Project Overseas celebrates 50 years of helping teachers
Barbara MacDonald Moore, Canadian Teachers’ Federation
This year, not only did Project Overseas celebrate its 50th anniversary, it also ran successful teacher-education programs in 13 countries during July and August.
Project Overseas teams of Canadian teachers, along with cotutors from partnering countries, promoted child-centred themes and provided sessions on peace education, literacy, gender equality and special education.
Thanks to CTF member organizations, of which the Alberta Teachers’ Association is one, 53 Canadians from across Canada worked alongside cotutors to provide inservice to 1,400 colleagues and to engage the interest of ministries of education, Canadian diplomats, the media and the public.
The core of CTF’s international programs remains strong. CTF continues to partner with overseas teacher organizations that are recognized as the voice of teachers in those countries. Professional development services provide undertrained members with skills to deliver high-quality education in diverse and challenging situations. CTF international cooperation responds to teachers’ changing needs and adapts to local situations by enhancing the skills and confidence of teachers in marginalized areas of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association provides full funding for the participation of ten Alberta teachers.
To apply for Project Overseas, visit the ATA website (www.teachers.ab.ca) under About the ATA/International Assistance. For more information, contact Karin Champion at the ATA by telephone at 780-447-9435 (in Edmonton) or 1-800-232-7208 (toll-free from elsewhere in the province) or by e-mail at email@example.com. The application deadline is Friday, October 26, 2012.
For more information about Project Overseas, visit CTF’s website (www.ctf-fce.ca).
Barbara MacDonald Moore is the director of CTF’s international programs.
In solidarity with our Liberian colleagues
I was blessed with the opportunity to participate with Team Liberia 2012. Liberia, located in West Africa, has a unique history. The country was never colonized by European powers—it was founded in 1847 by freed slaves from America.
Cameron Archer (front), CTF team members and National Teachers’ Association of Liberia staff and executive observed Liberian Independence Day at Blue Lake, Liberia.
This year was the third and final phase of an inservice teacher training program in partnership with the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia. Education is valued in Liberia but the profession of teaching isn’t. This is one reason why there’s a shortage of qualified teachers. Added to this is the fact that Liberian teachers must contend with large classes and limited resources. Despite this, teachers joyfully give their all to students.
I learned much from my Liberian teacher colleagues. Working with them made me proud of our profession and aware that we work in solidarity, not only with teachers in Alberta and Canada, but with teachers around the world.
Inclusive education and lost boys test Jamaica
Sun, sand and beaches.
Graduation picture of students attending the Montego Bay Summer Institute on Special Education, Jamaica.
Though Jamaica certainly has all of these in abundance, there’s more to this tiny nation than tourists usually see. Spending three weeks working on a Project Overseas (PO) mission gave me the opportunity to experience both the richness and challenges of this Caribbean nation.
I spent my first week in Kingston, with members of the Jamaican Teachers’ Association, which is a powerhouse in the Caribbean community. We had the good fortune to visit special education projects there. The most amazing one was at an early childhood head-start program in the heart of a ghetto, where children receive excellent nourishment for their minds, bodies and souls. Because of this program, these children begin their education at the same level as other students, rather than with huge, almost insurmountable, deficits. We spent the remaining two weeks in Montego Bay, working with our Jamaican cotutors and delivering a workshop on special education to 120 teachers.
A major difficulty facing Jamaica is its large population of lost boys—young males who lack purpose and a place in society. Living in poverty and without hope for a better future, the boys join gangs and commit crimes at an early age. The challenge for the education system is to inspire them to become responsible and productive citizens.
The PO experience allowed us to work collaboratively with our Jamaican peers in addressing educational issues and exchanging our knowledge of and experience with special education. PO is an extraordinary professional growth experience for Canadian teachers, our cotutors and workshop participants.
Africa never leaves you
My colleagues and I spent a few days in Accra, Ghana’s capital, for orientation and planning before our two-day journey north to Navrongo, where we assisted in training 40 teachers to help beginning teachers adapt to the profession and its challenges.
Three girls attend class at African Faith Primary School, in Berekum.
It’s difficult for me to comprehend the challenges facing Ghana’s teachers—poor accommodations, sanitation and water supply, and large classes with few resources. Schools around Accra are better equipped, but in rural areas, where most teachers begin their careers, teaching and living conditions are dismal.
We developed a resource manual and practical strategies to help beginning teachers cope with a myriad of challenges. For example, one participant asks: “How do I motivate my pupils?” A Canadian replies: “Make your lessons more interesting.” The Ghanaian says: “You realize that I am a primary teacher with 80 pupils from all ability levels and an age range of several years?”
We spent a week in Tamale, a large town in the north of the country, presenting workshops before moving on to Berekum, a city in the west, for a week. We learned much along the way, which positively influenced our presentations. At each destination, a tree planting ceremony commemorated Project Overseas 50th anniversary. We were so busy that days and evenings flew by and we had little time for sightseeing.
Each workshop was attended by about 240 participants and 30 cotutors and support staff. I was impressed by how the Ghana National Association of Teachers handled the logistics, and was captivated by the strength and unity of the teachers we met. I’m also impressed with the Ghanaians’ abilities, dedication and resilience. The cotutors were brilliant and I visited their classes whenever I could.
Project Overseas was rewarding and helpful to me as a teacher. I encourage you to apply, but be warned—Africa will never leave you.
Enriched by Grenada
This summer, I was fortunate to be a part of Project Overseas Team Grenada. I travelled with five Canadian colleagues to the Caribbean to provide PD for 200 teachers from across Grenada, some of whom travelled more than two hours daily by bus on bad roads to participate in the program, which was cosponsored by the Grenadian Union of Teachers (GUT) and CTF.
Sherri Fricker gives a session on reading and writing instruction.
In Grenada no formal training is required to teach. Because the summer program provides teacher training, the program is oversubscribed every year, which speaks volumes about my colleagues who participated in past summer programs.
I teamed up with Natalie Pierre, a Grenadian reading specialist, to provide training in reading and writing instruction for 20 teachers. Natalie and I co-presented and facilitated learning activities for two weeks. The teachers were active participants and were eager to learn. They often didn’t want to leave at the end of the day’s lessons.
Sherri Fricker and workshop participant.
Throughout our time in Grenada, the GUT took great care of us. We were treated to local culinary specialties and tours of Grenada and the island of Carriacou.
My summer was indeed enriched by the connections I made with my Canadian and Grenadian teacher colleagues.
New-found friends and colleagues in Ghana
It’s exciting to be part of something new and different that’s also a half-century old. That’s exactly what I experienced this year working with CTF as Project Overseas (PO) celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Team Ghana 2012 and the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) worked together to provide workshops. Ghana has 10 regions (provinces); GNAT selects three to four regions every year to provide PD in 10 curricular areas ranging from senior administration to primary science. Teachers have an opportunity to attend a PD week every three years. There are 180,000 teachers in Ghana, but only 600 are selected each year from the three regions—200 each—to attend the week-long sessions.
This year, CTF developed a program for “new entrants” (beginning teachers). Beginning teachers in Ghana face stresses similar to those faced by teachers in Alberta. In addition, Ghanaian teachers have classes of anywhere between 45 and 110 students but few resources. They may live in a village located kilometres from the school where they teach and lack any transportation. In some cases, they may not even speak the local language.
The four PO members developed workshops that we then presented as models to regional youth coordinators and new entrants. Workshops addressed topics such as adapting to a new environment, classroom management, establishing a positive classroom environment, mentoring and strategies for solving local issues. Both the workshop content and processes entailed long hours of preparation, teaching and travel. We also helped develop the first draft of a new entrants’ handbook.
This experience provided another opportunity to serve teachers and to learn and understand new things. I came away with new-found friends and colleagues whom I continue to assist and learn from.
Challenges abound for teachers in Sierra Leone
Spending time in West Africa allowed me to see education, teaching and life from a new perspective. I was part of a team of six Canadian teachers that travelled to Sierra Leone, a country haunted by civil war and corrupt governments.
Workshop participants use bottle tops for math manipulatives and games.
Along with local cotutors, we conducted week-long inservices for 120 developing teachers, showing them how to interpret the syllabus, how to plan lessons according to a locally developed child-centred teaching technique framework and how to use a wider variety of instructional methodology. We also coordinated evening workshops on gender equity, classroom management, workshops presentation, computers and HIV/AIDS. It wasn’t all work—we planned two Canada Night celebrations where we introduced Canadian culture to teachers, cotutors and executive members of the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union.
Team members visited schools in Freetown.
For almost four weeks I worked with dedicated and inspiring teachers, many of whom spent countless hours collecting materials to teach math and science, creating their own teaching aids (posters and rulers) and dealing with abhorrent conditions, such as discrimination and late pay or no pay at all. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and teach in West Africa, and I know that what I taught them pales in comparison to what teachers in Sierra Leone taught me.
Training the trainers in Uganda
Simone Desilets and Charlene Saunders
“Train the Trainers” is the title of Project Overseas (PO) with Uganda. PO team members worked with African cotutors to plan a week of PD workshops for a group of primary school teachers in Hoima, a remote area with the lowest academic scores in the country. Ugandan educators’ careers are characterized by heavy teaching loads, few resources, poor salaries and high student–teacher ratios—the average classroom has 110 students.
Simone Desilets and a positive sign of change in Uganda.
Our workshops covered various subject areas but focused mainly on literacy and numeracy. The first week’s participants were to become trainers at their schools. Five of these participants were selected for the second week of instruction, so they could begin training the 100 teachers attending the second week. African cotutors took the lead delivering workshops. We were impressed by their level of confidence and felt great satisfaction in seeing them take on their new roles as trainers. They were keen to learn and expressed gratitude for our help.
Our efforts in Uganda will be multiplied as our trainers work in their respective schools this coming year. We were fortunate to see, firsthand, the value of Project Overseas’ mission—one that we feel compelled to continue and one that we urge all teachers to support in the future. We left Uganda in the knowledge that our mission was successful.
Le Togo : minuscule sur la carte de l’Afrique, mais vaste par sa chaleur humaine
Dès notre arrivée à Lomé nous savions que notre expérience dans ce pays serait extraordinaire!
La plage de Lomé dans toute sa splendeur!
Accueillies à l’aéroport par une délégation souriante, nous avons été immédiatement touchées par la sollicitude et la générosité des Togolais. Notre mission était de contribuer à l’amélioration de l’enseignement des mathématiques et des sciences au Togo grâce à nos stratégies pédagogiques canadiennes «gagnantes».
Du nord au sud, ce pays n’a cessé de nous impressionner. Ses cinq régions sont aussi différentes les unes des autres que nos provinces et territoires. Nous avons principalement travaillé au nord-est du pays, à Kara, avec des enseignants de l’élémentaire et du secondaire. De retour à Lomé, nous avons échangé avec un groupe d’inspecteurs nationaux afin qu’ils puissent, d’une part soutenir le travail des enseignants formés, et d’autre part veiller à ce que les nouvelles connaissances acquises soient mises en application dans les écoles.
Nos petits voisins de l’hôtel Excellence à Lomé.
Le sujet du VIH/sida et celui de l’équité des sexes (le droit des femmes à l’éducation!) ont été abordés et explorés. Le peuple du Togo a visiblement à cœur l’amélioration de ses conditions de vie et désire que la nouvelle génération grandisse au rythme mondial et connaisse un avenir florissant.
Notre travail, toujours fort agréable, a été ponctué de maintes excursions et découvertes artistiques ou culturelles guidées par des hôtes exceptionnels . Cette aventure nous a profondément marquées, remplies d’humilité et a changé à jamais notre façon d’appréhender la vie quotidienne nord-américaine.
Project Overseas marks 39th year in Grenada
This year, Project Overseas (PO) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since 1973, PO has worked in Grenada in the areas of organizational and professional development, leadership training and fellowships, and inservice training.
Team Grenada members and Grenadian cotutors take a break.
For 2012, the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) identified the need to develop teacher professional growth in the six following areas: numeracy, literacy, special education, computers, visual arts and crafts, and leadership and management.
Leadership and management were my areas of instruction. I focused on the theme “leading for learning”—building highly effective schools through collaboration and developing schoolwide best practices in instruction and assessment. Elementary and secondary school principals presented their leadership portfolios and provided evidence of their learning in leadership, instruction and assessment.
In total, 150 Grenadian teachers received 10 days of PD. In addition to instruction in the six content areas, team members offered instruction across all courses in multiple intelligences, classroom management, differentiated instruction, experiential learning, teaching strategies, education technology (application of Smart technology, if appropriate), Bloom’s Taxonomy, assessment, gender equity in the classroom and profession, and HIV/AIDS education.
In addition to workshops and instruction, Karan Spoelder, team member from the Northwest Territories, raised $3,800 to purchase local school supplies, such as laminators for each region, art supplies and books for each school.