June 14th, 2019
Today concluded our second and last day of the Story-Based Learning (SBL) workshop that we hosted for teachers in Muhunga. At the beginning of the two day training, I was NERVOUS! I hadn’t really done SBL until a few days ago when I was finally together with the village in the flesh. I never feel confident teaching a concept that I do not understand completely. My biggest challenge at first was communicating. Despite most of my “students” speaking English, teaching to speakers with English as a second (or third...or fourth) language is a whole different ballgame. I was consciously slowing down the pace of my speech and enunciating the words I was saying, but I still was having difficulty getting the point I was trying to make across to the teachers. Luckily, a few of the teachers who had participated in our workshops in previous years stepped up and helped translate our games and activities into Kinyarwanda for us. I felt completely exhausted after day 1, and I really wasn’t sure if my “students” had understood a word I said, if they learned anything at all, and even worried they would not return the next day. To my delight, the teachers DID come back and they remembered the games we taught and jumped into SBL immediately. With the support of Tierra, Gabrielle, and Molly, we managed to get some pretty amazing results from our Rwandan teachers. I was blown away by their creativity, collaboration, communication, and thirst to improve their teacher toolkit. Voluntarily spending two full days at a workshop during the weekend when they could be at home with their families, relaxing, or celebrating the Pentecost is a very honorable choice in my opinion. As a future teacher myself, I found a lot of commonalities between the teachers of Rwanda and the teachers of the United States. The teachers in Rwanda have the same concerns for their students and their classrooms. Questions arose throughout the training such as:
1. How will I have time to use this in my classroom?
2. How do I use this in a class of 40+ students?
3. How can I manage discipline?
4. But what if x, y, and z happen?
To know that these teachers had the same reactions, worries, and concerns that I do made me realize how connected teachers truly are. It was comforting to validate my feelings and remember that I have a global village of teachers to count on when I need to. It was also heartwarming to see the teachers playing on the playground after lunch. With the roles reversed and the teachers now acting as our pupils, I could not stop laughing at the teachers pushing each other on the swings, trying to squeeze into the merry-go-round, playing volleyball, and laughing at each other. It was a good little reminder that everyone still has a kid inside them that needs to see the light of day every once in a while. This exercise has been a nice test run for me to see how SBL can be incorporated into the math classroom while being surrounded by like-minded math teachers who could help me further “mathify” SBL. I am really excited to take what I learned the last few days and bring it back to my classroom back home.
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About the Author
My name is Amanda, and I am thrilled to be joining you all on this exciting journey! I heard about this opportunity through the lovely Gabrielle, and it was an opportunity I couldn't refuse. I am a dual major in Middle School Math Education and Psychology with a minor in Spanish, and I am a Columbia, Missouri native, so I attend college a far 10 minute drive from my childhood home. As much as I love Missouri, I want to broaden my world-view through personal experiences as much as possible. I spent my summer in India observing and working alongside a Middle School Math teacher and realized my passion for international education. I spent my winter break in the Dominican Republic working in classrooms and teaching English to students of all ages. My thirst for international educational opportunities has only grown stronger, so when Gabrielle told me about this experience in Rwanda, I couldn't say no. I have two main hopes to get out of this trip. The first is to collaborate and learn from teachers in Rwanda to become a better teacher and human. The second goal I have is to learn a very different approach to teaching mathematics through drama-based learning. I have no experience in this realm and I'm excited and nervous to break out of my comfort zone to learn and practice drama-based education.