This was my second trip to Kenya with TWB Canada. The first
trip was veiled with my own romantic notions of Africa which is so
often the case when visiting countries about which you’ve already seen
hundreds of images and movies. These clichés float around your head
interfering with what you’re actually seeing. I felt a little wiser
this time, a little more truthful in accepting what I was seeing.

If idealism propelled me last year, it was inquiry that guided my trip
this year. Was I doing the right thing in coming back? Is TWB Canada
doing the right thing? Is this an organization I’m going to support in
the years to come? I promised myself to answer these questions
honestly.

As it turns out, my questions were answered by the Kenyan teachers
themselves. They told us over and over again that they loved what we
were doing, that they had learned new practices they were excited to
implement in September, that they had changed their classrooms because
of what they had learned in our sessions the year before, that
Learning Styles and Gardner’s Intelligences are eye-opening (and could
we please find a way to teach these concepts to the new teachers
graduating from the universities), that rubrics are powerful and
time-saving, that assessment is more than a final exam. They told us
loudly and consistently that what we were doing had made a dramatic
difference to their teaching practices.

When we got to Utumishi Academy and started planning our second
conference, this time with our Kenyan colleagues whom we had chosen
last year as leaders, I realized that we were engaged in something
powerful. These teachers, Simon, Samuel, Moses, Ndauti, Benson,
Joseph, Kia, Redfern, John and James told us on numerous occasions
that we had changed their lives. Beth, a participant from last year,
told us that the changes she made in her classroom were so dramatic,
she had to quit her job because her principal didn’t understand what
she was doing. Happily, she found a new position where she and her
students are excelling. Again and again, teachers shook our hands,
asked us to return, and told us they had learned valuable and
practical teaching methods.

In the end, I believe teachers need each other. Everything I’ve
learned about good teaching practice has come from other educators. I
have been influenced by my colleagues at my school in Canada in
addition to many non-Canadian educators - Harold Bloom and Howard
Gardner are American, after all. Sometimes I find inspiration on the
internet and other times I go to professional development workshops
and gain new insights that change my approach. I learned from a
Kenyan teacher this summer as he took my lesson plan and made it
better. The only difference between me and my Kenyan colleagues is
luck and circumstance; I am able to access a wealth of resources,
while most Kenyan teachers can not.

The majority of teachers we came into contact with rarely, if ever,
used computers. Thus, much of the pedagogy we were able to share was
new to them. Clearly, the teaching conditions in Kenya are different
from those in North America; class sizes, for example, are massive.
However, the participants, being professional educators, were able to
take what we presented and make the necessary changes in order to make
it relevant to their reality. This is no different than what I do when
I go to a professional development seminar in Canada. As teachers, we
pick and choose what works for us.

I came home with many ideas I felt would make the experience better
for the Kenyan teachers and the TWB team members, but also many many
proud moments and stories that provide ample evidence (for me, at
least) that TWB Canada is an organization that is filling a need and
is doing it well. I believe our Kenyan colleagues would be extremely
disappointed if we didn’t return. (Silvia Knittel)

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