Lelu Elementary School in Kosrae, hosted the 16th Annual Micronesia Teachers Education Conference, last week. Educators from with in the Federated Sates of Micronesia and surrounding Polynesia islands attended the three-day event. The theme for the conference was “Navigating Together Towards a Common Destiny.” Yes, the language of the theme doesn’t make sense but don’t worry it was clear by the talks and presentations that these educators came together to find a way to provide quality education in the Pacific Islands.
A fifth grade boy wearing a traditional grass skirt opened the first day of the conference. He held a large conch shell and standing next to him was the elementary school principle who held a microphone for him. The boy put the conch shell to his lips and made a long drawn blow, which was followed by a yell into the microphone. I was startled by the amplified voice. This was my first time seeing a “cultural” opening for an event in Kosrae. From my previous observations, Protestant prayers and songs open events. It was difficult to tell if the boy and his conch were a true (pre-missionaries) Kosraean tradition or a show for the other islands. (I later asked my host family about the conch shell tradition and they did not know the origin or meaning of it).
The opening ceremony was then followed by a variety of workshops hosted by educators and research professionals. In one of the workshops that I attended I was interested to learn that data management is a huge problem for schools in the Federated States of Micronesia. For example consistent student records are almost nonexistent, because many students write their names differently from one year to the next, allowing multiple records to be created, if any records at all. Some of the questions that were asked in this workshop include; How do we know what data is important and who should keep the data? Another workshop taught teachers how to use manipulatives in the classroom. The attendees where grouped off and told to come up with a lesson about the “Three Little Pigs” using the presented manipulative ideas. My group was quick to create a drama, which we then performed to the class and it was hilarious.
After three full days of workshops, the event closed with a farewell dinner. This dinner was by far the best part of the entire event. Long tables lined to about 30 feet were filled with local foods like pig, lobsters and fahfah ( similar to poi, pounded soft taro topped with a sweet coconut sauce) and so much more. Once everyone sat down to enjoy dinner, the Vice Principal of Kosrae High School began to MC. She announced gifts to the keynote speakers and gave thanks to government officials. Dancers from the high school then performed and sang. One of the high school songs was quite catchy the lyrics were “give it up for Micronesia, give it up, give it up,” It also included some rap solos performed by the students.
It as a beautiful opportunity to see teachers from all four FSM states come together. Each state has its own native language, however to communicate at the conference English was spoken. It was interesting to see how important English is for the FSM to communicate with each other and become a successful nation. I’m thankful to have had the chance to participate in this event as a foreigner and witness the islands, each with a unique culture, embracing the need for a stronger education system in their country.