Research Study and Professional Development in Cairo, Egypt

First Published in Wilfrid Laurier Newsletter:

“We don’t want it to end,” states the senior-school educator, sitting on the floor with papers and markers still strewn about. I smile, because I’ve been delivering professional development to educators for 30 years and have never witnessed such enthusiasm. Alas, time is of the essence, the staff bus is leaving, Cairo traffic at rush hour is a nightmare, and security is tight with the president’s residence only a block away. So, vacate the school we must. We quickly pack up the workshop materials and sweep down the magnificent marble staircase into the grand foyer for final farewells. Hugs, selfies, and double cheek kisses.

The Egyptian educators here are as warm and affectionate as they are enthusiastic. A joy to work with. Our two days of professional development with the staff at the Dover American International School in Egypt has sadly come to an end, yet, friendships and bonds have been formed. Facebook and email addresses exchanged. It is not an ending at all. It is a window of opportunity and growth for both the facilitators and the staff. We are all excited, charged, and renewed.

Bruce Alexander, his wife Sherry, myself, Cathy Miyata, and my husband Kaz were invited guests at the Dover American International School through the Educator and Leadership Institute (ELI), a brainchild of Dr. Steve Sider, Associate Professor at Laurier’s Faculty of Education. ELI’s mission is to build teaching and leadership capacity in communities all over the world, including Haiti, Nepal, Ghana, China, and Egypt.

At Dover, Bruce, Sherry, Kaz, and myself each facilitated six workshops to 100 teachers (K-12) focusing on our areas of expertise.

Bruce and Sherry are experts in G Suite applications for education by Google. They had a chance to share their technological experience and demonstrate how to improve student learning with the use of technology.

I am a literacy and drama specialist with a penchant for storytelling and children’s literature. My husband Kaz is a primary specialist who specializes in the reading process. He worked exclusively with the Kindergarten teachers and co-teachers.

Dover is a private international school in El Shorouk, a suburb of Cairo. The building was originally designed to resemble a resort, which explains the magnificence of the structure, manicured grounds, lush courtyard garden and football, tennis and basketball courts. The school Director, Chuck Reid (former education director with the Avon Maitland District School Board in Ontario) and his wife Suzanne Tsuchida (former school principal in the Grand Erie Board) undertook management of the school in 2012. Identifying staff development as a priority, they began their partnership with ELI. In six years, their student enrollment and reputation has quadrupled. Chuck and Suzanne anticipate hosting many more professional teams and also welcome Laurier student teachers seeking an international placement. I highly recommend the experience. Not only were the staff wonderful and the school gorgeous, but our visit also included a guided tour of the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, the Cairo Museum, shopping at the Khan-El-Khalili Bazaar and of course, a camel ride.

By Dr. Cathy Miyata – Assistant Professor of Literacy, Faculty of Education

Adapting to the Audience

Had a great workshop yesterday at the Reading Recovery Conference.  I had made plans, ran off handouts and prepared a ppt for (I was told) 60 people.  The stories I prepared (5) were very serious and I was going to select the’ right one’ to tell depending on the nature of the audience.  All of this flew out the window when I ended up with 5 participants.  Deflating, yes, but exciting, most definitely.  I threw out the whole plan and asked them why they came.  What did they need and want from this experience?  Their answers put me on different track, with some elements from  the original plan. (One participant actually read the description of the workshop and wanted exactly what was in the description!  As this rarely happens, I was impressed).  The opening story ended up being Fox and Bear, a primary story in my performance experience, and I included movement.  There were several reasons why I chose this story:

1.  One of the participants teaches First Nations children, hence a First Nations story. (Note,  I acknowledged the founding nations that told stories in the area first- Cayuga, Neutral, Mohawk and Seneca)

2.  Most of them were primary teachers

3.  They wanted to connect the story to a writing experience and this story lends itself nicely to mapping

4.  The story was short and I lost a lot of time finding out about my participants

5.  The group was small, so a serious story that may make them cry will put them on the spot.

6.  Since it was such an intimate experience, we needed humour to lighten the mood, and that story is funny.

7.  The movement addition would give them license to play with their own stories in the classroom.

Guess what!?  I worked.  I was delighted with what they got out of the story and the telling.  They picked up so many nuances  and wanted  to try it themselves.   They did map part of the story as a  retelling  and eventually we even got into personal telling.  A lot ended up being crammed into those meager 75 minutes.  But it was so worthwhile.  They said they learned lots and I had a wonderful time.