Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lessons from my 2010 Teaching Adventures

While we’ve made some major transitions and experienced some personal crises this past year, we have had some significant teaching adventures in various regions of Africa. As we approach midnight of the last night of this year, I paused to consider a few lessons I learned from this year’s teaching adventures.

1) Doing interactive teaching in three languages: We were privileged to do several workshops with leaders speaking English, French, and Portuguese. There was an amazing buzz as individuals did simultaneous translation with small groups of listeners while we taught in English. For discussions we broke learners into groups by language so they could process and scribe discoveries in their heart language. It was difficult to have all the charts and task assignments translated and written out in three languages before teaching. Facilitating group feedback through interpretation was also complicated. Interactive teaching in three languages – challenging! The impact? Awesome!

2) Facilitating workshops with my husband: I found how difficult it is to “lead” in the classroom when your assistant is your own husband. No matter how gracious you are in taking the reins back, it can look like you are running over your husband’s authority(a cultural taboo in Africa)! I also discovered how challenging it was to follow my husband’s lead when he was in charge mostly because I misread his intentions. I tried to take an assistant’s position and simply scribe group responses for him, while he was waiting for me to participate in some of the discussions from the front! Alertness to body language, clearly defined roles and agreed upon cues are vital in working together successfully.

3) Teaching member care skills in the African context. We shifted the focus of our member care training to the developing of specific skills that we wanted students to be able use when returning to their fields of service. That focus required that we incorporate lots of practice time into our daily schedule and eliminate some of the up-front teaching!

I found the most successful sessions were those in which we broke skills down into small stages of teaching and practice, teaching and practice. By the end of those sessions, students were quite comfortable in completing all of the steps. And the most important factor for most of our African students was the role plays in which facilitators demonstrated various skills such as confronting, debriefing, re-entry briefing, and grief briefing. The visual presentation enabled them to “see” how to do the skill and recall the mini-drama.

Most of the lessons I learned this year were out of teaching adventures that stretched us way beyond comfort level and into unchartered territory. To keep learning, I’m looking out for more teaching adventures and gearing up for more risk-taking. Meanwhile, I keep learning at the feet of the Master Teacher.

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