Motivations for Teaching: Perspectives from Teachers in Burundi
by Roger Ramirez
Last summer, in collaboration with William’s Academy, World Learning SIT TESOL delivered a Best Practices in TESOL course for English teachers in Bujumbura, Burundi. I worked as one of the trainers on the course. The experience was rewarding and invigorating. The teachers were genuinely interested in learning more about teaching methodologies and frameworks to better serve their learners in Burundi. They worked diligently and approached the course with inquisitive minds.
Why do you do what you do? This is a question we ask teachers we work with on the SIT TESOL Certificate course in Costa Rica. We got this idea from the website www.wdydwyd.com. Here, people from all different fields of work and professions provide a simple and short answer to the question stated above. I have always found this inquiry to be extremely helpful in understanding one’s true motivation and drive for teaching. I am sure teachers have benefited from exploring reasons why they teach and what encourages them to do the work they do. I have always been grateful for being able to witness and be part of these moments where teachers tap into their hearts and share a piece of their inspiration for being the teacher they are, are becoming or aspire to be someday.
We asked teachers in Burundi to think about this question. I remember wondering if my heart was prepared to receive and listen to their answers. I found myself thinking about the country’s difficult economic and social situation and how this could affect their answers. I knew that their responses to this question were going to be profound and I was excited to learn from them.
Why do you do what you do?
“To survive and help others survive” This response really got me thinking about what the word survive meant to these teachers in Burundi. The teacher who said this told me that he needed to work really hard in order to provide at least one meal a day for his family. He also mentioned how he wanted to help his students learn English to have more job opportunities so that they could help provide basic needs in their households. Listening to this reality and these words were striking and inspiring for me. I remember feeling a great sense of hope and positivity from this teacher as he envisioned a more stable and developed country. I will never forget these words and the hope with which they were expressed.
“To fight illiteracy” This teacher dreamed of a country where all children and adults could learn how to read and write. I remember him saying that his country would be more peaceful if more people had the chance to read and received a higher quality of education. He truly believed in the power of transformation through education.
“To help Burundians integrate in EAC (Eastern African Community) and change their mentalities” According to this teacher, most Burundians did not seem to understand the importance of learning English as a means to better integrating into the Eastern African Community. He believed that a successful integration with this community would provide more jobs and economic stability to the country. One of his motivations for teaching was to help younger generations understand the importance of being part of this larger community.
My experience with these teachers in Burundi and all the other teachers I have done this activity with helped me realize that as teachers it does not really matter where you are from or where you work. We all seem to have a similar motivation and vision: to be a vessel of hope and transformation that will empower, equip and encourage our students to help create and be part of a more stable, peaceful and safer world.
All my best wishes and gratitude go out to all the hopeful, hardworking and inspiring teachers I had the honor of working with in Burundi.
Roger was born in Brooklyn New York and moved to Costa Rica at the age of 14 with his family. Roger received his BA from Universidad de Costa Rica in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. After feeling passionate about teaching English and taking the SIT TESOL certificate course, he went to SIT for the Master of Arts in TESOL program. He has taught English to learners of all ages and levels and trained teachers in the US, Burundi, Costa Rica and South Korea. Roger enjoys spending time with his friends and making the most out of each and every moment of life.