From June to December 2017, 10 Australian teachers and 13 Afghan teachers participated in the Australia-Afghanistan Teacher Collaboration Project (AATCP). One Australian and one Afghan teacher was paired and had to undertake a collaborative, action research project that enhanced student learning. Originally designed to support and develop the professional skills of the teachers in Afghanistan; the project yielded so much more for everyone involved. Tammy (Australia) and Tahera (Afghanistan) share their collaborative journey:
Tammy (NSW, Australia) I heard about the AATCP through a teacher Facebook page and thought it would be a great opportunity to give back to the teaching community. As I live and work in rural Australia I often struggle to find ways to participate in projects or find professional development opportunities as they are often city based. The AATCP was structured so that teachers could participate from wherever they were located across the globe.
AATCP provided training before the project started. This involved giving background information about the situation of the teachers we would be working with and some great information about cross cultural communication and relationships delivered by Collaborative Bridges. When I first became involved with the project I was nervous about how I would come across to my mentee as I knew that we were from very different cultures and I did not want to accidentally cause any offence. Once I started communicating with my mentee I soon found that my concerns were unfounded. We used email to communicate and would sometimes Skype. Skype enabled as to further develop our relationship as we could be clear that we had understood each other, and it was also nice to put a voice to the face. We developed a wonderful professional relationship as we worked together and learned about each other’s cultures and families along the way.
My partner and I collaborated on Speaking and Listening Methods but as we worked together we also began to look at the mindset of our students. The cultural differences regarding this were very interesting and I believe we both made some great observations of our students that we were able to reflect upon and use to improve our teaching.
When I began the project, I was expecting to be giving back to the community, but I have come to see that I have gained so much too. I have developed a wonderful relationship with a passionate colleague, I have learned about a different culture and I have worked together on a truly inspiring project to improve my teaching skills and those of my peers. Many of the teaching standards for accreditation are covered by participating in the project which could be used as professional development. I would definitely recommend the project to other teachers. The experience was interesting, enjoyable and professionally rewarding and the co-ordinators were always on hand to give any assistance or advise if needed.
Tahera (Bamiyan, Afghanistan) As an English Teacher, I always want to improve my abilities so that I can be more progressive and successful in my career. Living in a small city in Afghanistan, there are not many opportunities for teachers to do professional development; that is why I participated in AATCP which could make me face many new challenges and earn new experiences as well.
One of the new experiences that I have earned was co-working with an Australian Teacher, Tammy. The interesting point was that Tammy and I were both teachers with some years of teaching experience; but we were in different countries with different cultures. Along working on our shared project we also had the time to get to know each other’s life style, personality and culture.
Our Action Research project was on Speaking and Listening, but over time we also collaborated on student mindset as this impacts how students learn. We found that students in Australia and Afghanistan have very different mindsets.
The challenge I faced during this project was trying to be at the same level as others since this project’s participants from Australia and Afghanistan were all educated, highly experienced teachers and that caused me to be nervous until finally presented my project findings. After that I could feel relaxed. I learned that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have as a teacher, you can never stop learning.
The most enjoyable part for me during this project was being introduced to Tammy. She was very nice and kind. I felt so much respect to her. She was working as my guide and she guided me well.
AATCP project is a big blast of international culture and knowledge exchange among those who care about improving teaching and learning. I would strongly suggest participating in AATCP to all those teachers who are looking to live and think out of box.