It has been an incredibly exciting and busy few weeks aboard the LRTT preparation train lately, after some personal time out for me. Recently, I had some time away on an intensive programme exploring student diversity with Chester University in Estonia.

My interest in the global landscape of education has become more and more of a preoccupation and it is part of what drove me towards the LRTT fellowship and how I ended up in Estonia; I think that there is so much to be learned from studying how education is structured, organised and delivered in other areas of the world, both closer to home and further afield.

Meeting my summer fellowship counterparts was amazing

Then, this weekend, I was down in London for the long-awaited team day where I had the opportunity to meet with some of my summer fellowship counterparts for the different programmes and some of our team leaders. It was amazing to begin to connect the Facebook profiles with real people! What struck me most was the vast number of different stories in the group. LRTT has clearly grown exponentially in the last couple of years and there will be near 400 international volunteers this year, but each of the people I spoke to had a different path they had walked to join the programme. Many were there in the early stages of their careers, hoping to gain CPD training and experience in delivery, others were established teachers looking for a way to give back and pay forward their expertise, others there were excited about being immersed in a different culture.

There was a real, united sense of enthusiasm and anticipation for our various programmes and destinations; fellows travelling overseas to Nepal, India, Cambodia, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda were sat near to me at the end of the day and the hall was filled with animated chatter about the training sessions and what was to come on our respective programmes. However, the overwhelming feeling I had as I walked away at the end of the day was that absolutely everyone in the room was a passionate, dedicated teacher, searching for ways to continue to improve their own and others’ teaching practice.

There was one word that stood out for me all day. In one of the initial speeches given, we were told that LRTT is about empowering ‘changemakers’ in education. This was a message I’d also received when I was in Estonia with my university programme. In Education today; in the UK, in Europe and in developing countries, there are real challenges. They might take very different forms and be experienced to very different degrees, but they are present in all systems of mass education; attendance, quality of schools, teaching and learning, poverty, student diversity, language barriers, resources, gender inequality, conflict… but there are so many people out there passionate about identifying, addressing and overcoming these issues, the potential for change is enormous. All of us, as teachers and educators, have the privilege of being in a position to enact change.

What was also really exciting on the team day was Sarah’s announcement about the Think Global Training Course that will accompany the LRTT programmes this summer. Think Global are an education charity that help members to think more about the global issues being faced and their LRTT course will focus on international development, global learning, sustainability and embedding global learning in classroom practice. It gives the fellows something that they can take away very tangibly to their classrooms beyond the immediacy of their LRTT Fellowship. The Fellowship programme primarily is about supporting CPD and teacher education in developing countries, but this programme is also about empowering teachers in their home classrooms to educate their students in global education; encouraging students to think critically about their role in the world and facilitating a better understanding of what it might mean to become a global citizen.

Sharon (center) in her LRTT t-shirt, with her team in Kanungu, Uganda.

I started this piece talking about my recent experience in Estonia. The programme was called ‘Inside Out, Outside in.’ It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to have been involved in both of these programmes this year and I feel that there are so many ways in which these two aspects of my work connect. Through LRTT we will be working outside of our usual education systems to foster change, but also within our own systems to further enact changes in our home schools too. I am fascinated by what we can learn from the local teachers in Uganda, from other fellows on the course who will be teaching in different locations and contexts across the world and I was just as fascinated by the alternative pedagogical approaches I saw in Estonia. The longer I spend in the field of education, both as a teacher and a researcher, the more I come to realise that there isn’t a straight-forward recipe for success in teaching and learning. There are different approaches and methods, but never a one size fits all solution. The more we, as teachers, as parents and as educators can learn about what works for different students and for different contexts, the better we will become at meeting our students’ needs.

Here’s to becoming a changemaker!

Written by Sharon Smith

LRTT Fellow, Uganda

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