Bottom up

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I have been to many schools and have worked with many different people, mostly people from Western countries. Where I am working now, is totally different in every way. I am in Africa. A Kenyan school with international standards.

Above is a photo of my teaching partner. His name is Martin and he is a Kenyan. He is a true gentleman. Martin will always greet people and acknowledge everyone he meets. He really loves kids and he is great at what he does. Martin is an excellent mathematics teacher. He is consistent. Martin is a listener and observer.

I want to share a story with you about our relationship. It is worth telling. Martin is wise. He says things as they are (respectfully) and always asks, “how does this add value to learning.” Something I really admire in him. This post is actually more of a selfish post to record my own learning, because I have much to learn from Martin.

This story is an obvious one to tell. It’s a story where you will easily predict the outcome. It’s something we all know about, but may not practice it. It is a story that has allowed me to step back, take some time to think and clear some head space to reflect on how I approach things, in the African context.

Martin and I are totally different, in every way. Where we are from, our experiences, our background. Martin and I have had a very ‘bumpy’ start to our year. There has been frustration and tension between us for many reasons. Today, Martin come to my room and shared something really obvious, but I had not realized it myself.

Martin said, “You know so much about PYP. I cannot come up to your level. You need to come to my level if we are ever going to make this work.” He explained how I have come from a place and system that is efficient and effective. Things have always just worked well.

When you add these things to someone who is a ‘driver’ by nature it is really easy to become frustrated. Especially when things don’t work the way you see it and at the pace it should be. We were not seeing the same things, we were like two of the same magnets resisting each other.

This diagram best represents how we have been working together…frankly it hasn’t been working like it should.

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I was struck by lightening as Martin was sharing with me. I have been spinning so fast lately, that I did not see something I would of normally have been mindful of. Pluralism – is an AKAM strand and I had failed to see it, and it was right in front of me.

Martin explained how he has been to Europe and how he enjoyed the way things just flowed and worked there. Coming back to Africa was difficult for him as there is less order and organization. He could understand why I was behaving and reacting the way I have been.

He said “Chad, we need to go from the bottom up. It is the only way for us to move forward together.” His message was so wise, clear and accurate. It made complete sense of why things have been so challenging for us. We have been pushing from opposite ends.

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This visual come to me as Martin was waving his hands from bottom to top. Here was an international teacher, imparting open-mindedness, appreciation, tolerance, respect….. to students, but had failed to recognize it myself.

Again, I realize how obvious this story is. In all of its simplicity, it brought me clarity and I connected with Martin today. I know that our relationship will be different tomorrow, because we shared this moment together. I may know a lot of PYP knowledge… Martin, taught me how to live it today. Thank you, Martin!

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5 comments

  1. Ruth Adede

    It is just a great thing to realize each others strength and work towards achieving a common goal. Sharing openly brings out the best in a person. This is a great achievement for you too as a team.Kudos

  2. Rukiya

    Wow Chad, this is such a beautiful story. Martin and you are really lucky to have each other and I’m confident your relationship will hugely benefit yourselves and the students.

    Thank you for sharing the importance of considering the context in which one teaches. We could all learn a lot by being as open as you are as we try to make things work the best way they can.

  3. naini singh

    I found it super easy to get along with him πŸ™‚ I guess thats because I am born and brought up in Africa and understand the culture of the people. I think that can be a big barrier. Well done!

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