A couple of weekends ago I attended my first teacher training with Impact Network. It was a fantastic experience that gave me a real insight into the dedication the Impact Network teacher’s have for their jobs as well as the great support they receive.
The training took place on a Saturday 29th July at Mnyaula School beginning at 8am, which meant piling into a car with James (Operations Manager), Teselia (Teacher Supervisor) and Joseph (teacher in charge at Joel school) at 7am in order to get there in time to set up. This was my first time visiting Mnyaula and I had not grasped how far the distances are between some of the Impact Network schools (the drive was about 40 minutes from Joel) and therefore how impressive it is that Teacher Supervisors and other management staff regularly travel between these schools to observe teachers, sort out maintenance issues and generally ensure the schools are running smoothly.
The day started with a breakfast of bread and tea (providing me with a much needed caffeine boost), followed by an opening prayer and a reading of the itinerary, which included a series of presentations from the teacher supervisors and myself (*gulp*).
The first presentation was a joint presentation by the teachers of Mkhazika school on classroom objectives. Right from the outset it was fantastic to see the rapport that the teachers, from all schools, had with one another and how eager they were to read points from the presentation and answer questions. The presentation focused on the difference between short-term and long-term objectives and how these objectives form the outline for any good teaching plan. It was encouraging to see that the teachers had a good grasp on the material and I certainly learned a lot.
The next two presentations before lunch were from the two Teacher Supervisors, Teselia and Petros. Teselia’s presentation was on the importance of keeping a positive attitude at work and the steps that can be taken when teachers are having personal or professional problems. Petros then presented on classroom management, specifically how to encourage students in a positive way and how to best deal with disruptive behavior. I had worked with both Teselia and Petros during the week and was very pleased about how well their presentations were received. These presentations in particular highlighted a real sense of community between the teachers and management staff and reminded the teachers about the support system they have available to them.
Next up was lunch, a traditional meal of nshima (a maize dish, kind of like a dense mash potato), along with chicken and a cabbage relish. I had been eating nshima everyday for the past three weeks but this was my first attempt at eating it in front of a large group of people! Nshima is eaten by rolling it into balls in your palm and then combining it with bits of chicken and relish - luckily I passed the test and managed to eat my meal without too much embarrassment (although I was advised to make bigger balls of nshima, apparently mine were child-sized!).
After lunch it was finally time for my presentation about learning through play and interactive classroom activities. The idea behind the presentation was to give the teachers some easy-to-use interactive activities and ideas around play in order to make their lessons more engaging. In the presentation I focused a lot on role play, as well as some specific activities (like math bingo). The presentation went down well with the teachers - particularly when they got a chance to play the games themselves! The presentation ended with time for open debate between the teachers about the pros and cons of interactive lessons and using play for all primary age groups. The teachers were split into two groups, one for and one against, and were very willing to start debating - there was a lot of laughter as well as some very good points made on both sides, which showed that the teachers had really engaged with the topic.
The other motivation behind the presentation was to get teacher’s to start thinking about ways to make test prep and review more interesting. With the end of Term 2 fast approaching it is important for teachers to start planning the week of revision for their students for the end of term exams. Over the rest of the afternoon the teachers discussed (both in grade groups and all together) ways in which they could use the skills they learned from the day’s presentations, including keeping a positive attitude, lesson objectives, classroom maintenance and interactive lessons, to make their review sessions as clear and engaging as possible.
The training finished around 4.30pm and it was time for everyone to go home for a well-deserved rest and to enjoy the weekend. After a brief selfie-taking session with some of the teachers I hopped in the car back to Joel and looked out the window at the stunning Zambian landscape. The drive gave me time to think back on everything I had learned over the day as well as topics to start researching for the next training in a few weeks time.