Thank You for Teaching Us
Winter in Wisconsin this year can’t decide if it will go or stay, so from past experience we know this is a sure sign of spring. It is March, and as our graduate students enjoy slightly warmer days, they remain focused on their coursework and preparations to return to Malawi. Their time in Wisconsin will be over in just three short months.This post highlights a variety of news from the past three weeks.
Professors Elzinga and Frink journeyed to Malawi over Lakeland’s spring break (March 9-15) to attend to administrative details related to the program. While there, they secured office space for the program, hired a research mentor to work with the graduate students when they collect data for their theses, researched sources for school supplies, and met with USAID and other officials
On Thursday, March 19, the grade school students at Longfellow Elementary School held a going away party for their Malawian teachers. As described in the most recent blog post, the graduate students had worked with the children at Longfellow for nine weeks, using a variety of reading strategies that they will incorporate into their teaching practices at the Teacher Training Colleges when they return home.
As part of the festivities, the Longfellow children created special folders and bookmarks for each teacher, and the Malawians brought traditional foods to share with the children: nsima (corn meal), rice, beef stew, and cabbage.
I asked the children as they sat with their Malawian teachers at the party to tell me some of the favorite things they had experienced in their reading groups. Their answers included: “I liked the animal cards,” “I liked the guessing games,” and “I will never forget Bertha’s hugs!”
I then asked what they had learned from their African teachers, and the students said, “Every sentence has words in it,” “Words are made from letters,” and “Elephants don’t sweat.”
One little girl said she used to read slowly, but now she can read faster. When I asked the class, “What is one thing you would like to share with your teacher from Malawi?” a boy said, “Thank you for teaching us.”
Geralyn Leannah, one of the cooperating reading specialists at Longfellow School and an instructor for the course, “Instructional Strategies,” wrote a lovely summation of her observations of the Malawian graduate students:
As long as I live I will never forget the teachers from Malawi who came to study at Lakeland College this past year. These 9 individuals have become masters at the craft of teaching reading, and have shown remarkable courage, integrity and determination.
First, they left their homes and families, committing to 12 months away in a foreign place. Then, they threw themselves into intense study and research with very few breaks, reading and writing well into each and every night. Next, they endured harsh weather, alien to their experience: the snow, endlessly overcast skies and bitter cold of Wisconsin winters. Then, as part of their studies, the Malawian teachers took on 30 elementary school students, practicing reading strategies together for nine weeks. Tight bonding ensued.
Through it all, they demonstrated humor, wisdom and wit in the face of change and unfamiliar circumstances. Clearly, the Lakeland College students from Malawi are extraordinary human beings and their country's greatest asset.