As I reflect back on the last two months spent in Tanzania, I find myself trying to define success. With our LTP work, there is no big finished product that we built over time and our group really will never know if the teachers we taught embraced our method of learning or abandoned it to continue rote chalkboard ‘learning.’ Education has no scoreboard, there’s no number scale to calculate your impact as a teacher and no report back months or years later that automatically tells you how much of an influence you had on the students and teachers. Although tests are education’s judge of knowledge and understanding, they are not a grading scale for a teacher and how much success and influence teachers had on each individual. Tests can only give the answers to the questions you ask and for LTP and my Duke Engage experience, no matter how many tests I give out or questions I ask, I will never understand how meaningful it was for the students and teachers I taught, and I will never know exactly what they gained from our time together.
What is the full impact of the time I spent in Tanzania?
Although I leave Tanzania still wondering about the answer to this question, our final LTP exhibition reminded me of why LTP is such a unique teaching method and why it is so rewarding.
On our second to last day, I stood at Meru Primary School greeting over 600 students and teachers. Smiling faces walked past, accompanied by waves, hellos, handshakes, and hugs. With each person I struggled to connect a name with a face. Despite my lack of memory, this was still a moment of realization of the impact and success of my time in Tanzania. I realized I knew something more personal than the name of each individual. As people arrived to the exhibition, with each student and teacher, I saw a story, a memory, or a personality originating from their LTP project.
· A boy who dreamed of being a pilot
· The values of a Tanzanian proverb
· An artist who could draw a scene like you were actually there
· The ferocious look of a lion
· The memories of a home story
· Advice to prevent HIV
· And so many more.
LTP gave me the chance to see each person as an individual rather than another face in the blur of the crowd. Both my personal success and LTP’s success is brought to light by these memories. As a teacher these memories would have never been possible using only a chalkboard. Because of LTP I was able to learn more about students personally and create a memorable learning experience for both myself and the students.
Coming to Tanzania I knew I would not meet the end result of successfully integrating LTP into the Tanzanian school system. My goal from the start was, as a group, take LTP to the next level in Tanzania. I am proud I played a part in being a stepping stone for continued future progress and success, and I leave Tanzania confident our Duke Engage group left a positive impact on the teachers and students we worked with.