Question from a Middle School in Niger, Part 10

Back in June, I shared my correspondence with Mrs. Kombo. She runs a middle school in Niger called Hampate Ba. Niger is arguably the poorest nation in the world. You can read our exchanges here.

Part 1

Part 2

Niger 101

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

We've continued the correspondence this fall.

Hello Mike,

I wanted to share this piece of news with you so that you (not you personally of course!!) become more appreciative of your political and educational systems despite their undeniable flaws and shortcomings!

Our Ministry of Education has just informed us that eight of the ten teachers we had trained all last year and this month (using some of your material!), getting them set and ready for the new school year (October 4th) and the extensive tutoring program for the 6th graders, are going to be transferred to other towns (Agadez, Tahoua and Maradi) where there is a shortage of teachers.

This decision is excellent for the country, but disastrous for Hampaté Bâ. Having been informed of this decision only 15 days before the start of the new school year, we have very little room for manoeuvre. Now, in all urgency, we have to recruit new teachers whose competency we will not be able to judge until they actually start teaching (!!).

Training will have to start from scratch and as they won't be familiar with our vision, we'll have to make sure that they won't be using corporal punishment and humiliation as disciplinary measures and rote learning as the sole teaching technique.

To tell you the truth, this news was so unexpected that we are all still a bit dazed.

Best, Homa

I was confused at first. I wrote:

Ouch! That sounds painful. I thought you were a private school. How can the gov't take your private employees?

Mrs. Kombo replied:

Low-cost private schools such as ours cannot afford to hire full time private teachers. The fees we charge cannot cover their salaries, social security and payed summer holidays. We employ all state teachers who do extra hours in private schools in order to make more money on top of their official state salaries.

When I've had a tough day, I consider her plight. We've got it made over here.

Later she wrote:

As of today we have our new team of teachers. The first day of school in next Monday! The teachers are available 3 hours tomorrow afternoon and 4 hours Saturday afternoon.

They know nothing about our vision and mission, or the teaching methods we wish to use, etc.

What would be the best way to proceed? What should we do with those 7 hours we can have with them before they enter their classes on Monday? This was such an unpredictable scenario, that we are totally lost...

Edgar Morin, French author and philosopher, sets forth seven key principles that he considers essential for education of the future. And one of them is expecting the unexpected! Thanking you in advance for a very quick reply to our million dollar question!

Best, Homa

Seven hours. What do you do? I found that question totally overwhelming.

I heard it as "We have a bunch of hungry teachers coming over and 7 Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. How should we divide them up?"

So my colleague Sara Gussin pitched in with a response:

Fofo Homa,

It must be stressful to have only 7 hours with these new teachers.

I would spend the first hour discussing the vision and mission of the school, and to give the teachers a broad overview of some of the most important philosophies they need to know.

What you do next depends a lot on how much experience and training these new teachers have. If these teachers have some form of training and experience, I would then use the next two hours discussing the specific strategies and methods you expect these teachers to implement. Examples would include the Do Now and Ticket to Leave, the idea of careful lesson planning, and even a basic version of a tutoring strategy.

Finally, I would use the last four hours for more specific planning and training. Hopefully this could include time for teachers to begin planning out their first week of material, so that they could spend the first week of school focusing on implementing all the new strategies and ideas they've learned. The teachers that have been trained more extensively (I believe you said you had two remaining) could help the newer teachers with this process.

If that form of preparation would be impractical or unhelpful, given the preparation of the teachers, perhaps these last four hours could instead be used to discuss general teaching techniques and practices. This would depend on what form of training (if any) these teachers have already received. If these teachers have no experience and no training, this type of general teaching training might also be better in that two-hour block on the first day.

More tomorrow.