Time for a quick update before we head into our second week…
Friday was our first training day with the IEE teacher trainers. We got up early (as usual), had a wonderful breakfast, and headed over to the IEE office. At eight the trainers began arriving and, after a welcome by Emma, we divided the trainers into three groups of six, with Justine leading an introduction to computers, Stephen leading an introduction to theater, and Rebecca Povec (from Holy Child) and I leading an introduction to poetry. Each workshop met for roughly 90 minutes. In that short time we were amazed by the trainers’ energy and excitement as they took in the new strategies/methods and explored ways to use them to empower their teachers and students. Their openness to new ideas, honesty in sharing their feelings and opinions, and enthusiasm for incorporating the new skills into their work with the schools were inspiring. It’s hard to imagine teaching at GFA without technology, theater, and poetry being integral parts of the curriculum, but they are almost completely absent from the current educational system in the government schools. Imagine how rewarding it was, then, to share what we love with the people entrusted with leading the charge to meet the Rwanda 2020 Vision goals.
Justine led her groups through a basic intro to computers, including Word, PowerPoint, recording sound, and searching for images. There were some trainers who had never logged on to a computer before and some who had a good foundation. All were excited to have a new lab set up in the IEE office to help them in their work.
Stephen led trainers through an introduction to public speaking, focusing on the power of winning and keeping an audience’s attention, lots of movement, and basic improv techniques (receiving and sending messages on their feet without editing themselves). Everyone left wanting more, and several made immediate connections to ways the techniques could be applied to the classrooms with which they work.
For me, it was incredible to watch adults whose last or perhaps only experience with poetry was 25 years ago (under a French system that punished and humiliated students for giving the wrong answer) have such a positive response to poetry. We compared a scientific prose paragraph about bats with the Randall Jarrell poem “Bats,”.and watched the trainers’ reaction shift from being repulsed by bats to talking about the vulnerability, resourcefulness, joy, and protective care of the mother bat, discussing the beauty of the words and images, and making connections to their own mothers/childhoods. More importantly, through listening exercises, sketches, and journal responses, they practiced learner-centered approaches and saw the benefit of encouraging students to voice their opinions and learn from each other. My favorite comments at the end of the day were that the methods were simple but challenging, that poetry encourages appreciation for the art of words and inspires deeper reflection, and that the rich vocabulary and literary techniques were not barriers (as they first perceived) but opportunities. We look forward to partnering with individual teachers at Remera school this week and meeting with the teacher trainers again this Thursday.
P.S. We had dinner with Emma and his family tonight; he and Betty send their “love and thanks to the GFA family!”