Unicef- let's backtrack momentarily so I can share my experience with my teacher friends. VSO asked if any volunteers wanted to help Unicef run a child-centre methodology workshop in support of their "Child Friendly Schools" Campaign here in Rwanda. Me and Chris (another VSO) said yes and during the school break, spent five days working with Unicef. The first thing I noticed was what a difference international funding makes. Unicef is located in downtown Kigali, steps from the American Embassy and the Ministry of Education headquarters in a bright, blue, tall office building complete with security checkpoints and air-conditioning. We met with the staff, including a dynamic leader from Bangladesh who was spear-heading the campaign, Kamal. We drafted a plan for the three day workshop and quickly learned that Chris and I would be responsible for 8 workshops each. The training took place at a primary school on top of Mount Jali 45 minutes outside of Kigali. The bus ride in was bumpy, dusty and rural (is that an adjective?). We left at 7am and arrived to meet 40 or so participants. Most were primary school teachers but some were representatives from the NCDC (national curriculum development) or ADRA (disability program) or KIE, ULK and TTCs (teacher training colleges). We quickly ascertained that this workshop would be unlike our VSO-modestly-funded training workshops.
Over the next three days, we presented, collaborated, taught and learned from one another. The Head Unicef guy had arranged a "teacher motivation song" to be sung intermittedly throughout the workshop. It worked !
Day one, we introduced the idea of teaching to multiple intelligences and Chris role-played a typical old-fashioned teacher who stands at the front with chalk and is demanding of student participation. I got to be the "fun" teacher and modeled the same subject matter (parts of the body as it was decided) using song and Simon says. Guess which teacher was more popular? We then presented stations with activities, each modeled after the 9 multiple intelligences. For you "non-teacher" types- these are visual/spatial, kinesthetic, logical/mathematical, musical (for example: individually, we each have one or two types of learning styles that are our strong points- I am visual-kinesthetic). I ran the math centre and ANA LIMBEROPOULOS... I used the probability game with the spinners ! We made roulette wheels, predicted the likelihood of the paper clip spinning to a stop on green/blue/pink/yellow and then compared the results of our ten spins to our estimations. The kinesthetic workshop was run by Bruce outside- a version of Ship to Shore. And so forth. This was followed up with each group designing a brief lesson plan implementing one or more of these learning strategies and presenting them to the group.
Day two involved making didactic material- as much as possible. And while we had many resources like construction paper, markers, glue and paint that we often don't have at VSO workshops, there was still a time limit to what we could make. However, both Chris and I happen to be quite creative. We made a mini-market using modelling clay, leaf art, musical instruments, texture drawings, windmills, science experiments and posters on rice sacks. A workshop was presented on lesson plans, on what consitutes a "child-friendly" school, on tower-building, on problem-solving, we sang the alphabet song, went on a "Lion Hunt" with song, did math with tangrams, played snakes and ladders, made Big Books and basically, on twelve hour days, accomplished a lot !
Day three was the culmination of everything. The materials we created were then replicated by the teachers. I ran a science workshop. **For the record, it is ironic that I got to run the math and science workshops as I'm more of an arts and language person.* Anyway, again PRIMARY TEACHER COLLEAGUES.. I showed the teachers how you can do art/science with found objects. We did texture drawings and leaf art and made sailboats out of waterbottles and did brown bag riddles describing animal characteristics. It's amazing to me that my years at PAFI have really provided me with a bank of knowledge.
At the end of Day 3, there was a big showcase of our new resources. The teachers had also been given material and were shown how to make their own pocket charts. Basically exactly like we have at home from Scholar's Choice for word walls and math manipulatives but with fabric sewn together into 200 little pockets. Representatives from the President's office (yup, Kagame!) were there along with the Director of Unicef, members of the Ministry and many other important looking people. There were many speeches and then we had enlisted a few of the keener teachers to present the resource room themselves, in other words, rather than us the trainers explaining how the math/probability game works, Ivan and Gilbert presented it to the Ministry guys. This is how to see if your teaching was effective too.
Finally, the workshop ended with the singing of the special song and then each person in the room receiving a candle. The headteacher of the school we were at lit hers and then we passed the light along, finally ending with the Ministry of Ed dude. The teachers read a pledge about promising to make their schools more child-centred. It was actually quite a moving, if exhausting, three days. Because it was my first workshop, ever, in Rwanda, it was kind of neat to have helped run such a successful one. A week later, we met for a follow-up debrief kind of meeting and then a big dinner at Unicef, during which our Country Director and Education Program Manager attended and learned about what the workshop and the goal of the Unicef program was all about. In 2007, there were 22 child friendly schools in Rwanda and by next year there will be 144 active child friendly schools, including 7 in my district !! Unicef wants to partner with VSO, so this could mean I help with many more similar workshops. What a fabulous learning experience ! Also, the Head Unicef guy wrote a letter to our Country Director as he was quite pleased about VSO's contribution to the workshop.
Well, just yesterday, I received a text message from Seraphine, one of the teachers involved in the workshop. She just wanted to tell me that she was using some of the games she had learned in the workshop in her classroom now.
Well, school term officially resumes on Monday. I have worked through most of the holidays- Unicef, training in Nyamata with Elspeth and going to Kamonyi sporadically. This week I actually went to Kamonyi, rented a moto guy for 3 hours and had him drive me around in search of my 20 schools. We successfully found, photographed and added to my map- 9 schools in that one afternoon! My backside still hasn't recovered from 3 hours on the moto...haha! My weekend in Kampala was a great mini-vacation, I must admit. I have big goals for the upcoming weeks. Unfortunately, here, making big plans is a little redundant. It is advisable to focus on the day to day instead. Yeah, tell that to the innate-core-of-my-being, task-driven, personality-trait that is determined to set goals and accomplish them. It's like swimming upstream- haha. I'll adjust.