Monday, March 19, 2012

Teacher training

Last year I had the opportunity to meet with the head of "Teaching methodology and professional development in preschool education" here in Mongolia.  I went with my good friend Gabi, who had met her before, and Temka who would be our translator.  We thought it would be a good opportunity to start networking in the field and to just "present" myself as it were, and to share my vision and purpose for being here.  So, with a "meet and greet" in mind we entered this meeting.  We started out by all introducing ourselves, and when our host's turn came around one of the first things she said was: "The reason why I want to partner with you is because I see the need for change in the way that we do education here in Mongolia."  Wow!  Then soon after: "How soon can you start training my kindergarten directors?"  Gobsmacked would be a good way to describe our thoughts at this point.  What an amazing opportunity!  And having just shared that my purpose in coming to Mongolia was to serve and support teachers, children and families I accepted this request, with the encouragement of Temka who volunteerd herself as translator for these seminars.  When I asked what kinds of topics or things they would like me to teach about the translated response was: "How to unlock a child."  In that moment I knew that my being here was the right thing, that the way was being prepared for me, and that in the future I would not always feel like I was banging my head against the wall of a system that did not want to change.  Mongolia's education system has been largely influenced by the old soviet style and method of teaching.  You could say that it is often times "old school".  My host shared that many of the country's teachers, directors, trainers and lecturers where educated and "raised" in the system and that it is a real challange to break out of that.  But, now is the time for change!

I hosted two seminars last year, and my third one this last Friday.  In the theme of "Unlocking the child" we have focused on:

1. The child:
  • Our image of the child (connected to teacher practise)
  • Children's need for the development of their sense of self and belonging
2. The teacher:
  • What does it mean to teach?  Characteristics of a good teacher, teacher roles
  • Teachers must be teachable, looking at some of the ideas from a few pioneers of education: Fredrick Frobel, John Dewey, John Amos Comenius 
  • Tour analogy guide- "Because I have seen it and experienced I will just tell you about it..." Children must have the opportunity to engage in their learning

    “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

    - Chinese proverb (Then in groups the participants made playdough and played with it!)

3.  The environment:
  • The enivornment acknowledged as the "third teacher"
  • Creating "Invitations for learning"
  • The physical environment has a prfound effect on interactions and learnings- and the way that materials are presented, and the general atmoshere that is created speaks messages to children and will reflect teachers' values and their image of the child
As a part of this third seminar the participants were given a bag of certain materials and were asked to try to look at the materials through the eyes of a child and set up an invitation for learning with what they were given.  I was impressed with how enthusiastic and creative they were with this task.  There was still a significant sense of  "What kind of lesson can I teach with this? What activities can the children do?" as they set up their invitations and then talked about their thoughts and purposes, and how they thought the children would respond and interact with the invitation- as opposed to creating an invitation that would encourage children to really think, engage, delight and explore freely.  But as I said, I was very impressed with their effort, and their creativity- they certainly thought of things that I didn't think of!

The invitation "kits"

Exploring the materials...

Imagining the possibilities... 

Creating an invitation...

Time to play!

This group created an invitation with bottle lids. They even managed to make bottle lid "kimbab" for their invitation! I definitely would not have thought of that!!

Buttons and black paper- this group explained that the black paper made them think of the night, so they used the buttons to create a night time scene for children to explore. I love the owl, and its little button heart! (which you can't see clearly in the picture... but it is there!)

A wild animal invitation was created by this group.  They took this one step further by creating  "snow" (the white pices of paper on the right) and planning a conversation to extend on this invitation, asking children about these animals and their habitats and what they might do if they lived in a cold climate where there was snow.

This group created an invitation that followed the life cycle of a butterfly. I especially liked how they used the recycled mustard jar to create a cacoon around the caterpillar- very creative!

What I saw as a bunch of boxes and materials for collage and construction invitation, this group saw as a birthday party! They even made skewers, cake, traditional Mongolian cookies, and festive decorations!

Happy Birthday!

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