Head of School Blog

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

" We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience."

–John Dewey

Reflecting on Reflections

I arrived yesterday in Kigali, Rwanda, joining a team of educators, sponsored by the Annapolis non-profit Connect Rwanda. We visited the APACOPE School today, where, over the next three weeks, we will observe; collaborate with teachers on student-centered approaches to teaching and learning; and offer teacher training. In our opening meeting, teachers of APACOPE who made similar visits to schools in the states over the past two years, including St. Anne’s School, shared how their teaching has evolved through their Connect Rwanda exchange. Connect Rwanda aims to bring technology to Rwandan classrooms and to promote teacher growth and cultural understanding through collaboration. Several of the teachers at our meeting began by sharing the critical ways increased use of technology has promoted student centered instruction.

 “There is so much content [available to students] now,” Science teacher Emile shared. “[Before] I was the one who, as their teacher, ‘knew everything.’” He acknowledged the stress accompanying that perception of the teacher’s role. “Now, they know I’m human. When they have a question, they go, we go together, and research. I say, go then, do the research and bring what you can show us!” Bernard added, “It is a new mindset.”  

 The APACOPE faculty said that some of the new methods they’re using “make use of students’ curiosities,” fuel engagement, and promote meaning.  Emile said, “Now, they are doing research themselves, and even during holidays!” French instructor Constantine said, ”My lessons become true. The image is reality.” Nepo observed that in the schools he visited, students and teachers sat together and discussed topics. He characterized the corresponding, important shift in relationships he’s seen in his classroom as he’s employed more discussion, saying “No longer is it ‘students as foreigners;’ it is “students as friends.’ Students feel freer and so they collaborate.”

 Engagement and meaning-making, first-hand research and relationship building—the reflections of the teachers who had visited the states spoke to basic tenets of student-centered learning. Reflection is fundamental to learning and to teaching. It also requires humility. The Rwandan colleagues’ candid sharing, and the opportunity I had to reflect on their reflections, made for a wonderful learning experience on day one of this adventure!