By Melissa Queyquep
TFFT’s Teacher Training Program has been really busy this past month. We finished two training events in 2 partner schools, SEGA and Usa River Academy, training a total of 32 teachers. The training at Usa River Academy marks the revival of our training relationship with the school as we had to hold off last year because of the instability of the school management.
For both schools the training focused on classroom management, lesson planning, participatory teaching techniques, and communicating positively with students. Since joining TFFT, this month’s training has been the most challenging for me not just because I was sick half of the time during the month but because some of the topics were quite “controversial” for the teachers, i.e. lesson planning and managing student misbehavior. In one training, we had a session that was so challenging some teachers ended up defending their ways of dealing with student misbehaviors and questioning the ways of the West in disciplining their children. It drained my energy so much that after the session I had to hie off to the local bar with some friends to recharge and also to dissect the day’s events. Nothing beats Coca Cola (my drink of choice) in making one realize that glitches like this happen in learning events, and they happen for a good reason. After all, as in any social transformation efforts, resistance in different forms always comes with presentation of new ideas or proposing change. The positive takeaway from this experience? The training brought out in the open issues which the school need to address such as discipline policy, teachers’ code of conduct, and even lesson plan format! All’s well that ends well as they say, and so despite that very trying day, I managed to close the training on a positive note. The teachers felt the training was very useful and requested that I come more often.
For fear of boring you with the mundane, I think I should segue to talking about some pieces of information about our Teachers Training Program. So here I’m giving you….. taa-daa!
The ABCs of the TFFT Teachers Training Program!
A is for assessment.
Our teacher training is needs based and so it is always preceded by training needs assessment. This process involves doing teacher observations, conferencing with the teachers, and a consultation with the school management. Data gathered through these means are triangulated and from the results the training needs of the teachers are prioritized and planned for.
B is for best performers.
We cap our every training event with the recognition of best performers or teachers who actively participated and contributed substantially to the discussions and activities. In any learning event, be it in a roomful of kids or a class of adult learners, nothing beats social recognition as a reward for positive behavior. From the best performers, we usually select teachers to groom as Training Champions for their schools. We provide these teachers additional training to be able to handle trainings such as developing a training plan, methodologies in handling adult learners, mentoring, and other topics that constitute a Training of Trainers.
C is for competition.
Nothing beats a friendly competition to spice up things in our training events. Who can come up with the best lesson plan? Who can come up with the longest list of teaching techniques? Groups scramble for points in every group work I give them—to the point that they even ask me to award points to the first group with complete members in the training room when we start in the morning! I maximize every opportunity to motivate our participants and competition ups the ante each time.
D is for Debates.
In the course of group discussions or during plenary, participants always end up debating. Part of the game especially when more than half of your participants are men, and did I tell you how much Tanzanian men (or Kenyan or Ugandan) love to talk in gatherings like this? A lot! The talk which starts with just sharing views or comments usually ends up with some of them engaging in a debate. I indulge them whenever time permits as we do get good points from these moments too but I have to use a lot of will to get them to stop and get on with the topic.
E is for Energizers.
In one of our trainings, the headmaster thought I was teaching his teachers songs and games to teach their students. He thought it was part of the training, one of the training topics. But energizers are indeed a part of our trainings! Good icebreakers always get trainings to a good start. Action songs and simple games keep the energy level of the teachers high in unholy hours such as after a filling lunch. I’ve regaled my teachers with a Congolese game (meaning of the words used unknown J) and a clapping and concentration game from Botswana. I usually pass on the responsibility of giving energizers to the teachers after the first day of training and boy, do I learn really good energizers from them! In a recent training, the French teacher got us all reciting in French: “Qui a mange le bonbon/Le bonbon de mon papa/Pas moi/Qui donc?” in a round that got our tongues twisted and our bellies aching from laughter.
F is for Food and Follow-up.
Guess which aspect of training we spend on the most? Training meals!!! Trainings are usually done during school break and since we don’t give out sitting allowances, one way to motivate teachers to attend is the promise of good food. I insist on giving our teachers the best food available in a budget that won’t break the bank. Short of asking for a pre-planned menu from the school canteen or from a caterer, I make sure they get meat with their mboga (vegetables) and rice or pilau or chapattis instead of the usual ugali. We usually spend around 5-7USD per participant per day (for 2 tea breaks and lunch)—by US standards I am sure that isn’t much, but our teachers really appreciate it.
Aside from food, F is also (more importantly) for follow-up. After a training event comes the following up or the monitoring. Whenever my crazy schedule permits, I visit the schools and observe classes to check if the training is impacting on the teachers’ teaching performance. One thing that I intend to accomplish this year even if it kills me is getting the school management to do regular follow-ups with their teachers and to share in the responsibility of monitoring and securing results from trainings done. Sadly this is not a practice among school heads here.
G is for Group work.
Cooperative learning is a main feature of our training events. Teachers discuss case studies together and basically work together on activities. This enhances camaraderie among the teachers. After working together for 3 (the shortest length of training we’ve done) to 5 days, the participants usually end up better friends from when they started the training.
H is for Handle setbacks gracefully.
Where would a trainer be without flexibility, sense of humor, and patience in this field and in a country where nothing is ever sure? From the simplest like power going off in the process of doing a Powerpoint presentation to the worst such as finding out 20 of the 25 teachers you’ve trained have upped and left the school or school heads finger-pointing on who should do teacher observations—the ability to handle setbacks gracefully is a boon. My perspectives have widened immensely from my 2 years of doing training with TFFT and I have those setbacks to thank for!
I is for Interaction.
The beauty of these learning events for our teachers is the opportunity to interact with their fellow teachers in a non-work setting. They also get to interact with teachers from other partner schools like the time we did the Usa River Academy-Star High School inter-school training for Science teachers. The trainings also afford them time to learn from their counterpart/s from the International School or specialists from other education-focused NGOs whom we get to facilitate some sessions.
J is for Jump for joy when a training is done.
The sweetest part of the training is the awarding of certificates that marks the end of a training event—another batch of teachers trained, another chance taken to improve the quality of education our children receive. I may not have the jump shots to show for it but deep inside, I am jumping for joy, doing somersaults even. The work is done, time to kick my shoes and relax (before I start working on the training reports) and relieve myself of the stress that comes with planning and conducting a training.
Thanks, Melissa for this breakdown of the training procedure. For anyone who has any questions or thoughts regarding TFFT’s Teacher Training program, ask Melissa below! We have another rider to introduce you to this week. The Annual Fund is still going strong.. we have raised $15,625 so far of our $50,000 matching goal. Will you help us get there?