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Last year in May, we hosted our popular Jacaranda Learning Framework Workshops for Years 7-10 teachers in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Teachers came from far and wide to learn about how Jacaranda resources can help them overcome many of the common challenges they face every day in the classroom. We also held an exclusive competition for attendees, which would give one lucky teacher a teaching trip of a lifetime to Tanzania with Teachers2Teachers Global. That lucky winner was Kelly Hack, a Humanities teacher from Marymede Catholic College in Victoria!
When we gave Kelly the good news, she was over the moon and let us know it had always been a dream of hers to visit Tanzania. Fast-forward to January 2020, we sent Kelly with her bags packed on her way to East Africa where she would spend the next two weeks touring Tanzania, meeting local teachers and helping teach in schools.
We got the chance to catch up with Kelly to ask her about her trip and her highlights. Here’s what she had to say:
The trip was life-changing. Even though I have always believed that education is the key, this experience allowed me to see that education is not just the key but the lock as well. Whatever barriers we think we have in Australia, it is nothing compared to what people have to overcome in African nations. Yet still, students and their teachers fight to learn and succeed.
We were blessed to be able to be based at Jifundishe (Swahili for “Teach Yourself”). Run by the Inspiring Anande Mirisho, this small group are making an enormous change in their community. The library is open 6 days a week and runs programs to help students who have fallen through the cracks. The program run through Jifundishe is one I am certain every teacher in Australia would heartily support. Students are there because they choose to be there. They can use it as a study space, attend the programs being run at the library such as tutorials, exam prep study classes, use the Sudler Computer Lab, English Language tuition or even become part of the Women’s Microlending Program.
After we observed for the two days, maths teachers from around the area came to workshops that I and the other teachers ran. As a non-maths teacher, I must say I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but instead I went from the non-maths teacher [to] ‘we all use numeracy’ in our classes no matter what subject pathway. I did things like building towers to look at angles, shapes, measurement, weight and problem-solving. They understood that teaching could be made fun even in the hard topics.
We were able to go on a safari drive into Arusha National Park where we got to see some seriously amazing animals and more elephants in one place than I ever thought imaginable. On our last day, we got to go to a local coffee plantation where we saw the process from farm to cup.
My overall favourite moment was seeing the teachers learn how to use 4- and 6-digit grid referencing to understand maps and location in fun ways, such as paper Battleship and Mr Worldwide and the towers. They took on the task with gusto and a sense of very competitive pride. Each group had to prove why theirs was the best. The teamwork they showed when every single group stopped and wanted to plan their tower before they built it was phenomenal. They let each group member give their ideas and discussed which would work best and why and came to a collective decision.
1. That learning still needs to be fun and accessible to everyone, even the high-end kids.
2. I take cross-curricular links for granted. I think that as teachers we should be banding together to ensure that we send out a consistent method. For example, teaching Spherical Geometry in Maths is a slightly different version of understanding the time zones. Pulling knowledge that students already have into a subject can lead to confidence and a greater understanding of a topic.
3. I need to acknowledge that I have gaps in my knowledge and that I have colleagues I can go to ask for help. Understanding that I don’t know everything is okay so long as I do something about it. One teacher I watched was adamant he was right when he was wrong. He admitted this to his class, and they applauded him for doing the right thing – actually, they sang to him. It was a very surreal experience.
I actually loved it. I had to think about all the different ways that we do use Mathematics in Humanities. Do we just use numeracy, or do we do some cross-curricular ideas? This was especially true for things such as grid referencing and coordinates etc. I loved observing the way different teachers do things. How we learn about shapes and measurement and basic maths was often the same but then they taught us a method for algebra that none of us (except Steve) had ever seen before to check that their answer was correct. It even meant we skipped part of our lunchtime to work through examples. I never thought I would be interested enough in Maths to warrant missing a lunchtime, but I loved every second of it.
To be honest, they have less. Students don’t have textbooks (just one for the teacher), they share tables often three to a desk that in Australia might be lucky to seat two. Rote learning and repetition seem to exist more than allowing students the chance to learn through reading or discussion. There were no kinesthetic or applied learning classes that we saw. Learning there is a privilege it is not a right. We take it for granted that everyone will finish high school. Some students don’t get to finish primary school.
I have relaxed in the fact it is okay to make mistakes and to admit when I don’t know something. New ideas are always helpful especially, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It gives me more of a global perspective about how things are done in other countries as I was also lucky to be able to visit a tiny school in Malawi. But most of all, I know how much this truly is the career for me. I completely love what I do and no matter where I am, I can always find teachable moments.
DO IT and DO IT NOW! Don’t wait! It will touch everyone differently, but I can guarantee you will NOT regret it! Do your homework, take resources with you, have fun and remember everyone can bring something to the table!
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and tell us about your trip, Kelly! We are thrilled that you had an incredible time and experienced some surreal moments in Tanzania.