As we continue to evolve and strengthen our work within the Teacher Mentors Abroad organization, our Program Committee is currently delving into Juana Bordas’ book, “The Power of Latino Leadership ~ Culture, Inclusion and Contribution.”
During each of our meetings, we review a chapter and then engage in rich conversations focusing on how better to understand the work that we do with our Dominican educational partners. Over the past couple of years, we’ve become more aware of the need to ensure that our Canadian mentors are equipped with a broader understanding of the Dominican culture (which runs so much deeper than language, food and traditions) in order to authenticate the information that we are sharing when we work with both our mentors as well as participants at our annual conferences.
As I read each chapter, I find myself making connections to not only our work in the Dominican Republic, but also to my own leadership journey, to the point that my book is highlighted in two colours ~ yellow for our work in the DR and blue each time I draw a similarity or a “something to ponder” in relation to my current work in Ontario. I was looking forward to seeing how our readings over the past year were going to impact this year’s “on the ground” work.
This summer, during the second week in July, one of our TMA (Teacher Mentors Abroad) teams traveled to Santiago to spend 2 days collaborating with our mentors and then 2 days supporting our mentors as they facilitated conference workshops in La Vega.
One of our newest Dominican mentors is Aslini Brito, a former Director of Education for Region 6 in La Vega. I first met him last year when he popped in to one of our planning sessions with our mentors. He seemed quite adamant about checking our translation to ensure that we had correctly captured the grammatically correct Edu jargon. Aslini was also instrumental is supporting several of the logistics which are extremely paramount when you are facilitating a conference in another country.
Aslini arrived the day of the conference and without hesitation applied a name tag and joined a group of educators as they rotated through several workshops. I was struck with the fact that he knew most of his educators by name and took the time to stop and congratulate each team of presenters. I was seeing firsthand a quote from Bordas’ book, “The warm, friendly and personable way Latinos relate to one another and the active interest they take in people’s lives reflects personalismo.”
I will share that our DR mentors were initially intimidated to have someone with his credentials as a participant. And yet as the day went on, he was truly invested in the learning. Aslini took opportunities to share his thoughts and experiences with the same amount of excitement that he exhibited when he took on the role of an animal character in a short play that demonstrated the power of differentiated instruction.
As we started our planning for this year’s conference, Aslini brought that same level of excitement to the planning table. When we opened our day with a team builder activity ~ the Spiderweb, he was intentional in capturing the visual and communicating his connections to our work, as well as the broader picture of education. Throughout the day, he shared experiences and actively listened through both our presentations as well as the small group planning sessions.
The day of the conference, it became evident that he was in his element. His love of learning and sharing of information exude from him. He was animated, friendly and authentically invited others into the learning space. I had a little moment of “awe shucks” when the team, with whom he was co-presenting, shared that he incorporated some of my description of the evolution of literacy development from listening to oral to reading to writing from the previous day with our mentors, into his presentation. A Director thought that my explanation was worthy enough to be included in his presentation 😊
Over the past few years, there has been a tradition that on the last day of the conference, one of our generous and exuberant DR mentors, Isabel, invites us to her home for sancocho. This year, Aslini and his lovely wife, joined the celebration. They danced on the makeshift dance floor beside the picnic table and joined in the festivities. Aslini was quick to offer a refill for refreshments and to help with the clean up. As I sat and took in the atmosphere, I was reminded of another quote in the book, “A leader’s credibility depends on having a reputation that he cares about others and treats everyone equally.” If a passerby made their way up the dirt driveway, past the chickens and onto the patio stones with a large cast iron pot in the corner, over an open flame and Latino music playing from the back of a van, they would never be able to discern the difference between the individuals at the party.
It was at that moment that I knew that I was witnessing, firsthand, Latino Leadership in Action.