Take 10 educators from across Canada with varying disciplines,
levels of experience and frames of reference, an accelerated lead
time for preparation and uncharted territory and what do you get?
An adventure of a lifetime!
It all started in March 2008 when the Kenyan project was officially confirmed. This gave us about a month to solicit applications and pick the team that would pilot the first TWB-Canada project in Kenya. Picking the team was not an easy process. Try balancing the need for varying levels of experience with the need for flexibility in the field; the need to develop leaders to support organisational growth with the need of sharing a life-altering experience; the numbers to balance diversity and equity while not being under or over staffed based on an unknown number of participants; and then throw in the need to validate the natural passion of educators...well I think you get the picture.
Well it got done--the team was finally picked and then started the collaboration on workshop materials. Over the next couple of months, those who were geographical close were able to have the occasional face-to-face meeting, but for the majority of the time an online wikispace was used along with Skype conferences to bring together materials, resources and ideas on creating a set of workshops using the latest pedagogical strategies to facilitate professional development for our Kenyan colleagues based on their English, Math and Science curriculum. We designed the workshops to focus on teaching strategies around learning styles, study/organisational skills, theme/objective-based learning, assessment strategies, collaborative learning models, and creating a professional development community.
So how do we manage the logistics of such an endeavour half way around the world? Luckily for us, the project team leader, Mali Bain, was able to get sponsored by her school to return to Maai Mahiu (the location of our project--a town situated along the "AIDS Highway" in the Rift Valley) to continue to support the schools in the area that she had visited and worked last fall. Even with this advantage, it soon became evident that doing work in Africa is an eye-opening experience. Just as you think you get one thing finalized, it changes. Flexibility and adaptability is definitely a must here!
The Naivasha District Education Officer was newly appointed since we started planning for this project last fall and the new officer had some strong recommendations which saw two educators from each primary and secondary school in the district requested to attend our workshops. Good thing we decided to go with a team of 10 instead of 5 or 6 as was originally planned. Another spasm was that we originally intended to spend the first two weeks of our four week project visiting schools and educational agencies to better prepare us and to best set the scope and sequence of our workshops. Well at practically the last minute, the district holiday schedule was altered and if we were to avoid facilitating during exams then we would have to shorten the length of our secondary workshops and start them sooner with only three days of prep time!
So once all members of the team arrived, we put nose to the grindstone and met with some key officials and put together an excellent package for delivery. What an amazing team effort I witnessed which spoke volumes to the experience, dedication and passion of this team. The first set of secondary level workshops came and went and it was a resounding success! We then had two weeks to make some adjustments in prepping for the primary workshops and do the school visits with a focus on in-class follow up with some of the secondary teachers and some primary level research. We also got some well deserved down time to explore the sights and culture of this beautiful country.
The primary level workshops were even a greater success--benefiting from the school visits and adaptations from the first set of workshops. We also stressed the aspect of building capacity and solicited volunteers to put their names forward to help facilitate similar workshops next year. 62 teachers total (over 50%) from both workshops signed up!
We have laid the ground work and solidified the network (forged a great working relationship with the Kenya Institute of Education and explored synergies with other NGO's) to sustain this project and expand into other districts (a Laikipia district project is also planned for next year) for years to come.
We want to sincerely thank the numerous donors whose gifts of equipment (cameras, laptops, etc.), resources and money made this trip possible. We will now move forward to stay connected and create a network of colleagues both here and in Kenya to share, collaborate, mentor and support. We are also planning the growth of this project for next year.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about our adventure and I welcome you to read some of the reflections from our team members.
Teachers Without Borders - Canada