Advanced Teacher Training
Sep 06, 2017
This past month, our visit to the school coincided with summer monsoon recess. With teachers out of class and students at home, the staff and I had ample time to not only focus on the two training sessions I held, but also to review the material covered. The teachers also had time to work individually on their lesson plans and their approaches to teaching various subjects at each grade level. As a result, the lesson plans they developed were directly in line with their recent training.
The two trainings were in Social Studies and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math); these trainings focused on general approaches for experiential learning, rather than topic-specific or grade-specific pedagogy. After both trainings, teachers had three-hour sessions to develop their own lesson plans. After the planning period, they shared those lesson plans with the rest of their teaching team. I gave the teachers a format that they could use to observe each other teaching and we made some rules for how we would give and take feedback. Teachers gave feedback to the others on the strengths and weaknesses of their lesson plans. This teacher-learning workshop provided a safe and constructive space to improve lesson plans, share teaching techniques, and improve overall pedagogy. There was clear progress made, and the teachers enjoyed being challenged and learning new teaching methods.
At the end of the four-day training program, I gave the teachers a challenge: I asked them to teach one of their subjects by using real world activities and reflection as much as possible, as opposed to route memorization – this technique is used to promote experiential learning. In practice, this meant that teachers would use the textbook in one course as little as possible. For example, Man Bahadur Sir would teach third grade math without using the textbook. Instead, he would teach students multiplication by having them count the sides of triangles, the legs of chairs, and the legs of spiders. This exercise will help teachers explore new, more progressive ways of teaching and learning, under my guidance. The Government textbooks, as well as textbooks published by private publications, are pedantic and leave little room for teachers to be creative and innovative. When teachers use the National Curriculum instead, they can design content for their classes to cater to individual needs of their students and also meet the standards that the curriculum has outlined. The teachers had just learned a lot of new things about designing content, and we felt like one subject per teacher was a good place to start.
In August, we also started teaching mixed-grade classes for Art, PE, and Language Arts. Mixed-grade classes allow younger students to learn from older children. They also give the teachers a few additional free periods. Teachers can use these free periods for planning, grading their students’ written work, and collaborating with other teachers. The teachers were excited about the new schedule because it creates more time for them to plan their classes and lesson plans.
Giving teachers the tools they need to plan lessons, work collaboratively, and give and take feedback was a big step in improving the quality of teaching and learning at the school. Providing them the time to think about individual students' learning processes and allowing autonomy to decide how to teach is an important step in creating a school environment where students are growing every day, and where teachers are also flourishing.