Unexpected

Unexpected perspectives are beautiful. Home from Seminar 2, I reflect on two new perspectives.

We stumbled upon the first perspective one month ago. At the end of each day, our participants complete an exit survey. Up to this point, we had required each teacher to individually complete a survey to measure their recall and understanding. And then, an idea developed to offer an open book survey to be completed by each table group who had collaborated throughout the day. Why had we not thought of this before? We abandoned the individual, stress filled survey to transition to the collaborative, open book survey. After all, it is not the short term recall we truly care about; it is the application of the information within the pages of the manual that matters.

Our teachers and school leaders cheered as we explained the directions. Two rules. You have twenty minutes to complete the survey and you must work together. Mesi! Mesi! Thank you! Thank you! We laughed as they hovered to read the questions together, pouring through their manuals to confirm the correct answers. The average exit assessment score for an individual survey had been 70%. The average score in a collaborative environment is now 85%. From my point of view, there was beauty in their teamwork.

The second perspective was found through the lenses of cameras. A two-man film crew accompanied our trip to film the Teachers Training Teachers seminar experience. It is an easy thing to snap pictures of school buildings. It is another thing to capture teacher training. To describe their raw footage as art might seem silly but it is the only word that comes to mind. They captured adult learning and the stories of obstacles many overcome to attend our seminars.

Additionally, my teenage daughter came to Haiti with us. As we drove along the familiar roadside that is always difficult to absorb, she soaked in the conflict of hope and despair. Scrolling through the photo journal of one seeing this conflict for the first time, I saw beautiful perspectives. Her lens reflected a compassionate heart searching for the beauty yet willing to wrestle with the realities of poverty.

Their video and her stills offered beautiful perspectives, reinvigorating my desire to train underserved teachers.

In Module 4 of Seminar 2, we encourage school leaders and teachers to view themselves as learners alongside their students. If embraced, this perspective can create a community of collaboration and teamwork.  As an organization, we are also learners, committed to seeking new perspectives to present excellent professional development, mindful of the landscape of the roadside.

May we seek to be learners in the face of unexpected perspectives.

Beth Mollenhauer
Beth is the President of Teachers Training Teachers, an organization based in Burlington, Massachusetts, that provides professional development seminars to underserved teachers and school leaders in developing nations.