Teaching Teachers, or Something Like That

I am a teacher (duh). And the participants were teachers. So, even though it was a workshop, I was technically teaching teachers. All my teacher friends know that this is no small feat. Teachers are amazing creatures. Some of the most brilliant people in the world are teachers. Because I’m a teacher, I can say what I’m going to say next–not all teachers are about making change. Change is personal and can be quite raw. For some teachers, teaching is just a job. You show up on a Monday and you leave on Friday. Your nights and weekends are not consumed by this career and you certainly don’t want to spend your precious time in a two-day workshop hoping to incite change. But, that’s exactly what 22 history teachers from southern Botswana did the last two days.  They spent two WHOLE days with me. And although I was leading the workshop, I can confidently say I learned as much from the participants as they did from me.

The workshop (“Engaging learners through Active History”—ooooohhh, fancy) was actually inspired by a few teachers from Kgari Sechele I Senior Secondary School who were concerned that history would be wiped from the national curriculum because kids hate history and it retains low numbers of students. They wanted to learn strategies to engage students and show students that history is worth learning. Can you believe that? History being removed from the national curriculum? I can’t. So, with major support from the Ministry of Education and the U.S. Embassy, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on various subjects: why change is necessary, why history is important, active learning, integration technology into the classroom, lesson development and engaging learners in large class sizes. I spent weeks planning and prepping for the workshop. So, what is this workshop business in Botswana like?

Nothing you’ve ever experienced. Let me spit some observations/learning moments/facts:

-There was an official program for the workshop. And it included some things I wasn’t quite used to—like starting and ending with a prayer.
-It also included a bunch of formalities like speeches from five different people, multiple times a day. Day 1 started two hours behind and I didn’t even start presenting until after tea break!
-Yeah, you read that right. We had a tea and coffee break (with goodies) everyday.
-The Ministry of Education financially supported the workshop—meaning they provided a venue, food, tea break and for some teachers, housing accommodations. #generous
-Many teachers in Botswana said that change is necessary but that they didn’t want to necessary partake in it because “it’s too hard” and they are “too lazy”.
-My advisor, Jobe, remarked that if you carry “chalk, a stick and a brown notebook to class, you don’t belong in this century.” Most teachers laughed. But, they laughed because that describes many teachers in Botswana.
-Most, if not all, history teachers in Botswana teach via direct instruction. Meaning, they lecture and students listen, write notes and take exams. Now, imagine being thrown into a workshop that stressed THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Boom, a good time. Well, I mean…I for sure had a good time.
-Technology integration is still in the infant stages in Botswana. Some teachers felt confident and comfortable to work with it but the majority needed my assistance in setting up a gmail and accessing the many tools available on the internet. I’m not saying this in a snobby, I have and love technology way, but rather as a simple observation.
-Teachers were most excited about our session on engaging learners in large class sizes (Ummmm…not exactly qualified on that one being the largest class I’ve had was 36—not 50). We also had many great discussions about what could be in Botswana. It’s still going to take time as funds for education are extremely limited.
-As I reflected on this workshop, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fortunate I was. I live in a country where opportunities are endless. Does the government give schools everything it could? No. But, you better believe we have opportunities to make things happen. One Google search will show you that. Don’t have funds for technology? Apply for a grant. Don’t have funds for a field trip? Apply for a grant. Grants like these just don’t exist in Botswana. I know, I’ve looked. HOW CAN I MAKE THIS HAPPEN?
-Have I said that this workshop was kind of a big deal? Like certificate and official picture-taking with the Embassy official big? Well, it was. And yes, I was that awkward girl who didn’t know how to hand out certificates.
-Jokes are funnier in Setswana.

Following remarks by the Public Affairs Officer from the U.S. Embassy, the workshop closed this afternoon with everyone in happy spirits. I kept telling everyone that change doesn’t happen overnight. Work on one thing and make it your thing. And do that one thing really well. Oh, and some of the greatest change-makers in history were troublemakers. So, make a little trouble.  I’m excited to see what happens for these teachers in the future. I’m even more excited that I get to celebrate being done with this workshop on the rainy beaches of Mozambique this weekend. BYYYYYYYYE.

One Comment Add yours

  1. What an inspiration, and I so “get” this post, as I had a somewhat similar experience in India. Provided you find those motivated teachers like you did, I found teachers HUNGRY for ways to break out of rote teaching. Hoping you will write more about your insights with more time to reflect on how powerful this experience was.

    Liked by 1 person

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