On Friday, 16 Tanzanian teachers came to one of Kilimahewa’s classrooms to join me for a Teachers’ Workshop. Over four years of observing the Tanzanian educational system have taught me the many obstacles to learning in this society, one of the most obvious being the lack of student participation in the classroom. To be honest, I was quite stressed about the day because I did not want the day to seem in any way about a U.S. teacher telling a Tanzanian teacher what to do. As it turns out, I didn’t need to stress at all.
The day focused on active learners vs. passive learners, the reasons why an active learner is a better student, and methods teachers can use to turn their classrooms into active learning environments. Yes, these topics could take up several entire semesters. But in a nutshell – which is what Friday was – we turned to the reliable Bloom’s Taxonomy, fleshed out types of questions that can engage a student’s mind and then practiced the questions, first with two group activities and then a guided class reading of the story, “Stone Soup.” I began the class by distributing a “lesson plan” of my workshop in order to demonstrate the need to know specifically what one wants to accomplish in class each day.
It was such a day of open sharing, and the teachers were like sponges – they were great learners – asking for more. Trying to stick to what’s available here in delivering my lesson, I used a white board, blackboard and some handouts. Of course. I still had several advantages: first, I had the money and machinery to make handouts; and second, even more critical, my “class” size was under 20 whereas the typical Tanzanian class is closer to 45 students. Imagine that in the U.S.
Friday was a new beginning for EdPowerment. We hope to continue select workshops to support the many teachers here who confront difficult and limiting environments as they try to serve their students.
From a financial standpoint, this is a way EdPowerment can impact large numbers of the population without major funding. The workshop’s cost included a small stipend and travel reimbursement for attending teachers, food costs (tea and boiled eggs as a morning break; pilau made by our school cook in the outdoor kitchen for lunch) and then the cost of making copies. Not bad for 16 teachers who will return to the class refreshed and ready to challenge students in a positive way.