Meet Boaz Msechu: Mentor by Design

In his eight years as a teacher, Boaz Msechu has undergone a thorough change of heart, if not of mind. Boaz left teaching in the traditional Tanzanian education system for a position at Mtakuja Secondary School, where he has been an English and Geography mentor with Quest Forward Learning for the last two years. “Students were denied a chance to unleash their potential,” he says of his previous school, “because there was little or no collaborative learning.” Now he enjoys presiding over a collaborative classroom, where students are “cherished,” and have “a capacity to generate big ideas, with a power to think of their own.”

Apart from the enthusiasm and praise Boaz uses to describe his experiences so far with Quest Forward Learning, he is also acutely aware of how quests guide both students and mentors like himself toward their goals. “I work on each activity’s goal to make sure that my learners are arriving at the target,” he says. “I make sure that all the suggested active, engaging learning methodology is practically experienced to enhance skills acquisition.”

As a mentor who relies on the Mentor Notes and Files sections in quests, Boaz finds that these resources provide structure and opportunity for supporting student growth and understanding. “The guidance [in these sections] is very helpful in incorporating the performance of a quest,” he remarks, citing the quests I Know the Place (quest designer: Fidelis Mahenga) and Distance on Maps (quest designer: Israel Musali). Boaz always reviews the Notes as he readies himself to introduce his students to a new quest. “[Notes] are very helpful, since they provide Quest Forward mentors with additional ways to incorporate the same topic with suggestions for different learning materials that mentors can use. Furthermore, it stresses the use of different learning styles that encourage active learning.”

During a recent collaboration with mentors from other schools in November 2018, Boaz and fellow mentors from Mtakuja and Natiro Secondary School observed classes during Quest Forward lessons. Mentors and students participated in a Geography quest, Distance on Maps, where students took measurements and collaborated while Boaz and another mentor watched and moved between student groups to support their progression through the activity. “Something that interested me,” Boaz notes, “is how the students were free to work inside the class and outdoors along the corridor. This event marked our breaking out of our comfort zones. This was never possible through the traditional system.”

Boaz has reflected on ways quests could better support mentors work through quest activities with their students. “Sometimes activity descriptions can be too brief,” he notes. “[Additionally], I wonder if it is possible to limit a number of resources in a simple quest activity or utilize other types of resources away from video, documents, and images. This would result in good time management, since I used to see learners wasting time on various resources in one activity.” He sees this area of quest design as an opportunity, where mentors could collaborate with designers. Mostly, though, Boaz appreciates the beneficial ways in which quest design is already working well to support mentors. “What [quest designers] are doing for now is more helpful, to my perspective,” he says.

Being a mentor also comes with other, more pressing, challenges. Boaz recalls an instance when the power went out, and he and his students had to figure out how to proceed with the quest activities without their tablets. “I have learned to be very flexible, as Quest Forward Learning is all about [the] engaging methodology. I always keep an eye to each of my learners during a lesson and enforce the practicability of each activity description to make the class super active.”

Regarding his immersion into the Quest Forward Learning methodology, Boaz has jumped into the deep end with both feet. He observed firsthand the positive changes Quest Forward has inspired in his students, as well as how it has redefined his love for teaching. “I have observed the good habit of flexibility, due to mindset growth; time-consciousness, due to habit review; and the readiness of learners to learn, due to the fact that Quest Forward Learning is more interactive, an extreme interaction between mentors and learners.” Boaz adds how pleased he is to see how his mentoring has affected students at Mtakuja. “I have observed a high sense of authenticity in the mindset of learners as they focus on drawing relevance from what they are learning.”