the teach tour uncovering how & why we've failed to educate children worldwide@theteachtour

So what happened in hindsight?

Every so often, someone pulls me aside and whispers in secretive hushed tones: “What was the outcome of that tour you did, Shabnam? What happened with all of that research? Where is the Tour now?”

Recently, my first and most sage mentor did precisely that. In slightly less than hushed tones, albiet. He is writing a book and offering his insights to the world of development, like the true mentor he is, and he had pulled up The Teach Tour website for some intel.

It’s been 2 years since I last wrote publicly on the outcome of the Tour. Sad, but it takes longer to recover from certain failures than others. And this was one unique kind of failure. Yes, it failed to close on funding that was promised. Yes, my partner and I split ways in the midst of the Tour. Yes, the Tour cancelled the subsaharan Africa portion due to indescribable depths of fear and the demise of my internal compass. But something else happened amidst it all.

I stumbled upon a fascinating piece by Malcolm Gladwell the other day, quoting Albert O. Hirschman, “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”

He’s right. Traveling through a few countries and talking to a few people about education sounded simple. I wanted to learn, explore, and play with all the kids I could find. I wanted to depart from the world of assumptions and dive into one filled with realities. Did children really want to learn English? Were teachers really looking for technology in their classrooms? Did principals truly care to increase learning outcomes of their students? Were parents actually keen on achieving the best possible education for their children?

Were all of those questions laughable in the face of poverty? Or maybe they were even more relevant here than one could imagine.

I’ll tell you what happened before the Tour, during the Tour, and many years after the Tour (the eventual outcome). I’ll divulge all of this to you in spades because for one, I am a story teller, and what’s a great story without suspense? And two, because this is the healing process from failure. It takes time, patience, and care spread out over the course of many hours and many days.

At the end I hope to have answered questions about the Tour, and to have offered insights to those hoping to follow in similar paths. Those looking to work in the education technology (edtech) field, those looking to impact low income children through social enterprise, and those hoping to inject funds into the most valuable, fascinating education companies out there- this is for you.