As I try to write this reflection, I am frustrated. I type a beginning sentence, and then I erase it. I’m worried that I’m not doing it right. Is this right?
I have seen this exact emotion on the faces of many students and teachers throughout our first month in Arusha. We ask an open-ended question about what might be going on in a photo and are met with quiet stares; someone hands the camera to me after timidly taking a picture and asks, “is this good?”
They are worried about finding the single, correct answer, the one way to do things. The challenge gets especially frustrating when groups have to take photos of more abstract concepts or things that they don’t have. In Magugu, I worked with a group of teachers that wanted to take a picture of an egg, but alas, there were no eggs to be found. How can you take a picture of an egg without an egg?
The idea of being correct or incorrect comes from aligning one’s thinking with someone else’s. LTP values one’s thinking as is, without comparison. When taking pictures, there isn’t any one answer. Everyone sees the world in different ways and in many ways. The LTP methodology accepts them all as valid, effectively removing the paralyzing fear of being incorrect. With LTP, people feel more comfortable trying out many possible solutions to a problem.
However, the problems to be solved, the ones with many answers, are complex, and with a complex problem comes frustration. I get frustrated trying to write about LTP because of all of its nuances. It is hard to represent all that it is in words. I have learned in the past four weeks that the way to deal with this kind of frustration, the feeling of having no idea where to start, is to just start, and see what happens. One thing always leads to another.
The Magugu teachers started by drawing an egg on a piece of paper, labeling it with the Swahili word, “yai”. They showed it to me: “is this good?” I asked, “What do you think?” It mattered what they thought, not what I thought. They couldn’t be wrong unless they, themselves, were dissatisfied.
In response to my question, one teacher shook his head. He said he wanted to take a real picture and stepped out of the classroom. Our group followed him to the edge of the campus and stepped over some prickly plants. Again, I asked, “what do you think?”
The teacher pointed to a hen and her chicks. “Yai,” he said.
He held the camera close to his face and carefully lined them up in the frame. He showed me on the camera screen, nodded definitively and said, “good”.
That’s the way he saw it, and he was right.