Matching Reality With Practice

A chance encounter on the teeming streets of Sor, Saint-Louis, this afternoon, with a retired teacher trainer in the region, Mr. Saliou. I have spoken wtih Mr. Saliou several times over the last number of months, and his sobriety about the actual situation on the ground, his genuine concern for the plight of the under-equipped, undertrained, and under-supported teachers of Senegal (as a proxy for the realities of most of the developing world). Our conversation quickly turned from customary pleasantries to the inappropriateness of most of what comprises teacher training in this country. The focus on ICT, on advanced skills and technologies; a complete mismatch for the simple, concrete, and practical needs of these professionals.

The problem is simple.

Teachers are people. People need to feel valued, need to feel incentivized, need to feel comfortable, in order to push themselves, to challenge themselves. Teaching is inherently an insular job; little oversight, little support; autonomy can truly cultivate the best and worst of individuals.

So much of what gets branded as support, training, and development is nothing but lip service. Structures remain insular, hierarchal, resistant to change, and decrepit. Innovation and initiative stifled. The problem lies with complexity. We see increasing complexity as the answer to our fundamental questions. However, we need a radically different response. In this realm, complexity is the enemy of progress. Simple is better.

What we must do, as training professionals and as development professionals, is thus give the simple, clear, concise, concrete, practical tools that these teachers need, to have the best chance of them *actually being used in the classroom. *Changing behavior is difficult in the best of circumstances; thus, our challenge is how to incentivize change with little to no resources. The answer lies in making in the teachers' interest to change, by making their lives easier and more pleasant through this change...