This is the long-awaited post about the Teacher Workshop that I was a part of during our trip. I’m sorry it has been so delayed in getting posted. I think the more I thought about our time in Yei, the harder (rather than easier) it became to really put into words all that we have seen and embraced.
While in Sudan my task was to work with Anna Evans and provide a week-long workshop for teachers in Yei. Prior to our trip we had very little direction for how to prepare for that. We did know that we could expect around 20 teachers. We were told that we should bring “modules” for Math, English, and Christian Education. We had no idea what grade level the teachers would be, what kind of curriculum (if any) they were utilizing, what the English language skills of the teachers would be, or what kind of facility we would be teaching in. It was frustrating (Americans really want direction, plans and order). We went online and were able to track down some information that was helpful. We also were able to find some people who had been to Yei and contacted them. They were tremendously helpful and encouraging about things we might encounter.
When we arrived at the designated location (in the local church building, which we could easily walk to from where we were staying) early Monday morning we found we had 18 teachers (16 men, 2 women) from 10 local schools. All taught in the primary grades. The system used in Yei is based on the Ugandan curriculum. They progress from P1-P7 and then move on to a secondary level school (equivalent, more or less, to a US high school). We were thrilled to find that we could teach in English (although we did have some amusing misunderstandings due to pronunciation or cultural differences).
So, what did we do? Well, the week included:
Introduction of Learning Styles (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences)
Ideas for using Cooperative Learning in a Classroom
Practice using Math Manipulatives (including manipulatives made from local materials…like sticks and bottle caps)
Instruction for how to teach some specific math concepts (deriving geometry formulae, generating pie charts, teaching fractions)
Ideas for how to teach science (demontrations, hands-on activities, etc.)
Instruction for developing lesson plans for the curriculum they use
Classroom management and discipline
Qualities of a Good Teacher.
But to get a real feel for what happened that week, I think I’ll just tell some stories. They’re more interesting than reading the outline of our notes anyway.
First of all, we had no idea what expectations the teachers had. So early on, Anna and I decided that we would implement a time at the end of each day to get feedback from the teachers about what we had covered that day and what would be helpful to them for us to cover later in the week. The combination of having a plan but being willing to be flexible and change the plan to accommodate their needs worked really well. One humorous result of asking for their “expectations” on the first day was that we got a long list of requests that they were hoping we would give to them… including bicycles, etc. Basically, their idea of “expectations” and our idea of that word were two different things.
While we weren’t able to give them bicycles, we did bring many supplies to share with them. One of the first things we gave each teacher was an inflatable globe. They worked hard to blow them up and had a great time finding Yei, Philadelphia, and other locations on the globe. For a few, it was the first time they had seen the world represented as a sphere. Others were desperately trying to locate all 7 continents. One teacher finally burst out “Where is the 7th continent??” The elusive Antarctica was pointed out.
We also gave them cards, special dice, and other materials to play math games. The most quiet of the group suddenly became the competitors! As they played the games they became more at ease and we had many moments filled with laughter. They used colored pencils and markers to draw maps of their schools. Some of the maps included important details like “mango tree” or “chickens.”