Next week I am off to South Africa to do some voluntary work in The Ark Christian School. I am going as part of a team from the Rata Teachers' Support. Several months ago we got together in Cambridge to plan what we would do over there. We have a team going to Cape Town and a new group going to Ghana.
We will be working with teachers and leaders to build their teaching skills. This will include working with the teachers from The Ark and running a conference for local teachers. Developing an understanding of needs for learners in the 21st century is as important in South Africa as anywhere. How can we support teachers to build student skills in literacy and numeracy while also building their ability to think critically and creatively?
Why am I going?
We all have a role in supporting others. Organisational psychologist Wilf Jarvis, describes one level above self actualisation in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He talks about the importance of self transcendence - the willingness to think beyond your own needs and to help others. This is something I want to get better at - to practice empathic leadership. I am very conscious on this trip that my main role will be listening to what The Ark teachers want, how they view the world and how they see us supporting them. I know so little of their world so it is a good chance to practice active listening and ask inquiring questions!
In a past life I was a teacher and principal. I was (and still am) constantly talking about the needs of learning for the future and what competencies students might need in order to thrive. In particular, risk taking stands out as important in this journey. Teachers talk about the need for their students to take risks but very rarely take any risks themselves, let alone expect it of their students. Teaching is a risk averse profession, so I guess when I left it I took a risk! This trip to South Africa is about me giving to others and growing from the experience. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the best way to grow so that is what I am going to do and if it encourages even one other person to get uncomfortable - that's great too!
In preparation for my trip I have been reading many books, exploring the internet, talking to those who have been to the Ark previously and thinking a lot about how I may be able to contribute. The following TED Talk by Patrick Awuah provided me with some insight. Although Patrick is from Ghana I believe there are many common ideas for South Africa and indeed for the world. Check it out for yourself.
Patrick says. "We must believe that these kids are smart...If we give them skills to engage the real world that magic will happen." This requires strong leadership that is based in sound ethical behaviour and a vision for the future.
If one small pebble makes a ripple in the water, doesn't that make a difference? I believe so. I don't think that is niave - I think that is hope.
So over the next three weeks join me on the journey.