Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When the Teacher is Also the Student

This is a guest entry written by Denise English, the director of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP), one of the programs in HAS's Rehabilitation Services Integration Initiative (RSII).

We come to HAS eager to teach; eager to share what we know with the students of the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program (RTTP). We think and discuss and come up with ideas of how best to get the material across. We talk about how to organize labs and schedule observations of patients in the clinic. We make games, organize diagrams, practice review questions and create discussion questions. We plan and prepare and want to do the very best we can to share with these precious students as much information as we're able during the short time we spend with them. We want them to succeed, to learn the material and grow more confident in putting knowledge into practice in real time.

And then we enter the classroom -- and discover how much we have to learn. Over the month that we spend with these students, they will teach us more than we ever could have imagined. We will give them our knowledge and skills, and they will teach us about the culture here and how better to teach and treat patients in the culture that they know best. They bring us their unique insights into the struggles and the joys of living in Haiti. They lighten us with their humor, and see the bright side of a life that often has few spots of joy, but many moments of peace. They invite us into their lives, and inquire after our own, back wherever we came from. They patiently teach and practice Krèyol with us -- delighting at our successful attempts, dissolving into infectious laughter at the more ridiculous efforts to the same end. They ask the hard questions about who will survive, and for how long. Who will take care of them? What will become of them? They teach us about the strength and beauty of their people, their cultures, beliefs and traditions and encourage our curiosity to learn more.

Our time together always moves too quickly, and before we either know it or are ready, the days draw to a close. We realize at this moment that the tables have in fact been turned, that we have learned as much, if not more, than what we have taught. We leave behind bits of knowledge and tools for providing compassionate, family-centered physical rehabilitation. Yet, it seems that we take so much with us as well. We leave with a renewed appreciation for life and its simple joys, even in times of struggle. We are inspired by the stories, which we have been fortunate to be a part of. And when we return, we do so vowing to be more patient, more compassionate, stronger, more humble.

The grace of Haiti leaves a mark on each of us -- taught by those who know it best: its students.

About the Images in this post:
Top Left: The 2011 RTTP class
Bottom Right: Ronel, graduate of the 2010 RTTP class, doing a wonderful job of providing rehabilitation services to the community from the rural dispensary at Bastien.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. At this very moment people are too selfish. We are rarely find a wholehearted of generosity. But I salute the teacher who spent there time and compassion for the people of Haiti.

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