Like all skills, teaching is one we can learn. But, it helps if we have a lot of energy, because teaching also requires considerable patience and a large dose of ingenuity. Sometimes, students are not focused on learning. Sometimes, the conditions in which the learning is supposed to happen are not ideal. Either way, a teacher needs a lot of resourcefulness to do the job at all. But to do a great job, there must be energy combined with imagination. This is passion. Without passion, teachers will not be role models for their students. I’m sure this is what most of us remember about our favorite teachers over the years; they were passionate about their subject and passionate about imparting it to us. I hear this idea about passion come up often when I talk to the graduate students from Malawi.
Meet Michael Simawo
Michael was born in Blantyre in the southern part of Malawi. He has taught in Blantyre, in Lunzu, and now teaches at the Teacher Training College in Machinga, alongside two other Lakeland graduate students, Phillip Nachonie (who we met last week) and Elymas Tembwe, whose profile on this blog is yet to come. Michael is married; his wife does part-time data collection work for various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and also helps care for Michael’s nieces and nephews. They are not the parents of any children of their own.
When we talked recently, one of the first things Michael told me is that he felt that there is still much to be done to better train teachers in Malawi. He hopes that a passion for teaching becomes one of the reasons young people choose teaching for their profession, not simply because there are many job openings for teachers in Malawi. He hopes that the training of teachers becomes more rigorous and of higher quality and that teachers are regularly monitored and assessed. He hopes that teachers will be dedicated to their students and work fervently to see these learners succeed.
The graduate classes are underway again, and Michael feels refreshed after a few days off and ready to dig into some new ideas with his cohort. The courses this term are Contemporary Philosophies of Education, Organization and Operation of American Education, a tutorial in reading called, Means for Mastery of Reading Pedagogy, and Educational Research and Evaluation.
As the term begins, Michael is looking forward to start reviewing the literature for his thesis project. He plans to research the effects of incorporating various teaching resources into the curriculum, for example, name cards, flash cards, and other print resources. He wants to determine what kinds of resources are most effective and then work to get more of them in use in classrooms in Malawi. He said, “Keep in mind, this topic is grounded in the fact that in Malawi, teaching resources are very scarce.”
Michael explained to me that all of the M.Ed. students are proposing thesis topics now and will read the existing literature. Then back home, they will undertake what is called “action research.” This means that they will all be working at their regular jobs in the TTCs, teaching future primary school teachers, and simultaneously collecting and analyzing their thesis data. They have a lot of work ahead of them.
Michael envisions that someday he might be part of a team of literacy consultants for Malawi, people who could recommend solutions to schools and teachers who are having difficulties getting their kids to read. He wants children in Malawi, he says with great energy, “to learn to read so that later, on their own, they can read to learn.”
Regarding this, Michael is quite passionate.