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News & Press: Guest blog

Guest Blogpost: New campaign ahead of World Teachers Day

05 October 2019  
By Femi Awopetu at Bridge International Academies, Nigeria
Simon Ibitoye, teacher at Magbon Academy

We know that teaching is one of the most important professions in the world. Every teacher has the opportunity to shape the lives of tens of thousands of children over the course of their career.

In many countries, teachers are left isolated in remote communities where they are responsible for very overcrowded classrooms. Often, they have no teaching resources and struggle to understand the content they teach. Despite this they are expected to improve learning outcomes and lay the foundation for the prosperity of both their communities and countries.

Governments and multilaterals are focused on the urgent necessity of improving learning outcomes in their states and countries and meeting the targets set by SDG4. Yet, it isn’t reasonable to expect teachers to excel if they are not equipped to do so nor to expect learning outcomes to improve if those doing the teacher have little to no training, support or materials.

Bridge launches the #TeachersTransformLives campaign to celebrate teachers and advocate for better teacher training and professional development — showing how all teachers can be supported and empowered to succeed in the classroom. We hope that the campaign will draw attention to and create a platform for teachers at the front line of education in impoverished communities across Africa and Asia, so they can tell their own stories of success, and transformation.

The campaign starts today, 3 October, and is designed to coincide with UN World Teachers Day 2019, the theme of which is Young Teachers: The future of the Profession.

The teachers in this campaign, drawn from schools across six countries, share their stories of how they are motivated and empowered and turning their classrooms into springboards for success.

Here is the first story of the campaign, by teacher Simon Ibitoye in Lagos, Nigeria.

I’ve been working in education for many years and I’ve been trying to get the best out of my pupils but sometimes it was hard. Even though I have been a teacher since 2003, I believe that I have only seen the full potential of my pupils since taking part in the ongoing teacher training in my school.

The reason I wanted to become a teacher was because of the love of the subject I had at university. Witnessing the dedication of my professors inspired me to go down a similar path. There’s no greater feeling in the world than knowing that you have helped your pupils.

I think the teacher training that I now have has made me see the limits of my previous teaching. It was not exciting for me to be teaching and I just did the same things over and over. I would simply relay a set of information to my pupils and expect them to instantly understand what I had just said. I would also expect pupils to read alone from their sharing textbooks and answer questions and do activities by themselves all the time, to test their understanding. This was counterproductive, as it didn’t make me really talk with my pupils to fully understand which subject areas my pupils may be struggling with and my pupils did not talk with each other. I was mainly talking at the front of the classroom and we did not have good relationships. I used to lecture, now I engage.

Before joining Magbon Academy, I undertook a teacher training programme. At first it was daunting, it was a whole different experience to what I was used to, and I was a student again, but it was worth it. I learnt new things every day, especially to have a positive relationship with the children and make the lessons about them. Now my training continues every week; I have feedback and support from people in my school and people that come to help me. So, I am always growing in how I am teaching.

I learned so many new teaching techniques which have helped to make my lessons a lot more interactive and child focused.

For example, I learnt to ‘check and respond’ to pupils in order to maintain a dialogue, so that the pupil can see he may be lagging behind. ‘Checking’ requires me to ask inquisitive questions of the pupils which will show what content may be somewhat challenging. ‘Responding’ is important because that means to reply to pupils’ questions as well as their written work, so I can give feedback on what steps can be taken to improve.

Another one I learnt about was how to motivate pupils. The reason it’s so important to motivate pupils is that it encourages them to work harder both in and outside of the classroom. When pupils are motivated, I can see them coming alive and really taking in the lesson. It certainly makes my job as a teacher easier.

The way that I motivate my pupils is through positive reinforcements. When a pupil gets an answer correct, I always ensure that I praise them so that they are aware of the good work they have done. However, if a pupil answers something incorrectly, I still praise them for the courage they have shown in responding to my question. I simply show them that I have the belief that they can find the answer by asking them to try again. Now they have no fear of trying. In schools before I might have used a cane but now i know that does not help me engage with the children or the children learn.

I have also learnt the important role that all pupils play in helping less confident pupils in believing in themselves. Through my training, I learnt about a class cheer that all pupils can participate in to encourage their fellow classmates. If a pupil acknowledges that their friends believe that they can succeed, this helps the pupil to have self-belief and to try again. This is of vital importance not only for pupils’ academic progression, but also to be able to enhance key social skills that will benefit them in later life.

Overall, the new teaching techniques have made me change my lessons so pupils appear more active and doing things. They are more engaged than at my previous schools where I was alone with no training or feedback to help me. The results are very astonishing. My pupils are excited to attend lessons and they all support one another. I am teaching better now. Each day, I know it is good and I am happy to be walking to my school.

To learn more about the campaign and how you can support the voices of teachers, please visit this page, or search #TeachersTransformLives

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