We all know about this monster that invaded the world, COVID-19.We were and are still being affected. I was still planning for the rest of the year before the borders closed and travelling became blocked, not to mention the lockdowns and curfews that ensued. I had secured my internship at the beginning of March, as logistical support for the upcoming African Leadership Academy’s(ALA) ALAforEducation Team; who were working both on a Master Teacher Programme and on their annual network gathering.
As ALA was quickly working to readapt to the new circumstances under the pandemic, they developed the Global Summer Short Courses. These Courses would serve as 2 week long virtual learning programs facilitated by recent graduates of ALA, who as a result of the lockdown, were still stuck on campus and needed valuable work experience. My internship was focused on putting together an online Teacher Training and Recruitment process for this program. My assigned tasks were primarily the following.
- Organizing a four-day intensive teacher training program for students with no previous experience.
- Delivering the training to approximately 50-60 people.
- Designing an assessment tool for the final mock lesson that will determine who the last 40 intern teachers will be.
- Providing feedback and support to the teachers throughout their teaching experience in July.
The course was relevant as I am impassioned with education and teacher training. Besides, it served as my capstone project which is a prerequisite to successfully completing the final year at the African Leadership University ( ALU). My obligation was to contemplate the essential skills of facilitation that could be delivered remotely within four days.
Below are highlights of lessons learnt in the process.
I enjoyed an opportunity to reiterate lessons from my education seminar course and previous work experience. However, when it came to logistics, the number of students per session and thinking about time was quite challenging for me. Thankfully my manager came up with a great solution. I liked the fact that each session was 45 mins only and that we had facilitators handling a small number of students for maximum interaction, thus creating impact. Thinking through every aspect of the program, anticipating challenges that may arise in the classroom is another crucial step in preparation. For example, at some point in the training session, I lost internet connection, and there was someone who stepped in to assist.
Another aspect of preparation is mastering the tools that you’ll be using. In our case the Zoom tools, as simple as sharing a screen or a video.
Communication is key
This is something that applies across all fields, especially when it comes to working with a team. We had a WhatsApp group which we had updates from the different aspects of the program—constant updates which made things work efficiently. My manager was always accessible on WhatsApp, I could easily reach out to her whenever I had challenges in the course of the programme. She created an atmosphere of accessibility which made things easier for me.
The Team Is Everything
We had a fantastic team from Thaksheel who worked round the clock to ensure that the zoom logistics were in order. From Ouli, Kalliope, Abby, Mr. Matt and Sir. Dave, just to mention a few, there was a great collaboration in providing that everything was in order. I think this speaks to the organisational culture at ALA, everyone being easily approachable and accessible made the whole program successful.
I loved how in our second part of the training program we transitioned from having afternoon sessions to having all sessions in the morning. This was a significant change as morning hours are ideal for work and my wifi.
Classroom learning Mood
A key thing I learnt while I facilitated and watched some of my students facilitate is your energy as a teacher is reflected in your students. If you are excited and happy, the students will give you back some of that excitement. Be you and your students will feel free to be themselves. One of my school faculty told me that “I make a fool of myself at the beginning of the classroom to make it a safe space for my students because I understand their different contexts”. Normalising awkwardness and discomfort, making your students feel free. Of course, there are many ways to do this, and there is no one action that fits all.
Teaching on Zoom is not easy, especially if it’s your first time. Practice helps there is no other way around it. I was very nervous at the beginning of my sessions, questioning everything that I was doing, but I had very engaging students who made things easier for me.
However, what helped me most was knowing that the classroom activities had to be synchronous with the learning goals as well as engaging. Even with all the doubts in my head, I knew why and what I was doing. In those 45 mins sessions each minute was accounted for, the students had to be actively engaged throughout. The aim was to ensure that my students get the maximum benefit from each activity and session.
In conclusion, it was such a fulfilling experience. Being the first time that ALA was running the programme, it turned out great. Our trained facilitators did a great job in their facilitation , a reflection of the effectiveness of the training programme. Everything goes back to the amazing team, the effective communication, the great preparation and our awesome enthusiasm. Running online teaching sessions is not easy but with the right tools and team, nothing is impossible. It is such experiences that make me find joy and fulfilment in having a career in the education sector.