Rethinking Stereotypes

Raphaelle and I headed down the hill this week for tutoring with the 4th grade class expecting to focus solely on the students and their needs.  We had prepared lessons that we felt were engaging and important based on our work in previous sessions.  What we were not expecting, was that teachers would see our work and be inspired as well.

Students doing some Independent Partner work on telling time

In my meetings with other teacher training organizations on the ground here in Rwanda, I have quickly gathered a tainted image of teachers.  I have been told that they are untrained (primary students only need to graduate from high school to teach, secondary teachers go to a Teachers College, which is not seen as a true college diploma), limited in English, and unwilling to try new things.  I was even told that we needed to be careful when installing computer labs because if teachers are trained too much in computer skills, they will leave the teaching profession for a higher paying job, or worse, take the computers.  In fact, teachers here share the nickname of a weed that grows on the side of the road.  I have also been told time and time again that my aspirations are too high for what I want to do with teacher training.  Needless to say, this pursuit has been a challenge, and I was beginning to become very disheartened.

But this week, while we were kicking off our shoes and getting dirty sharing a book, the director of studies paid our tutoring session a visit.  A lesson that I felt was so simple compared to what I would do in the states (no fancy white boards, manipulatives, or leveled readers here) was seen and understood by the Rwandan teachers.  Word of our tutoring has gotten around, and we were asked to come do teacher training to all 9 teachers at this school over the upcoming break.  They praised our methodology, eagerly wanting to learn more about bringing in real-world objects and small-group work.  These subjects are ones that I have been told would take years to implement; yet here we are, planning lessons for 9 teachers that have broken all of the stereotypes.  They are excited, willing to come back weekly over their break, and ready to prove that they can do great things for the children of their country.