out thousands of people. There is a King and Queen crowed as well as a Junior Queen. This year the Junior Queen was from the LDS College, a sophomore aged young lady.

We also had the opportunity to host our ITEP Coordinators who visited us from New Zealand. Elder and Sister Aland were here for three days visiting with us about our mission and provide valuable information and insight into being an ITEP missionary. We had a wonderful time hosting them and getting to know them. The final few days of our short vacation we spent with Elder and Sister Collins who are ITEP TVet Missionaries at the LDS College here in Suva. TVet missionaries are over the vocational programs at the college. They are from Arizona and have been here for about a year.

We had an opportunity to travel to the other side of the island and spend four days at the Wyndam Resort and Spa on Denarau Island. While we were there we toured the Garden of the Giants which has hundreds of different species of orchids aw well as other beautiful flowers and foliage. On the way home from Nandi, we stopped at several other resorts to take a peek at what they offered and how much it costs for future travel opportunities.

Here are some pictures that we took during the past several weeks. We hope you enjoy them. The first pictures are from the Hibiscus Festival.

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Some pictures from the Wyndom Resort

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An evening out, enjoying dinner and a fire dance…

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And finally, the beautiful Fijian sunsets…

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2014. 1 Comment

Well A Lot Has Happened…

Since our last post in June, a lot has happened.  We had our camera have a problem and it could not be fixed here in Fiji without having to take out a loan as it would have to be sent to Australia and then they would not guarantee that it could be fixed.  It was a Canon that was about 10 years old and they did not know if the LCD panel could be replaced.  Along with that the shipping, repairing charges and then the return shipping with Fiji import taxes would be more than the camera was worth so we decided to get a new camera. It is really a nice camera with all the bells and whistles.

Since our last post we have presented four professional development sessions with two at the Primary School and two at the College, We are helping the teachers identify their teaching styles and their learning styles.  There were many surprises with both the Primary and College faculties.  It was a revelation to many teachers of how they teach children and how they learn themselves.  As we discussed each of the four styles of both teaching and learning, the faculties started to see how the different styles both teaching and learning interacted with each other.  We had a great deal of fun with both faculties and it was a very valuable learning experience for all of them.

The real valuable of these experiences was the teachers understood that in their classrooms they have students who learn in different ways and not always how the teacher was teaching.  We discussed about the different teaching techniques that are needed to reach students learning styles.  Our next few sessions is to have each of the students find out how they learn and then we will share that with both faculties so they will know what type of learners are in their classes. Then the fun begins!

At the same time we are working on teaching styles and learning styles with both teachers and students, Paula is leading a workshop with the Primary teachers on incorporating the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) that helps the primary teachers evaluate the students reading ability in the area of comprehension, which includes identifying the main idea, cause and effect, inferencing and vocabulary as well as details, and sequencing.  At this point the teachers have shown great interest in this process as they are eager to help their students become better readers as well as better learners of the English language.

If all of that is not enough, we have proposed a course titled,”Becoming a Zion School Through Effective Teaching.”  We are going to incorporate different teaching techniques that help the teachers with different learning styles that will assist the students with a better opportunity to grasp the content that is being presented in class.  The concept that was introduced to them earlier in a previous professional development session, that being the “Community of Learning,” will allow the teachers to visit each other’s classroom and observe teachers working on different teaching styles so they can visualize how different styles are taught and how students respond to different styles of teaching. We along with the teachers are excited to get the process started and evaluate the outcomes of such an initiative.

The teachers here are very dedicated to the profession but have not had the vision of change and looking at new strategies of impacting a student’s educational experience.  We believe that their vision is changing as their desire to look and experience something different is very evident.  Miracles can happen if there is a desire to improve.  We look forward to blogging on this topic as it is presented and the teachers have an opportunity to put it into practice,

We love this work and to see the teachers come alive is really a gratifying experience.  When the light bulb comes on the room becomes an exciting place.  Traditionally the Fijians are a respectful and quiet people, however, we have noticed that when they make connections to what they do and what can happen in their classroom, they come alive.  Tears start flowing and discussion takes place,at that point Paula and Bob step back and let it happen. We look at it as we provide rationale and information and then get out of their way so they can make it happen.

This is an amazing experience and one that has touched our hearts as we interact with teachers 7000 miles away from home and it is like we have known them all our lives.  These people are amazing and their spirit is alive and well.  The Lord is directing them and they are willing to allow the spirit to come in and help them in their work.

The following picture shows Paula teaching how to administer the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI). She does such a good job in teaching the teachers.

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Here, Bob is presenting some material of identifying the teacher’s teaching style.  This was an eye-opening activity for many of the teachers at both the Primary School and the LDS College.  They had never experienced this type of activity and were very impressed on the accuracy of the inventory.

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The LDS College faculty taking the Teaching Style Inventory.  Even the principal and both assistant principal’s wanted to know about their style.

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As missionaries who were called to Fiji to help teachers improve their teaching skills, we are seeing and experiencing a paradigm shift and look forward to seeing the results of what the teacher’s are doing.

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 20, 2014. 1 Comment

Island Tour…

During our break from school, we took three days and drove around the island.  The following pictures are just some of the beautiful scenery that this island has to offer.  During our three day excursion, we had numerous stops in small villages and had the opportunity to talk with the people of Fiji and to feel their warmth and love.  Many times they were excited to see Americans and always wanted to know what we were doing here.  We had numerous times to tell our story of being missionaries and working with the church schools.  We were amazed as to how many wanted to know more about the church. Here are just a few pictures of our trip around Viti Levu (the main island where we are located).  

The first pictures are from the northern part of the island along King’s Highway.  Then the marina is on the western side at Nandi.  Then you will see pictures from the southern part of the island along Queen’s Highway or what is better known as the coral coast.

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