Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Teacher Training in Lusaka

Our youngest trainee finally falls asleep while her mother brainstorms ideas with her group
After modeling lessons and observing all the grade one through nine teachers in Lusaka, our two-day training began!  I wanted to introduce some new areas of learning for the teachers since most of the training in the past has been focused on instructional strategies, especially engagement. In our discussions with teachers throughout the month many requested more information about lesson planning and classroom management.  With input from teachers and Mabuchi, I gathered all my content and then planned how to present the information while modeling effective teaching strategies.

Most students are respectful and classrooms run smoothly most of the time 
I have always found the Zambian children and teachers very respectful and courteous.  However I haven’t spent weeks of time in classrooms like I did during this trip.  More than once I witnessed students fighting and bullying, and teachers struggling to get control of the classroom.  The management in these classrooms is similar to what I might see in the US so I knew we needed to address behavior.  
Our learning objectives for Classroom Management
We began by learning about “the signal” to get attention and moved on to rules.  As expected the teachers listed rules such as “don’t run,” “don’t fight,” “don’t steal,” and “don’t eat in class.”  We then had a discussion about how to write rules in the positive since thinking of every negative scenario is next to impossible.  The teachers then came up with rules such as “respect one another,” “love and care for one another,” “arrive at school on time,” “keep the classroom neat,” etc.  I felt encouraged by the mind shift they made.  That evening however when reading through the exit slips where I asked the teachers to write 2 – 3 rules for their classroom I noticed many still had rules written in the negative. 
One group's example
The next day I listed all the rules they wrote in the negative on one chart and all the rules they wrote in the positive on another.  We studied which rules on the positive chart addressed the negative behaviors.  From there teachers formed groups and wrote 3 – 5 positive rules addressing their paramount concerns.  The teachers posted their rules and compared them with each other.  With little direction from me the teacher spontaneously defended their rules with other groups and discussed why they used particular wording or included certain rules. 
Students compare and defend their rules
During the wrap up I mentioned that this lively “student led” discussion is what they want to work toward during their classroom discussions.
More discussion ensues around wording and what to include
Another related topic we looked at respect and rapport in the classroom.  I used parts of Charlotte Danielson’s rubric as a text.  After discussing and understanding “respect and rapport” as more than students respecting the teacher and teachers respecting students but also students respecting each other and the teacher building a positive relationship with students. I told them there should not be fighting in class or students crying because someone is teasing or saying mean things about them.  
Students discuss how to improve respect in the classroom
The teachers then underlined descriptions from the rubric that described them or their students.  Many found descriptions in the unsatisfactory or basic box.  We then talked about what they might do to eliminate disrespectful behaviors or to move to the basic or proficient description.  By the second day teachers began to understand this better and developed a plan for a more respectful classroom. 

Teacher generated list of preventative measures
We also discussed prevention of misbehavior and teachers shared that when they are really prepared with an engaging lesson, the students behave and perform well.  They listed other tactics they use to prevent misbehavior.   

Another part of our training was on well-planned lessons specifically how to write a specific and measurable learning objective, know what content is needed to meet the objective, and write questions to help student think more deeply about the topic.  I introduced the first three levels in Blooms Taxonomy with question stems so they could begin to understand how to ask appropriate questions. 
Figuring out how to ask higher-level questions
Almost all questions in the Zambia curriculum are at the “knowledge” level, so this is a difficult concept.  I then used part of Danielson’s “Questioning and Discussion Techniques” rubric to help the teachers begin to understand the level of discussion possible.  I found when they discussed in groups they were achieving at least some basic levels of discussion. 
Students brainstormed why students misbehave in class
Of course just having a well-planned and engaging lesson doesn’t always prevent misbehavior so we then discussed how to handle misbehavior directly.  I used aspects of Dr. Ross Greene’s Lost at School philosophy.  I taught them about stating the pattern of behavior they were noticing with a particular students by saying, “Lately I’ve noticed…” and then, “What’s going on?”  or “tell me about that”  We then discussed how to figure out what might be wrong, how to teach the skills a student might need to help, and a plan for what happens next time.  During lunch many teachers joked around with one another saying, “I’ve noticed you’ve…”
Students joke around during lunch break
No joking here - a serious conversation about some of the concepts

I closed the training session of the second day with a little review about books and how to use them.  Most teachers did not know the terms “fiction” and “non-fiction,” because their own exposure to books is limited. I began with holding up various books and they had to tell me “fiction” or “non-fiction.”  When almost all were answering correctly I reminded them of the lesson I taught on story elements (character, setting, problem, solution) and told them they could use this lesson with fiction books.  Non-fiction books could be used for teaching “main idea” and “detail.”  I concluded by saying there are numerous ways to use books and next time I would share more.  Most schools have little to no books available so teaching with books is a problem.
After every break we gather the group by singing (and a little dancing)

We concluded with graduation where each teacher received a certificate.  We had to sing of course during the ceremony – and there was a little dancing as well. 
A retired teacher who happily volunteer teaches
Mabuchi and I have high hopes for our teachers!  
Mabuchi with her daughter Mary - another great teacher!

I am continually humbled and inspired by these teachers' commitment and dedication to serve the most needy children and receive little to no compensation for their work.
So proud of this woman!

Every workshop should end this way!