Teachers First Project Director David Fairbairn-Day talks to us about What if? and So What?

October 16, 2016

Q) Tell me a bit about your role in the Teachers First program. A) As Project Director my role is to ensure the program stays on course and meets all of the requirements of the President’s Specialised Council for Education. What that means in practice is supporting our fantastic teams working with the 550 schools so far, to improve the way teachers teach and the way students learn, so they can focus totally on this. Q) Why do you feel the Teachers First program is different from other professional development programs? A) Teachers First is different because it allows teachers to record changes and progress in their behaviours (or actions) continuously. By using the unique Lengo system to do this it means every small change can be noticed and the teacher is credited for it. Unlike other professional development programs this means improvements and changes are continuously made rather than more traditional approaches of attending courses and then the teacher being left to try and implement things on their own. Another major difference is the use of teacher mentors who continuously work with teachers to advise on pedagogical improvements and help schools create Communities of Practice where teachers exchange their ideas and approaches with each other. Q) As an ex-teacher yourself what benefits do you feel the program brings? A) Obviously being a former PE teacher it means I can organise people! Seriously, the important thing is it means I have been where the teachers are now and can understand the issues they are facing in their everyday classroom lives. For any new initiative I have seen introduced around the world, I always ask two questions, ‘So what?’ and ‘What if?’ So what if something is technologically advanced or looks fantastic, it has to make a real difference to teaching and learning. What if a new initiative can be adapted or improved to help the teacher in the classroom, then it is worth it. Q) What’s been your favourite moment so far? A) There have been so many inspirational things it’s not easy to choose, but all of them have one thing in common, it’s been when I’ve been visiting schools and talking to teachers and students. One in particular was when I visited a primary school in Giza and a young girl of about 5 or 6 presented me with some flowers as a thank you to all at Teachers First for what the project has done at her school, very touching! Q) How do you see the program developing? A) Even though we now have 550 schools involved, it is still in a period of exploration to ensure the format and nature of the program is correct. In January we will have 1,000 schools and 10,000 teachers and by then we will be able to demonstrate how a program like TF can scale to a much bigger size. I honestly think TF has the opportunity to make a huge difference to Egyptian schools, the life chances of those students and consequently the welfare and economic development of the whole country.

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