Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ISM Teachers to Help Out in TFFT Programs By: Melissa Queyquep

It all started in the kitchen of Gina Kirkpatrick, a Science and Maths teacher at the International School of Moshi (ISM-Arusha campus). Over beef burgers and beers, John Lane, a fellow teacher, talked about The Foundation for Tomorrow and what it does. John Lane was a volunteer teacher at Matonyok Parents’ Trust, one of TFFT’s partner orphanages, and remains one of its ardent supporters. Turned out Gina and their other ISM co-teachers had long been looking for a way to forge a closer connection with the local community.

That conversation culminated in a meeting with TFFT’s Melissa Queyquep and Joshua Nassari last Monday, 19th September. This time over coffee, TFFT and the “ISM 4“ discussed how they could work alongside each other particularly in the Teacher Training Program. All four teachers come with skills gained from years of teaching that the Teacher Training Program need—expertise that could enable our teachers to provide meaningful learning experiences to their students and enliven interaction in their classrooms. Kirkpatrick is a Science and Mathematics teacher in the secondary level, Shawna Spady and Lane are both teaching in the primary level, while Chelsea Koenigs teaches in the early years level. More meetings will take place in the next months to firm up plans but initially the group talked about teaching strategies for Science, Mathematics, and Reading both for primary and secondary levels as the most urgent topics.

Subject-based training has been in the drawing board of the Teacher Training Program for some time but for lack of resource persons who can help out gratis, this plan had to be shelved. Now that our teachers had been given the basics in the past workshops, this offer of help from the ISM teachers could not have come in a more opportune time.

During the meeting, the four were also given information about the other programs that TFFT run. Interest had been sparked as well in the Full Circle Program and plans are underway on how some of them could come and co-facilitate some of the Full Circle sessions.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the Teacher Training Program had good Samaritans offering help. Cristina Claxton of Amani Children Center in Moshi also lent her support and expertise particularly in Special Needs Education in the first teacher training held last year. Indeed we are blessed to have found kindred spirits willing to offer their time and skills for the cause we are championing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Usa River Academy Graduation - by Josh Nassari

Hello TFFT Supporters,

Big news for you here!

On Saturday September 10th, Usa River Academy held a graduation ceremony for 2011 Standard 7 (equivalent to middle school) and Form 4 students (high school). It was a great day! Eight TFFT Class 7 students received certificates showing that they have completed primary school and three Form 4 students from TFFT graduated. All of the TFFT students and staff attended this very exciting event, and this time round the TFFT Executive Director, Meghann Gunderman was even able to attend the celebration.

Many family members of the graduating students attended the event. We were very pleased with the turn out. You wont believe that even Vialeth and Rachel's bibi (grandma) who is in her 90s attended. It was a great opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate the TFFT student’s success.

During the graduation there were many presentations and performances. The TFFT kids were not behind or shy, and in many cases they took lead roles. We were very proud to see them up in front of everyone singing, acting, dancing, and speaking. It was a true illustration of how confident the TFFT students have become and the leadership role they have taken on at school. I truly realized how TFFT has helped give these students an opportunity and laid a foundation, but now they are building their futures and taking advantage of every situation. Their personalities are growing, each student becoming an individual, and their self esteem continues to impress me.The party was full of smiles and laughter. We brought two cakes, one for Standard 7 and one for Form 4 graduates to show them how proud we are of them. They shared with all of the TFFT students and it turned into a big party. The school slaughtered a cow for the graduates (a big honor in Tanzania) and prepared lots of food. Parents, teachers, students, and the TFFT team sat together and ate. And go figure.. Lomyanki was the first one in line to get food and coca cola baridiii (cold- not very common in these parts)! Students ran around playing and celebrating

their great accomplishments. Overall it was a perfect day!

I couldn't blink staring at Richard Francis acting with his amazing Sambaa accent , Veronica, Paulina, Lomnyaki, Miriam, Ashura, Julieth, Rosemary, Isack, Ombeni all singing and dancing, Nancy'sspeech to graduates and of course Nancy and Irene's dance.

Congratulations to Vialeth, Isack, and Ombeni our Form 4 graduates. We are looking forward to watching you accomplish great things in the future” By the way, Isack and Ombeni have planned to go to driving school right after they finish their exams in three weeks. After that they must wait to hear back about their exams before they are able to go onto two years of A-levels.

Congratulations to our Standard 7 graduates – Wema, Jesca, Joyce, Caren, Ombeni, Redson, Salvatory, and Amani! We are very proud of all of you and can't wait to find out how you did on your national exams.” Once these students receive their results they will begin Secondary Schoo, first 4 years of O-Levels and then 2 years of A-Levels. They will all start Form 1 at Star High School in January.We know they are all very excited to join secondary school. TFFT is planning to enroll them in pre-form 1 course between now and January so they enter secondary school well prepared.

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation."

Nelson Mandela

Thank you to all of the TFFT sponsors who have helped these students accomplish so much. You are part of their success and should be proud of your dedication. Asante sana!

Josh Nassari

Monday, September 12, 2011

Incentivizing Teachers by Melissa Queyquep

TFFT-Star High School Teacher Incentive Program

In an effort to make sure the teachers implement the key points from the teachers training in June 2011, TFFT has cooked up a program where teachers are incentivized for their efforts to improve quality of instruction in their classrooms.

Starting October, TFFT and SHS will be conducting monthly in-classroom observations, evaluating the teachers against a range of criteria including lesson planning, use of teaching aids, and incorporation of group work and other participatory techniques in their lessons, and from the observation results select the best performing teacher of the month. The “Teacher of the Month” will be awarded a certificate (framed and displayed in the Faculty Room) and a book of their own choosing. The real reward, however, goes to the students who we hope will reap the benefits of improved classroom experiences.

It is hoped that injecting friendly competition among the teachers and recognizing their efforts to improve would increase their motivation and get them excited about their work. This is in recognition of the observation that aside from the Big 3* among the “Why-It-Would-NOT-Work” reasons we usually get during discussions with teachers, what hampers implementation of what they learned from the training is lack of motivation.

The monitoring team from TFFT and Star High School will also conduct post-observation conference with the teachers to discuss the results of the observation and to suggest improvements. Goal setting will also be part of the conference, with the teacher setting goals for their professional improvement, which will then be revisited in subsequent observations.

* Big 3: Overcrowded syllabus, lack of resources, lack of time for planning due to too heavy teaching load

Monday, September 5, 2011

What I've Learned by Adam Rubin (TFFT Full Circle Program Director)

It would be impossible for me to accurately reflect on the last 8 months running the Full Circle Program, a time which I’ve learned more personally and professionally that I did throughout 4 years of college. I can’t say enough about the TFFT staff and everything that they’ve taught me. Every member of the staff works together and truly respects the advice and opinions of one another. This provides for a working environment that encourages creativity and development, which has allowed for TFFT’s programs to be what they are and experience continual progress. I really feel lucky to have worked with these people; to gain this experience and have the opportunity to share so many ideas, in and outside of the office.

I think the first thing I can take away from this job is that sometimes you need to step back and remember that we are always learning, no matter how old we are or how much we think we know. There came a time during the first term of Full Circle while teaching the kids about Life Skills, where I realized how little time I actually spend thinking about and implementing these same skills. Life Skills are so built in to western education and most kids are socialized and subconsciously raised thinking of these things, to the extent that I think we may overlook the necessity to spend time directly covering these concepts. All of the sudden, I found myself reviewing my own lesson on Decision Making when trying to decide in March if I was going to stay until September. For one of the first times in my life I really understood my Goals and Dreams, and what exactly I needed to do in order to accomplish them. Beyond the individual level, I realized how important all of these skills and concepts are to success of TFFT and any organization, and I saw these different elements at work. Ironically enough, I was learning and truly understanding the very same lessons that I was teaching to the kids. From this I took away: never take for granted something you are sure that you already know, and don’t be afraid to re-examine something which has long been internalized within your thought process.

The first time I came to Tanzania was in 2009 as a volunteer for Support for International Change, teaching about HIV/AIDS at schools in the community. I was sure when I finished that program and came home that I wanted to dedicate my career to fighting HIV/AIDS, perhaps directing an organization like UNAIDS. I’ll always have a personal connection to this cause and continue HIV/AIDS programs as I am now, but TFFT has helped me to realize and focus my desire to work with kids and in the education sector. My time here has allowed me to learn so much about the discrepancies in the education system, problems I intend to address when I can eventually start my own NGO. TFFT has given me an insight and experience that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and was a huge step forwards in achieving the goals that I have set for myself.

Both times I have come to Tanzania have been with Support for International Change, the first time as a volunteer and the second time as a Program Coordinator. During the two months I was here as a volunteer and 3 months as a coordinator I felt like the biggest impact transgressing was that which others were having on me and how my life being affected as a result. Not until recently, during Full Circle second term, did I realize and come to understand the potential impact I may be having on others. Talking to our kids after they didn’t meet their expectations academically and felt like they failed. Trying to refocus them on how they can improve both academically and psychologically, trying to maintain their self-esteem and to make sure they know success can’t be given or taken away by teachers but can only by proven by how hard they work and if they believe in themselves and adapt new study habits and work together with their teachers and their friends.

This was a big turning point for me: Academic Progress Day walking around Usa River Academy individually with Julieth, Sophia, Rosemary, Ashura and Paulina. Letting them explain what they really thought the problem was and why they struggled. Hearing from Ashura that she uses the diary I gave her to help her on bad days and to write down her secret thoughts, along with goals and dreams so she can keep track of them. To see a definite change in the confidence and emotional expression of our kids. To see the kids realize that their emotional well-being could be affecting their academic performance and to watch them grow throughout the year.

There are so many things I will never forget and so many memories. Taking the secondary students to Nkoaranga Orphanage for community service projects; the “Together We Can Make It” mural they painted and seeing them care for the babies and help the mamas. The Girls Empowerment Workshop with class 4-6; and seeing Ashura lead the other girls in the “We Can Do It” pasha. Making the Dream Tree with class 1-3, where Yusuph told everyone “My name is Yusuph and I am beautiful”. Holding hands with Rachel and Rose as we walk into the Dream Clinic for their checkups. Coming on a Saturday and making hygiene posters with Sophia, Julieth, Paulina, Miriam and Rosemary, without even needing to ask for their help. Hearing Rosemary tell me “I don’t think I can be first in my class. But I’m going to be first in the Full Circle Program. I know I can do it”. And then to actually see her achieve it. Giving Student of the Week certificates to students who could never expect it and thought they could never be anything in class; to see the smile of surprise, disbelief and pride on Neema Samson’s face. Julieth’s smile, Esther’s giggle, Rosemary’s laugh. Sarah’s greetings from afar, Sophia’s trust, Nicemary’s ambition. It’s so much to leave behind and so much to look forward to. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of our students. These kids have all the potential in the world, they just need a voice of reason to remind them that their futures lie beyond the boundaries of school; within the choices they make, the goals they set, and most importantly the vision of themselves that they hold within and project to others. A hand to hold is not always enough, they need to be listened to and challenged to understand themselves before they can know what to expect from themselves. They need to cry freely and let go of pain which they’ve bottled up, instead of hiding it behind a nervous smile or playful anxiety. They need to know that they have the ability to change the circumstances of their lives, and that they are the only ones who have control of that.

I think this is the greatest lesson I have learned in my time here. You can only help someone to realize what they are capable of doing, but that is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. You can’t expect a kid to succeed without any self-confidence, and you can’t expect them to have that confidence until they know and believe in themselves. They need to know that they should be working hard in order to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves, not to avoid scold and disappointment. I’ve realized how critical it is to focus on praise and positive reinforcement, and to always keep encouraging. If you’re looking to build a self-esteem which never even knew where to start for children that never had the chance to grow up with these lessons, first they need to know that it is possible to feel good about themselves. I hope that these lessons resonated with our kids, and I can’t wait to come back and see how far they’ve come.