“It wasn’t so much that we were trying to get something out of them, or that they were trying to get something out of us. We just genuinely – English teacher to English teacher – wanted to make things work better.”
Brock Brady is no stranger to collaborating with teachers in West Africa, having lived and worked there for seven years between 1980 and 1997. However, two English Language Specialist projects working with TESOL associations in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in 2012, and Dakar, Senegal, in 2013, stand out among his experiences. With his co-facilitator, George Pickering of the British Council, Brady trained West African educators in the skills needed to run successful associations. Brady, Pickering, and the participants were able to establish a great deal of trust and see each other as partners. “It wasn’t so much that we were trying to get something out of them, or that they were trying to get something out of us,” Brady explained. “We just genuinely – English teacher to English teacher – wanted to make things work better.”
Brady’s many leadership roles with TESOL International Association made him the ideal Specialist for these two assignments. “It was an opportunity for us to share the practices that we had learned over time,” he said about Pickering and himself. For Brady, it has been rewarding to see the workshop participants apply those practices over time to build stronger national associations (CINELTA in Côte d’Ivoire and ATES in Senegal).
The learning went two ways, especially regarding cultural differences. Brady recalled one particular instance during a workshop on practical aspects of association management. It covered topics such as marketing, choosing officers, and delegating responsibilities. However, when the topic moved to projecting a budget, the conversation took a turn. “Somebody raised their hand and said, ‘Oh, but we can’t do budgets in West Africa,’” Brady said. When he asked why not, the teacher answered, “Well, there’s always something.” The participants explained that whether there was a wedding in the family, or home repairs, or school fees, it was impossible to plan financially for the future. “Most of the audience spoke up in unison agreeing with the speaker,” Brady remembered. “We had a good laugh and it points out how different cultures have very different notions of what’s difficult and what’s not.”
“It was really gratifying to see how [the participants] had taken responsibility for their own successes and were excited about sharing them with others.”
Brady found a similar openness to sharing among the Senegalese participants. During breaks, Brady was pleased to see the participants collaborating with each other to process what they had just learned. It was an opportunity for Brady and Pickering to take a step back: “They were so willing, so ready to share their successes with each other that we almost weren’t needed…It was really gratifying to see how they had taken responsibility for their own successes and were excited about sharing them with others.”
Brady keeps in touch with the participants every so often and although the conversation usually focuses on how they are doing personally, he has also learned of their successes since they worked together. At an online conference and during a recent trip back to the region, he ran into many of the former participants who had become involved with the Peace Corps or held high level positions in their local TESOL associations. In addition, there’s now a regional pan African English Language Teachers’ Association (ELTA) which came into being last year. “That’s why I’m so proud of these two particular projects,” Brady concluded. “Not for anything I did, but because the participants took the tools we shared and put them to work right away, and then went on to create national English teacher associations which are thriving today. Togo, Benin, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mauritania, Gabon, Cameroon—those are just the associations I’m in contact with now—and they’re all going strong.”
Brock Brady is currently the Education Expert for the U.S. Peace Corps. Prior to the Peace Corps, Brady was Co-Director of the TESOL Program at American University in Washington, D.C., for 12 years. Brady has also served as a President and Board Member of TESOL International as well as President of the Washington Area TESOL Association (WATESOL). Brady was an English Teaching Assistant in Paris, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa. From 1993 to 1997, Brady was Director of the American Language Center first in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and later in Cotonou, Benin. Brady also served as a Lecturer in English in the Pohang Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. He has participated in seven English Language Specialist assignments.