One great additional project (since I have been so bored and lacking on things to do 😉 that I’ve been involved with is planning and series of workshops for teachers at Sodo High School, where I have been observing and trying to prep for forming a sister school relationship with a US school. I have partnered with a really active leader among the teachers at the school. Staff there are trying to do so much with the very little they have. They were so excited and grateful that someone would voluntarily come to offer a training just out of interest in them, their students, and their school.
There are so many challenges there. One main issue is that 90% of teachers there have had no training on teaching methodology, assessment, classroom management, etc. training since their BA “this is how to give a lecture” training. Here, teachers don’t even need a BA in education or a license to qualify to teach, just three BA years of say undergraduate Biology (in the case of a future bio teacher), then a one year crash course (often, in past years, with little or no actual practical time in a classroom) in lecturing and reward punishment management techniques, and bam–you’re ready to teach for a lifetime with no on-going or in-service training! Not to mention that taxi drivers are paid more than teachers with MAs here, and you only go to teacher training college to teach biology if you fail to qualify to join the applied, “real biologist” track at university and make a livable salary. Aaaahhhhh!
Well, that was a whole ranting paragraph of problems, but I’m here to apply/inspire/grow solutions 🙂 SO, Teddy (the HS Geography teacher) and I developed a plan, which we just submitted and received a grant for, to co-facilitate 2 weekend-long trainings for teachers who are hungry to learn active pedagogy and ongoing/summative assessments theory and techniques. We facitlitated them with the help of the enthusiastic principal and another senior teacher, to great reception.
You wouldn’t think that one would need a grant for such a thing, since Teddy and I are both volunteering. At a US school, the school would host and provide any paper/pens/whatnot and teachers would be on their own for transportation and food. However, teachers here only come on off days if the trainers provide: free refreshments, breakfast and lunch allowance money, free pens, notebooks and other materials, and both AM/PM coffee and snack service. This is not a local issue, but a national one. All larger, multi-day conferences here are expected to provide (from the conference provider’s budget) a per diem (money to cover transportation, food, hotel, snacks, office supplies, etc). The funny (ish) part is that many people sleep and eat with loved ones during this time and then pocket much of the money, walking away with profit. Whereas in the US, one who was offered a free training or workshops would go to great ends to make the time free and get themselves there, here the reaction to a workshop/conference invitation is usually, “how much per diem will you give me and which café is providing the coffee service? Will we get Chinese-made pens and notebooks or US-export quality? Oh… you’re not giving per diems… sorry I’m busy that day.”
But, somehow we convinced the HS teachers to allow us to give them a free training for which we won’t have to pay them too much for privilege of volunteering. Of course, it was a big lesson for me in cultural differences and sensitivity. The paradigm of getting yourself to training and not expecting anyone to provide any materials to you some from a US perspective of plenty. In an environment of lack, where the government has a tradition of paying for all education and giving trainings with all materials provided and costs paid, it is totally normal to expect these perks. So, I discussed the issues I was having with the matter with my co-facilitators over lunch and they laughed so hard. They said I had to tell the story of US teachers being excited for free training to the trainees at the HS. I did, and we finished with uproarious laughter and a little better understanding of one another.