After their positive experience hosting Palms volunteer teachers Guida and Sam in 2014-15, The Bedois community in Timor Leste keenly looked again to Palms when planning expansion of their Primary School programme and establishing a new Preschool. Old Palms stalwarts, the Cassidys, were just as keen to take up the invitation.
Margaret and Peter Cassidy are Palms volunteers who are spending 2017 living and working in the Catholic Parish of Bedois on the eastern outskirts of Dili. Margaret is helping the Bedois community to establish its new Preschool and Peter is teaching English to upper primary and junior secondary classes in the two parish schools. Both Margaret and Peter are experienced teachers whose mentoring of co-teachers is integral to their classroom responsibilities.
The couple arrived at Bedois for the final week of January 2017 and were given a very warm welcome by Father Alberty and the members of his parish, school and pre-school communities. The Cassidys are living in comfortable and convenient accommodation adjacent to the presbytery and within a week of arriving, they were sufficiently settled to begin work.
Margaret with Fr Alberty
The Bedois Preschool, which opened in January this year, is currently housed in the parish hall. The building was divided into three preschool teaching areas, two for 4-5 year olds and one for 3Â year olds. There are five staff and sixty children enrolled at the preschool. At this stage, there are limited teaching and learning resources for the pre-school but, hopefully, it will be much better equipped by the end of the year. Peter teaches nine classes from Years 6, 7, 8 and 9 with between 40 and 50 students in each class. Working with three co-teachers, Peter takes each class for a two hour session each week. The English curricula for the secondary classes are well designed and come with beautifully produced student books. These resources have been invaluable in the process of creating work programmes with co-teachers at each Year level.
Initially, because Peter had very limited Tetun (the local language), he used prepared posters for instructions and work activities in Tetun and English to overcome the communication difficulties. This strategy proved to be effective and gradually became unnecessary as his relationships with students and co-teachers developed and co-teachers took more active roles in the presentation of lessons. In April, Peter did a one week Tetun course at the Dili Institute of Technology which solved most of his Tetun grammar puzzles and he only wished that he had done the course back in January.
Year 7 English class at Bedois
Margaret and Peter used Microlets, Dili’s main public transport option, for the first few months there, but then purchased a motorbike to become more independent in getting around. Having not ridden motorbikes on public roads before, Peter was on a steep rider learning curve for the first month but finally Margaret had sufficient confidence in his skills to ride pillion. Now they have the freedom to go anywhere in Dili, any time that suits them.
It is now three weeks into the second of three terms. Roger O’Halloran, Palms Executive Director, was with Margaret and Peter this week, at the end of his two week tour of Palms placements in Timor Leste. Roger asked the Palms volunteers to reflect on their experience to this point in their placements and to use that reflection in planning the remainder of their time here. The Cassidys are taking Roger’s advice now and developing, in collaboration with their co-teachers, programmes to be implemented over the final two terms.
Margaret and Peter Cassidy are Early Childhood and Primary Teachers from Alstonville NSW , both with over 30 years experience teaching in schools and TAFE colleges in regional NSW and SA. With their placements in Bedois, Margaret and Peter joined the ranks of serial volunteers, as in 2004 they have volunteered through Palms in Nila, Solomon Islands.
Stay tuned for more stories from Roger O’Halloran’s visit to our volunteers in Timor-Leste!
Another thing – Fr Alberty and the Bedois community are seeking more volunteers to mentor teaching staff as the schools continue to grow! Enquire or call Christine on +61 (02) 9560 5333.