Guest Blog: Lessons

We were not the only teachers. The children taught us things that no professor could ever teach in a classroom–lessons that we will forever hold in our hearts.

As future teachers, helping children learn and succeed is one of our many passions. Arriving at the orphanage in Mtendere Village we were unsure of just how this passion would be sparked, but it quickly lit on fire and burned the whole time we were there. Some of us had spent minimal time working with children, especially directly in a classroom. This experience level quickly changed as we were divided up into different classrooms our second day at Mtendere. There were some students teaching the housemothers of the village, others in preschool age classrooms, and then others in primary or secondary aged classrooms. Every classrooms proposed challenges and situations to apply different teaching methods we had been taught all the way back at Ball State University.

Some students even had the experience of working one on one with the children at Mtendere, in an hour and half tutoring session everyday. These tutoring sessions allowed us to work on a more personal level with the children and help them individually in the area of reading. The sessions consisted of learning the level of reading our student could achieve, and work on areas such as comprehension that proved to be more difficult. The sessions not only consisted of helping the children with reading, but it also proposed opportunities to get to know and create relationships with our students.

Our time in Mtendere was spent mostly with the children; we acted as teachers to them whether it was in the classroom or playing games. We were not the only teachers. The children taught us things that no professor could ever teach in a classroom–lessons that we will forever hold in our hearts.

Bethany Thompson is an Elementary Education student at Ball State University.

Guest Blog: We Stand for Children

Teacher Training

We all realized that we could learn from each other, and we were all there for the very same reason: we all stand for children.

During our time in Malawi, we were given the amazing opportunity to teach fellow teachers in a professional development day our group organized. We extended the invitation to join us on this day to teachers all over the area around Mtendere Children’s Village. The day of the event, 32 teachers joined us, anxious to learn from us. They were so anxious and eager to learn, in fact, that some walked from up to eight miles away just to be there.

Being a group of students much younger and less experienced than most of our participants was a challenge we had to confront, as some teachers there had over 30 years of experience. However, once the day began, we all realized that we could learn from each other, and we were all there for the very same reason: we all stand for children. Our group of Ball State students and the Malawian teachers, despite our age differences and varying experiences, were united on this day, and we collaborated to learn how to better serve the children of the world.

Prior to coming to Malawi, while we were planning for the professional development day, we were told that the teachers were interested in learning about teaching theories. With that, we decided to teach Lev Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding, and differentiation of instruction. The day was broken up into two parts: the first being a direct instruction part and the second being a collaborative group-work portion. During the direct instruction, three girls from our group basically gave the information in front of everyone, while the teachers were given papers with which to take notes. For the group-work portion of the day, we all broke into small groups with two girls from our group, and around four or five Malawian teachers. Here, we further discussed the topics at hand, and collaborated to come up with ways the theories could be put into action in our classrooms.

It proved a struggle for many of the teacher’s to envision these theories in their classrooms because in their classrooms, they may have up to 200 students for just one teacher. Despite the differences in classroom environments and cultures, the Malawian teachers were incredibly open to new ideas, and were eager to share their own knowledge with all of us. In the end, we asked everyone, Malawian teachers and Ball State students alike, to share a bit about what they liked or learned during our time together. It became clear that we all learned a great deal from one another, and would definitely be taking new insights back with us into our classrooms and lives.

Lauren Rayborn is an Elementary Education student at Ball State University.