In 2018, through the IATEFL Global Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG), I have been actively involved in the initiation and delivery of a remote teacher support programme with teachers in Senegal. The aim of this project is to build cooperative professional relationships across continents and to share classroom experiences to support learning in our very different teaching contexts.
Through the social media platform WhatsApp I work with a group of three teachers from a secondary school in Dakar. Each month we share media, resources and ideas on a range of topics of mutual interest. The average class size at my partners’ school is around 70 students, which is typical for urban areas across the country. In rural areas, this drops to a mere 48 students! Of course, working with these kinds of numbers doesn’t come without its challenges. Over the course of the project it has been fascinating to learn more about how my partners deal with issues such as participation, engagement, behaviour and assessment, and has definitely put my own classroom management issues into perspective.
In May I had the opportunity to travel to Senegal for the 3rd Africa TESOL Conference. During this visit, together with my colleagues from the IATEFL GISIG, I made several trips to our partners’ school to observe their teaching, provide informal feedback and interact with students. Meeting our partners face-to-face was an important step to build on existing relationships developed through the WhatsApp platform.
“Personally, I learned a lot from this project. With the WhatsApp training, I got some information about my partner’s context and its challenges. As for managing the project in my school, this increased my leadership skills, both on the sides of the students and the teachers.“
– Fatou, Senegal WhatsApp Project co-ordinator
“It was a real pleasure to be observed. I learned a lot from the feedback chat. Looking forward to more.”