teaching, learning and living around the world
My original idea was that local and international teachers in Congo should collaborate. But what I didn’t realize then, is how much context matters.
During my fourth year in Congo, I mainly worked in two schools. At the HEAL Africa hospital school, I co-taught literacy with Beatrice in a mixed age classroom. We really struggled to teach kids how to write the alphabet.
Meanwhile at the Mugunga school, Colette was their really impressive first grade teacher. Her class was like a well oiled machine. I saw 60 students speaking 10 different languages, who couldn’t hold a pencil in September and by June they all wrote the French alphabet with ease. Colette was truly a master teacher in her context- 60 kids and few resources.
I started to realize that my original idea of international and local teacher collaborating didn’t really work that well! I was not the best person to collaborate with Beatrice, Colette was. Colette was a master of teaching in the context of 60 kids and few resources. Colette could have had a powerful impact on the way Beatrice was teaching the alphabet. I wanted to get them together, but I didn’t know how to get that started. The thought of saying to Beatrice, “Hey, I know this other teacher who could show you a lot…” seemed awkward and rude. So I left Goma wondering, what are the strategies for getting that kind of conversation going?
Next I landed in Brooklyn where I taught reading at Coney Island Prep. CIP is a high achieving school with historically low performing students. How did CIP get such great results?
Every teacher in the school got frequent, on the job feedback. There were constantly colleagues observing and instantly leaving you with two things to keep doing and two things to improve. The other outstanding element was every teacher had a coach. Jamie was my coach. Throughout the year she supported me in planning and delivering my absolute best teaching. The amazing part about our relationship was, even though she was a master teacher, she never made me feel like I was less than her. It felt like a truly equal partnership.
The coaching structure I experienced at CIP seemed to answer my question about how to develop a professional partnership between Beatrice and Colette. This is what EduCorps aims to do. We want to find teachers who are masters in their context and train them to coach their colleagues- serving as thinking partners, observers and valuable sources of insight and feedback.
During the 2014-2015 school year EduCorps aims to train our first three cohorts of teacher coaches in Rwanda. We then plan to expand into Congo, Uganda and Burundi so that in this conflict-ridden area, educators can support each other, learn from each other, and hopefully build a comradery that will lead to peacemaking.