A new term already!

18 10 2009

I can’t believe it’s the end of the October holidays!  Last term, as noted by my inability to get time to update this blog, just flew by and I was so, so busy.

With the return of a few other development officers to school I was asked to take over the Clydesdale area for Glow.  This area covers from Lesmahagow, down to Carluke, Abington, Leadhills, Biggar etc and considering I live past Glasgow airport means a fair amount of trekking about.  I don’t mind it, it’s a chance to see and work with other schools and it is actually easier to find schools now than it was going round the roundabouts in East Kilbride!

It does mean though that I get a lot less time in the office as it takes me so long to travel to and from schools and I am feeling a bit of pressure with all of the other things I have to do and all courses we are running at the Advisory.  Still I love it and would not have it any other way really!

Some schools have been doing some great things in Clydesdale and almost all have been enthusiastic about moving forward with me supporting them.  With a lot of small schools in the area they are especially keen to do work across schools and we are going to get some topic work going and some transition to secondary groups within clusters.

One school who have been using Glow a lot have really embraced it with p.1.  Last year the p.1 teacher thought she would give it a go and if it didn’t work then fine!  So after xmas she had the children logging in (and doing that themselves) and using their group to see photographs and use websites.  They also used it for discussions and chat!!!  I saw the discussions from last year and while a lot of it is unreadable, you can make out what it is they are trying to say. How good for their keyboard skills.  She gave them laminated keyboards with the lower case letters on home to practice with and also had a parents page within her group with help and advice for parents and sometimes they went on with their pupils and helped them write what they wanted to say. 

I ran my first full day course by myself last term and it was great!  I was slightly stressed, it being the day after my car died on the M74 on the way to do a school in-service session and I had to get public transport of 3-4 hrs a day but it didn’t matter!  The course was on ‘Let’s Think through Literacy and with only 10 participants, who were all enthusiastic to get properly invovled it went really well and I got fab evaluations including two that commented that I had presented well so that was nice.  It helps they got free books!

Using a different hat again I was in a school in EK getting shown the project a teacher had been doing last session with his p.6 class where they wrote songs, recorded them themselves (using equipment they had to source, cost and buy) and then sold them to raise money for a school in Kenya.  That was great but what I loved just as much was the work his class this year have done on their joyning the learning topic Titanic.  The children had done a huge painting of it and behind the painting were huge wallpaper lining paper hangings where the different groups had found out facts and behind that they had made up the different classes of cabins showing what they looked like.  I am very keen to go in and work with them when they make some video clips to put on their school website.  There are some photos on their website:

http://www.st-louises-pri.s-lanark.sch.uk/ if you go to classwork and primary 6.

Looking forward to this term although I am sure it will be just as crazy!





To the end…..

12 10 2009

Friday 10th July

Went into St 2 first this morning to show them pictures that primary 2 had drawn for them and to get them to draw pictures in return.  Did a bit of maths with ST 3 and I was impressed as I started off with the rythmn clapping and they knew exactly what to do so their teacher, Mme Champeni a volunteer teacher who was there last year, had obviously been doing it with them.  I felt it was easier to do things with her this year and she was enthusiastic and very clear about how to do triangle sums and use the 0-20 number cards.  I explained wait time again this year  and she was visibly counting to 10 before asking the kids for an answer.  The HT came in and I made him stay and watch her for a bit and said how well she was doing which she was so pleased about.

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I then did the same in St 1 and also got the washing line out that I had made while there.  Kids from St 1 had helped me colour in the numbers so they were then excited to see what it was for.  It was a volunteer teacher in St 1 that morning and the volunteer teacher from St2 came in as well so they both seemed to get the hang of it well and enjoyed it.  The female teacher from St2 was at one point telling the male St2 teacher to make sure he alternately picked boys and girls which shows how much most of them are really trying to be fair between boys and girls.

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I had taken one of the stories I brought from last year and designed good questions to do with the older pupils as they read it.  I did this with ST 6 and 7 with them doing reading in groups as we went along too.  It was hard though with everything being translated both ways to get the really deep questioning and discussion going.

We then did the paired reading with the older pupils reading to the younger ones outside.  I explained about how to hold a book properly and about reading to other pupils.  They did not understand too well though about how to go and get the other pupils and so we ended up with some very small groups and some rather larger ones.  Again they went on for ages as they were keen to be out reading, doing something different and looking at the pictures. Although I could not understand them I could see some really good interactions going on including the older pupils encouraging the others to read along with them and asking questions of the pupils.  One of the teachers commented on the good expression the pupils were putting into it and the way they were encouraging the younger ones to join in.

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The older ones then did letters in return to the pupils at Castlefield.  I had letters from primary 5, 6 and 7 here with indiviudal photos on them and the pupils in Malawi loved seeing them and I took individual photos of them too.

I was tired of seeing St 5 with little or no teaching since their teacher was off so I went into them next and just played maths games with them like splat and buzz.  We then used the number cards and chain sums which they got better at.  Their knowledge of their tables is not great and I highlighted to their teachers that they would need to know those better to progress with dividing etc.

In the afternoon I was taken off to see a newborn baby.  She was born just as I arrived in the village the week before.  The mum had been in labour for ages and I’m told she was born just as I arrived so they thought she was waiting for me.  So they named her after me!  No-one will be able to say it so I presume she will get called Caro, the same as they call me. Obviously I did not know about this so did not have anything with me for a baby so ended up giving some Scottish tourist souvenir.  I will probably send an outfit over.  I was given her to hold as soon as I arrived and she promptly peed on me which I kept quiet about!

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I just played with the kids the rest of the day.  I was sent off to bathe at about 4.30pm and washed my hair for the first time in 10 days!  It’s just too hard to wash long hair with a bowl of water!  The kids were amazed when I came out with long wet hair though as I had kept it back in two french plaits all week.

The stars were amazing tonight, the best I have ever seen and I was just standing outside staring at them.  The family thought it was hilarious and of course I could not explain to them that you just do not get stars like that in the city.  I had to ask the HT to explain the next day, that is just something they take for granted and never look at.

Saturday 11th July

I got quite a bit of work done on jolly phonics and jolly grammar before the HT and Lameck came round to go to Mayani.  We had some rather interesting conversations on the way about buying and renting houses, benefits, homeless people, asylum seekers and about bars and prostitution.  This came about as we were talking about students and having money and I said I worked in bars and restaurants.  I shouldn’t have!  Women only go to bars in Malawi if they are prostitutes and it was hard to explain about bars here.  (And about prostitutes for that matter and where they work etc).  It is not illegal in Malawi as it is seen as just being another way to earn money.

We were going to the education advisor’s house to meet Clare and talk to him about progress and developments since last year.  We were there for nearly three hours!

He had been  very positive last year and was the same this year, although he did not shirk from sharing the issues they are facing with us.  On a positive note he could see the advantages that there had been from having GT’s there last year as he had seen a lot of good practice going on in the schools he has visited in the last year like maths activities, libraries being set up, time management improving and link schools being established.

Five zones in the district have been giving auxilliary teachers for this year and if it proves successful hopefully that will continue and extend into next session and with further schools.   This has been possible with funding from DFID and has included training for them in schemes of work, resources, assessment and methodologies.  Unfortunately Clare and I found out that our auxilliary teachers would be going for this training next week!

Open and distance learning is beginning for teacher training in Malawi and some of the auxilliary teachers from this session have applied. They would go to college for 6 weeks and then have their school visits with handbooks to complete and the same exams as other student teachers have.

There had been a performance review done of the schools in the zone and the PEA had done a lot of work making up sheets of how each school had done which he was happy for us to see.  My school had done pretty well compared to others in the zone  (I have written about this earlier) but still with things to work on and a lot of the head teachers were demoralised by their reports which was unfortunate. I guess it gives them clear direction on what to work on!

We had lunch at the PEA’s house and it was one of those times I am really glad I am vegetarian!  I asked what the meat was out of curiousity (and Clare really wished I hadn’t) and it was goat’s offal.  I got to stick to egg!

We did some wandering around afterwards and after our discussions earlier I actually got to go into a bar!  I had noticed at the TDC there was a sign for photocopying and it was at the bar so in we went and it was called Obamaland!  It really was not that exciting – there was no-one there, barely any furniture and barely any drinks.  The owner not only had a photocopier though but also a computer with windows media player playing the tunes and big speakers!  Not what I would have expected in a place as small as Mayani!  Something else though that goes on in Mayani at the weekends though is that there is a building with a big tv and speakers and they charge folk to go in and watch the ‘cinema’, mostly kids and there are loads more that listen from outside.

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I got asked by Clare’s HT today how many children I had and there was another shocked response when I said none and then the obligatory questions over why not!

Even though it was almost dark by the time we got back there were still children out waiting for me and I ended up playing for quite a while.  For the first time tonight I ended up tickling them and they just thought this was brilliant and I played chases with them doing that.  It is so obviously such a delight and difference for them to have an adult playing with them.

Sunday 12th July

Nice relaxed morning with some of the older pupils from last year whose english is really coming along and I was able to show them photos etc.  Went for a 5 mile run with Lameck which was great and then managed to get off to the school to do a bit of work.  The HT had come to see me and complained of sore legs from walking so fast with me yesterday!

Lameck then took me out for nearly 4 hours visiting people in the village.  Everywhere we went more and more pupils gathered and I would basically be introduced to the adults, shake hands and say hello and then play with the kids while Lameck showed the adults my photos and I would ask or answer questions while playing!  It was hard to do anything else!

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The last house on the way back was upsetting for me.  I am never any good when people are complimenting me or praising me and at this house the dad spoke really good english and just kept on saying how much the children love me and how good it was that I came back all the time while children were all around me.  I did have to turn around at this point and wipe the tears away as it was just too much!

The kids accompanied me all the way back to the house and I so felt I had to play with them for a few mins – in bare feet as I only had sandals with me and in the dark!

Monday 13th July

For having so many teachers in the school this session how can we only have had 5 today!  Three auxilliaries and a mentor were away to Dedza for training, one was still off sick and one was away to mark more mock exams!  This made it pretty disheartening to either try and do things with teachers and kids for them to see or to do after school training.  The even crazier thing is though that the HT did not even know until Sat that the auxilliaries and the mentor were going to Dedza this week so that makes it even harder to plan! 

I went into St5 and 6 first (having suggested that they be put together) and by myself since there were not enough teachers I got the atlases out that I had bought both in Scotland and in Malawi (and the Malawi ones especially were brilliant for them although still in English obviously) and let them look through them in groups.  They really enjoyed this and were so chuffed to get them.

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Did some maths with them as well using number fans and number cards and then took them out for scottish country dancing.  This was funny again this year and similar in that it was the boys who listened and joined in the most and the girls were more difficult.  Doing it by myself was hard work!

I  went to see St1 and 2 afterwards and made a fool of myself again teaching them head, shoulders, knees and toes and doing the hokey cokey again!  Did some maths with St2 afterwards and got out the number cards to 20.  I had enough for them to do it in 3’s and I asked them first of all to lay out the numbers in order, thinking this was the quick bit before doing sums.  It took most of the time to get them in order!  I would like to do this with a p.2 class here and see what the comparison is.

After school today I showed the teachers various resources I had brought like the jolly phonics, jolly grammar, books, posters, 100 square cards, number fans, number cards, inflatable globes and the atlases.  Testing at all stages was supposed to happen this week and luckily, and I was really pleased they felt they could do this, they decided to postpone it until I had gone so we could do more with the pupils.

Played with kids all afternoon!

Tuesday 14th July

I spent the day today doing Jolly Grammar and maths in all of the different classes.  I spent a lot of this visit feeling that I was not doing very much/achieving much.  Maybe it felt different last year when we had to write up what we were doing all of the time/justify it.  Not that I was not following the same kind of guidelines I did last year but it just felt different!

Did another meeting after school today, although again there were not many teachers there to be involved.  I showed maths strategies and then we discussed the the link school programme and the outcomes and shared programme we would have between Castlefield and Gwengwe.  This was a really big positive of the trip; to be able to discuss and decide together what our partnership agreement would be and this did make it seem much more of a true partnership.

I was supposed to be going for a run with Lameck and using my phone but there were loads of kids with me colouring etc when he arrived and some of them would practically not let us go unless they could come too.  Sixteen of them ended up coming with us and they managed fine although the strategy some of them used was to run a bit as fast as they could and then lie down and have a rest until we caught up!

Mme Gwengwe came round tonight and I made pasta which we mixed with tomatoes and onions.  I also had baked beans and sweetcorn with me.  Everyone loved it all and I had tunnocks teacakes and macaroon to finish off.

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Wednesday 15th July

Difficult day today trying to show group, rotational work.  I did similar activities in St 1, 2 and then 3 which included the washing line, giant chalk on the floor, giant floor number puzzles, card games/matching activities.  It worked with varying degrees of success, it was hard work explaining to the teachers how it would work!  I did the same with different activities in St 4 but it was not as good as the activities were not as active.  I had a Scottish maths game with me for St 5, 6 and 7 which again took a long time to explain.

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I gave each child in the school a pencil and a sticker which they were really excited about.  I had taken Connect 4, Who’s Who and Uno last year but we never got round to them.  The HT asked today how to play them so after school with many of the older kids sitting around outside watching them we played them together.  Connect 4 was a great success although it is not so good only been able to have 2 players at a time.  Who’s Who did not work although I am not sure whether it was me or the HT getting it wrong.  Uno was great though (I only learned how to play the previous week at Clare’s HT house) as so many could play at the same time and they all got it right away.

Lameck and I were supposed to be going up to the next village today to see a family that I had visited last year as the mother had asked to see me again and again about 25 boys decided they were coming too including a lot of them ones I knew really well by now (and who were favourites).  It was sweet actually as they said they did not want to leave as it was my last full day and last chance for them to be with me and they all wanted to escort me!

I felt terrible though as for once I had no bubbles or anything with me for the kids up there and I had had last year, plus now I had all these boys with me who just sat while I was there, as did everyone!  I got given bananas and nuts though as I left and I shared them with the boys when we left which they were delighted about.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with all the kids and went in about 6pm planning to get my gifts out for my family.  When I came back out of the house though Lameck was there with about 40 kids who refused to go away even though it was dark and they were probably hungry because it was my last night and they wanted to spend more time with me and talk to me.  So I encouraged them to ask me questions which Lameck could translate and of course the first question was when I was going to come back again!  Some of the more confident boys were saying they were coming back to Scotland with me!

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Thursday 16th July

Sports day today! I did potted sports with St 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 and then 5, 6 and 7 after races for each class.  I got some St 5 pupils to help at each station which worked well and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  I had beat the goalie, netball shooting, skittles with my old water bottles refilled, beans bags on their head while running, skipping and a few others.  St 5, 6 and 7 were a bit less interested/enthusiastic but I think that was partly as it was near the end of the day and it very hot!

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We did races again this year for each class but they did the same as last year and whenever it was obvious that someone was winning everyone else stopped and just let him/her win.

My taxi driver had turned up about 3 hours early (not complaining though) and he was jappy just to wait for me.  The kids helped clear up and then walked me back to the house singing, dancing and chanting.  They all then waited while I finished packing me bag and had my lunch (with the taxi driver!)

I was sobbing again when it was time to go, just like last year and there were some very sad faces and a few tears from some of the pupils.  The kids surrounded the car and Billy could barely move the taxi, he must have been going about 3 miles p/hr while the kids danced at the front and pushed from the back and sides.  He was very patient and did not seem to mind.  It took about 45 mins to get from the house to the top of the hill.  It was really quite a surreal experience and it did not help me to stop crying!

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And so as it started at the airport with a fuss to get to the hotel so it finished with me having a fuss at the airport.  I was going to just wait at the airport for my flight at 2am but when we got there there was nothing open and there would not be as at 6pm the next flight out (or in) would be mine!

Billy ended up taking me to a nearby hotel/guesthouse and when he explained they let me stay there and have dinner/read/watch t.v.  There was a young guy there who was living there and a student and he spoke excellent english so we had some interesting conversations and then Billy had arranged for another taxi driver to come and pick me up at about 11pm so I still had a while to wait!








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