Schools Without Trained Teachers are Just Empty Buildings

Beth Mollenhauer

An international NGO, Teaching Training Together (TTT) was founded in 2011 to train teachers and school leaders to improve student learning. According to TTT President Beth Mollenhauer, what started with a simple interview with a Haitian school leader morphed into a staff-led, board governed non-profit organization that provides initial training through professional development seminars to underserved teachers and school leaders in low and middle-income nations.

In 2011, a fact led US-based team of educators dared to ask a Haitian school leader if there was anything they could do to help. His response was simple, that his teachers needed training. As Teachers Training Teachers, the team created their first professional development seminar of approximately 10 modules written in French and English to a dedicated group of 25 Haitian educators. The program was developed collaboratively with the Haitian school staff. In 2013, TTT concluded that the success and reception of these seminars could benefit more Haitian educators. Their new goal was to reach more educators, but they quickly realized that in order to do this, they would require a significant number of instructors and interpreters. The TTT team unanimously agreed that they would not become an organization for “sending” people who wanted to serve in places like Haiti, instead TTT would focus on the business of training teachers and school leaders. Transitioning into a non-profit organization (Teaching Training Together), they finalized their professional development program to consist of three seminars delivered over one academic year. From 2017-2018 they invested time and money to professionally film the instructor portion to eliminate the need of interpreters. The content of the training includes video segments alongside alternating workshops throughout the module. The content is standardized, and the video segments allow participants to join a simulated seminar with the voice of a consistent English-speaking instructor and dubbed for a French program. The participant manuals are interactive and contain photos, graphics, and other tools for experiential learning opportunities.

In order to train more teachers and school leaders, TTT created a certification program for qualified nationals to become facilitators who could then guide participants through the workshops; thus, TTT uses a train the trainer model. Trained facilitators circulate among table groups, aided by the local language and dialect while participants discuss, ask questions and work to complete tasks. TTT drafted three operational booklets in order to deliver an evidence based and contextualized seminar experience. The organization moved to solicit partners in Haiti and in other French or English-speaking areas around the world. Additionally, TTT initiated a scholarship program to seek interested and qualified persons to launch TTT in their communities. They developed a seven-week remote training program to train certified partners, if awarded the scholarship. A scholarship allows a partner to train 30 participants per year, over three years. Today TTT operates in six countries including Ghana, Haiti, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire with plans to launch new partners in Tanzania, Cameroon, Rwanda, and Kenya in 2022-2023. Their goal is to train over 7,000 school leaders and teachers by 2024.

How the TTT Program Works

TTT believes that school leaders and teachers can be more effective when they receive initial training through professional development. Their aim is to improve both the quantity and quality of professional development for school leaders and teachers in order to improve student learning. The program is sequentially organized with high completion rates and provides participants with theory, ideas, methods, and techniques—the tools to allow educators to become more effective. The teachers leave the program with competence, confidence, and enthusiasm to become more effective in a 45:1 teacher student ratio, with the teacher viewing his/her job as a career.

The TTT Program is led by professionally trained facilitators who have a mastery of the program and a deep contextual understanding. The target audience are teachers and school leaders. Seminars are delivered over one academic year with trainings typically held before the start of an academic term. The trainings are delivered throughout the academic year and take advantage of the holiday breaks in order to allow teachers to immediately practice and implement what they have learned. There are approximately eight to twelve weeks between seminars 1-3.  TTT works with schools and accommodates local schedules as much as possible.

TTT provides educators with three professional development seminars taught over an academic year, for a total of six days of instruction. The six teacher modules give teachers a solid foundation in the basics of how to teach any curriculum or discipline with simplified information found at the undergraduate level in nations such as the US and France. The modules focus on the method of the gradual release of responsibility to guide students through direct instruction, guided practice, and independent practice for any topic. TTT provides school leaders with three one day professional development seminars over the course of one academic year. The three essential tools for school leaders taught in three leader modules, equip school leaders with research-based perspectives about collaboration among educators so that a school can foster a culture of improvement. The entire school faculty attend the seminars together with the school leaders attending all of the teachers’ modules so that the leaders can understand what the teachers are learning. The school leaders are provided three specific tools to support the growth and development of the teachers who have attended the seminars. This is TTT’s follow up method to ensure that the teachers are using what they are taught by passing on the accountability to the school leaders. TTT seeks to partner with schools that have their same vision for education.

Participants earn a Certificate of Completion. The certificate program demonstrates their attendance and successful completion of the content of the modules. In order to earn a TTT Certificate of Attendance for the three days, a participant registers each morning before the seminar begins and is present until the completion of each seminar. To earn a TTT Certificate of Completion and a TTT lapel pin, a participant meets the requirements of the Certificate of Attendance for each of the three seminars. No financial compensation is provided to teachers for their participation.

Speaking to TTT President Beth Mollenhauer about whether their seminars work for teachers with a high student-teacher ratio she commented,

“We’ve taken the number 45:1 as an average, although we know that the number is higher than that. We come from a place of humility to imagine that there are some teachers with 80 students or with few materials. Our intention is to share the timeless truths, strategies, methods, and techniques in education with the teachers because something is better than nothing. Just being underserved is unacceptable. So, in instances where there is an 80:1 ratio, a teacher in the TTT program learns of a technique such as “turn and talk” in which a teacher could pose a question for students to turn toward a partner to share their response to the question. Can you imagine forty pairs of students responding to a question when classroom teaching is near impossible? It’s one example of a possible step toward a more effective learning environment.”

Some of the challenges that the TTT program faces include the historical norms of traditional teaching where students regurgitate what the teacher says. They focus on breaking down this barrier in their first module on the role of the teacher. One piece of advice Beth has for school leaders and teachers is to focus on the community of collaboration which centers on the benefits of collegiality among school leaders. She commented, “Both school leaders and teachers are a community of learners, and school leaders should have a willingness to collaborate among other school leaders. School leaders are then able to share resources, ideas and comradery on their best practices that can help one another for the sake of their schools.”

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