Host Yasmine Vaughan speaks with three educators from Virginia and Texas on their experiences in participating in the Teachers’ Learning Collaborative with teacher-leaders from Sierra Leone. Sharon Gardner, from Grapevine, Texas, is the project lead teacher, and has been traveling to participate in Short Term Mission in Sierra Leone five times since 2016 years. Janie Williams is an elementary school teacher from Virginia. Janie has traveled three times since 2018. Melissa Herbleshimer, also from Virginia, is on her first short term mission.
The mission team discusses what it means to work in collaboration with local leaders in your field of expertise when you come from a different culture, and the similarities and differences in the work. The opportunity to come to Africa to teach summer school to children in an orphanage for a very short time period is different from what teachers do when they travel with HCW now. Now teachers work in collaboration with teachers in a different country to develop a train the trainer “in-service” for teachers in Sierra Leone. The team describes some of the concerns they had with whether what they had done previously actually helped, although the experiences the teachers on mission had were delightful. They explain how working with adults is a blessing that is even more exciting and rewarding than teaching summer school, because of a greater potential for the outcome of the work to bring about real change and help teachers to help their whole school system.
Although the teachers all agree that there is a special heartwarming experience in working with children that they personally cherish, they have found that working with adults in a collaborative workgroup from multiple cultures was equally heartwarming. The experience of sharing the struggle, brainstorming ideas, and navigating strong disagreements in a truly respectful and collaborative space has proven to be personally more transformative in the long term in their own lives.