How to teach in challenging conditions

Rain pouing down the steps to the Law School Photo by Joanne

The second week in Freetown started off rainy. More rain than most of us could ever imagine.

Rain pouring down the steps to the Law School

Yanoh woke up to a gloomy Monday, saying that “one of the biggest challenges is getting out of bed when it’s gloomy and raining and just the perfect temperature in the blankets!” We could certainly all relate to this, especially her colleagues. Joanne hadn’t had much sleep because of the weather either.

⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Several hours of biblical rain this morning with little sign of respite… outdoor teaching could be interesting but noisy…. – Charlie

“no rain will stop us!” Charlie teaching outdoors

It was good to know that despite the horrible weather, the team was ready to teach and excited about their classes. It turns out however, that the heavy rain had made it difficult for students to come to University that day. Joanne writes to us:

Heavy rains overnight, and no students arrived for my first class of the morning. The second and third classes were comparatively well-attended with 10 students in each. One student expressed regret he could not attend more classes since he had lectures, coursework and outside commitments, but he said once Ebola summer sessions were over, more students might attend consistently because he is getting a lot out of the classes he does attend.

Today, I was extremely impressed with the level of engagement and the capacity for independent thought from my two classes. We discussed international human rights from a critical geography perspective – I pushed them to think critically about how to define a human being and whether legal rights might be extended to rivers and robots. A lively and hotly contested discussion ensued in both classes; the level of sophistication, nuance, and passion often exceeded my classes in London. A few students seem to intuitively grasp aspects of new materialism, risk society and the destabilising potential of post-modernism. It makes me think that my bottom-up approach to IR concepts might bear fruit. For students, it is certainly a different perspective from ones they are used to as evidenced by the giggles followed by the heated but creative argument. As one of the students pointed out, we are not bound to other human beings by sentiment – many today are more saddened by the loss of their smartphone than the death of a neighbour.

Our wonderful students at Fourah Bay College

Yanoh also wrote to us about her experience today, and she also talked to her students about the PROWIBO courses:

It was an extremely wet day today. Due to this, many students were missing due to the flooding in different parts of town. As we have done over the past week, we still had fruitful class sessions. The students gave me some feedback on how to make future programming more successful. [They suggested doing] sessions another time other than rainy season. [… They also want to] have sessions on Excel and Microsoft suite.

Yanoh and Joanne with some of the students

We love the levels of interaction our professors are getting with the students, and work very hard to incorproate their feedback into the program. The aim of our courses is to help students become more employable and provide them with skills, so when they let us know what helps them we are eager to include it in next year’s school.

Some great discussions taking place

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