Although I am the one planning the training, the Rwandan teachers have also taught me a lot in the last 6 weeks we have shared together.  They are all invested whole-heartedly in what they are doing, and it shows.  They have asked me to spend the last week lesson planning with them, so that they can make sure that what we have learned actually gets put into practice.  What an amazing journey!  Here are some of the lessons I have learned from the teachers in Rwanda:

 

  1. Be willing to try new things
  2. For a lot of these teachers, English is their 3rd or 4th language.  They have a really hard time understanding me because of my accent.  Rwanda just changed its mode of Instruction from French to English and now all of the teachers have to learn and teach in English, and all of the students now take their exams in English.  I can only imagine what would happen if the United States suddenly changed its national language, and teachers were forced to either learn a new language or were out!  In my last session, we shared a memory from our childhood.  I was expecting that they would speak mostly in Kinyarwanda and then we would translate, but to my amazement, they all spoke in English!  I know it wasn’t easy, but they tried.  Just as they are willing to try these new crazy ideas I have, like sitting on the ground in a small group.
  3. Time is irrelevant:  Whenever I get frustrated because we are starting our training an hour late, I have to remember to slow myself down.  The teachers here are often late, but their relationship with their students and the community is remarkable.  I hope we never forget to let go of our rigid schedules in order to develop relationships.
  4. Always be a learner:  These teachers truly are taking in what I teach, and trying to apply it.  One teacher said to me, “Before, we did these things because we didn’t know better.  But now, with knowledge, we can be better”
  5. Be proud of your work The week we spoke about Teaching Aids, I brought in fabric and paint for the teachers to make number lines and alphabet lines.  These visuals are close to non-existent in most classrooms.  The teachers not only took on this task excitedly, but they were so proud of the outcome!  They put in a lot of time for this project, and were excited to get them up in their classrooms.
  6. How you treat a child lasts:  As we shared a childhood memory in the last session on Positive Discipline, one teacher was moved to tears.  The memory they had of a teacher who had discriminated against them and treated them poorly had stuck all the way until adulthood.  What we say and do for children makes a lasting impression.
  7. Parents are important:  In private schools here, parents have the ultimate authority.  Three teachers were fired this school year because of parent complaints.  Parents come and sit in on classrooms, and make sure the teachers are performing up to their standards.  This is not an easy task for a teacher, but it is a serious reminder that parents are the first teacher a child has!
  8. Performance bonuses can incentivize:  Private schools set their own salary scale.  This is why teachers here not only make 4 times as much as a teachers in a public school, but the largest part of their salary is a performance bonus.  The teachers were adamant that this is important to them, and they are constantly trying to improve their methodology.
  9. Be passionate:  One teacher told me that they have a saying for teachers who are not passionate about their work.  They say that they are “just teaching to stay out of the rain.” Meaning they will go into a classroom for shelter, but not to teach.
  10. Never settle for less:  Teachers here have a reason for why they are working in private, Christian schools; it is at the heart of what they do.  One teacher told me, “If I don’t work at private schools, I will just switch jobs.  There are some jobs even in education that I will not take.”
  11. Be resourceful Teachers here do an amazing job on very limited resources.  One teacher said, “We are poor, we don’t have computers or fancy things.  So we thought we couldn’t write books or do these things.  But now I can see that we can just use what we have.”  The teachers have learned so much about what you can make using everyday objects.  Here, teachers are looking at a book they created with the kids, and one teacher has a plan to make books with his students every term.