Bringing Teachers Together To Learn Together

by Merritt Frey, Executive Director

 An animated French teacher explains his lesson to his "students" -- also known as his fellow teachers.

An animated French teacher explains his lesson to his "students" -- also known as his fellow teachers.

Have you ever attended a job training or professional development seminar, only to return to work and find yourself totally buried again? (If you don't say yes, I've got my suspicions about you.) That's very much the case for Mali Rising's dedicated teachers. Although they long for additional training, when they finally receive it they'll come home to a classroom full of as many as 100 teenagers...and that can make sticking to new ideas and practices hard.

 An English teacher quizes his students to see if they are understanding his grammar lesson.

An English teacher quizes his students to see if they are understanding his grammar lesson.

We are proud to host professional teacher training weeks where large groups of our teachers receive expert input on everything from lesson planning to active learning strategies to professional morals. For example, take a peek inside our most recent teacher training in March 2017.

But now we're adding something more to keep the lessons alive in the classroom.

 A history teacher drives home the importance of the African Organization of African Unity.

A history teacher drives home the importance of the African Organization of African Unity.

So on a hot May Sunday, our first teacher peer support group met in a small classroom in Leon W. Pete Harman Middle School in Tentoubougou. Eight language teachers from seven* of our schools came together to support each other.  Each teacher presented a lesson, and then received critique from their peers to help them improve their lesson.

 The chalkboard is the main, and often only, teaching aid in Mali classrooms.

The chalkboard is the main, and often only, teaching aid in Mali classrooms.

In our schools, teachers wear many hats. This means a language teacher might teach French and/or English. In addition, language teachers may also teach history and geography, or music and drawing. This meant that the lessons presented on Sunday ran the gambit -- from a French composition session, to the history of the Organization of African Unity, to an English grammar lesson.

The teachers listened to each lesson as if they were students, and then provided their feedback to that lesson's teacher. The feedback was detailed and drew on many of the lessons of our recent teacher training, such as how to incorporate student group work for more active learning or the need to summarize and evaluate student learning at the end of the lesson.  

This was a test of the idea of having multiple small teacher peer meetings throughout the year to help teachers really hone the lessons from the teacher trainings. Participants felt this was a more dynamic way to learn the training lessons and, in their words, "correct their shortcomings."

We'll be trying more of this kind of peer-support for our teachers next school year, and evaluating its success. Stay tuned!

* Teachers from the following schools participated: Leon W. Pete Harman, Cliff and Nita Bailey, EO's Learn for Life Academy, Denik, Frances W. Burton, Little Heroes I, and Jade & Gabe Mellor.