The challenge I’ve been dealing with is one that is likely familiar to anyone who’s ever taught, whether it’s kindergartners in the States, English lessons to 10-year olds in Mongolia, or high school chemistry: designing the lesson plan.
While it’s possible to research what sort of content ought to be used, or what lessons are the most important, it’s always difficult to know how your ideas will be perceived, whether or not your teaching styles will be deemed appropriate. I think back to when I led the Learning Center at the Boys and Girls Club, and remember the terrible feeling when you open your mouth to start a lesson in front of a group of kids, and suddenly realize, “Oh crap, this is not going to work at all.”
I also remember being surprised when certain program elements went quite well (like teaching basic magic tricks), and being super disappointed when cool ideas I had failed (like using K’nex to try and construct your own version of the Eiffel Tower). While I found that over time I could better predict which sort of lessons were likely to be a hit, it’s ultimately very tough to know until you start the lesson, and see how your students respond.
I am especially nervous about the work I am doing now, because despite all the reading I’ve been doing, I feel like I don’t really know my target audience. I know that the woman my organization works with business owners in Northern Kenya, that some live in settled villages while others in nomadic ones, that very few of them are literate, and several other basic characteristics. However, when thinking in the abstract, it’s very tough to imagine how your work will actually be perceived. I’ve been reading best practices, but they only seem to be occasionally useful. For instance, the International Labor Organization’s financial development training module includes, in the context of dealing with illiterate women, the following counsel: “Encourage them to learn how to read, write and calculate.” Really ILO? That’s your advice? I’m sure the one obstacle facing illiterate people around the world is that no one has told them that there might be some value in an education.
That being said, I have found some useful sources that I hope will allow me to piece together some interesting training modules. My first session is set to be focused around using savings to grow business and to manage risk and how businesses should distribute profits. I’ve been pulling bits and pieces out from various modules developed by NGOs and think I have a workable product, but ultimately, it’s tough to know until the day the instructor is in front of the group, and opens their mouth to begin.