CAC’s Magical Words
November 28th 2015. SDL Coach Nora Dooley blogs from Tanzania about our fifth year working with our very supportive partners at the Njombe Town Council.
What role do foreigners have in the development of rural towns in countries like Tanzania? That’s a big question. Let me come back to it.
At Coaches Across Continents we love to say, “Solve your problem.” Those three magical words are translated into scores of languages around the world. And to all who utter them in the CAC context, they mean much more than finding a single solution to a single problem.
At our recent training in Njombe, Tanzania the sentiment was expressed in Kiswahili: “Tatua shida zenu.” And, indeed, we had some problems to solve.
Throughout the first day of training we had several communication difficulties, and in one game at the end of the day the participants struggled to move in our desired rhythm for the game. This was a key moment for self-directed learning – both for us as training leaders, and for the coaches and teachers we were working with. Even though we may have an image in our mind of how a game ‘can’ and ‘should’ look, that image does not play on a CAC field. We present the rules as clearly as we can, we answer any instruction-related questions, but if the group can answer a question themselves, well: Tatua shida zenu.
This method of educating often presents uncomfortable challenges. When you think you know ‘the’ answer as a coach or teacher you often feel it is your job to help your players or learners come to this/your solution. With self-directed learning your job leans at an opposite angle. It is to create a space where all involved feel comfortable exploring their own visions and come up with different solutions individually and collectively. In this manner, your students will surprise you at every stage – even if you have played a game 100 times and never seen it done just so before.
It can also be uncomfortable for those who are learning in this space, especially if they are older and have already been through a system of education where learning was entirely directed by everything but the ‘self’. We see this often with CAC participants early on in a week of training. Their upbringing and education background tells them to resist such a radical notion as not being given the exact formula to solve an equation. And most of us at CAC can relate, coming up through education systems influenced by similar autocratic teaching philosophies. We believe the best thing we can do is celebrate the struggle and see what new ideas it bears.
On the second day of our week in Njombe the participants surprised us. They came up with a solution we had not seen in a game that teaches about making responsible decisions with your money (money = footballs). We celebrated their triumph just as we celebrated the struggle. And on the final day we were fortunate to witness the ease with which they were solving problems on their own, listening to each other, overcoming disagreements with nonviolent communication, and having fun all the while.
So what role do foreigners have in the development of places like Njombe? That’s a big question. If I was going to attempt an answer, I’d say it lies somewhere in the realm of creating spaces for Self-Directed Learning.