Mash up

30 09 2008

I don’t really know where to begin today! 

Excited first of all as I got a text today from the head teacher of my school in Malawi today saying they had received and given out all of the photos and letters I had sent out during the middle of August.  Then when I got home from Body Attack (I don’t know how anyone can’t love exercise if they try Attack!) there was an envelope from Malawi, one of many that I had left stamped and addressed to me, with letters from each of the teachers inside telling me all about what they had been doing since I left.  It’s hard to know how much they are actually doing of what they say but I will give them the benefit of the doubt!

Apparently puncuality is better and they are using all of my strategies for that, they are using my new timetables and the composite class are still working together and it is a lot better.  They are improving in mental maths, thinking critically, marking each others work, using the ball and number fans etc for active learning.  I had totally forgotten till it was mentioned that I had bought about 100 red pens in Dedza and passed them onto the depute at the inservice training for peer marking as the kids had thought if they were doing that they would have to provide their own red pens and they really wanted to use red to see what the corrections were etc. 

Even if not all of this is being done how, or as much, as we might do it just to know that they are still trying and that they are obviously very keen to keep contact is so rewarding.  I am in the process of beginning to officially link Castlefield Primary with this school and I now think it will work really well.  I can’t wait to go back next year!!!!  One of the questions from one teacher was ‘Can’t you change your mind to come here again?’ and she finished by saying I wish you could come back again very soon!

There was also a card for my brother that had got missed when I was given the other ones, so now I can give the one to my sister-in-law as well that I had been keeping back as I would have felt bad only giving one to her!

I feel I have missed the boat with writing anything much about SLF now, I enjoyed a weekend in Aberdeen with 4 very special kids instead.  One thing to mention about that is that I took them to see The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and I would highly recommend it.  The kids were p.7, 2nd year (those 2 had read it in 1st year and done a lot of work on it) and 4th year and they all really enjoyed it and thought it was very well done and true to the book as did I.  The only thing would be I would say the ending was more graphic/real than I expected, I do not think the book goes into that much detail and some kids might find that upsetting.  It was the longest silence I have heard, or not heard, at the end of a film in ages but considering the most recent trips I can remember have been to see Sex and the City and Harry Potter that is not surprising!

So back to SLF and all I will say is I really enjoyed although it was a totally different experience for me as I was on the SLC stand quite a lot and seeing it from a new angle.  I felt I did a rubbish presentation in the Glowing Lounge but I was last and most things had been said before me, and anyway according to Andrea I did okay (as her adopted daughter!).

I signed up for TeachMeet and to go out for dinner after and this was a big deal for me as I may have done loads of things recently, like go to Malawi for 5 weeks with strangers, but I still felt I was going to be shy and awkward with all of these people I only knew from blogs.  Luckily Jaye was going as well and looked after me!

She and I both had to disapear off quickly on the Thursday to the next part of our Leadership and Management in Education course, of which we are now doing the second compulsory module.  After a late night on the Wed night at the above ‘Local Government in Context’ was not perhaps the most exciting topic for 3 hours after driving up to Hamilton and it’s fair to say I struggled a bit!  I am enjoying the course in general though and spent my holiday Monday in my pyjamas writing my assignment (I eventually got dressed at 6.45pm to go to the running club, how shocking is that, but at least it was not to go to the pub!)  I will write a bit more about that shortly – just letting my proof reader look over it just now – but it is basically a self-reflection of your career and practice so far and an action plan to follow on from that.  Followed by a critical evaluation of a leadership article but I am putting that bit off!  As Andrea Reid’s adopted daughter I have to say that she features heavily in what I was writing in my reflection as I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today, and that is professionally and personally, without her support/guidance/pushing/mentoring/everything really.  And I have only known her 3 1/2 years!





Reinforcing the message at insets!

12 09 2008

Tuesday 22nd July

Each of the insets from Tuesday to Thursday would last from 9am to 3pm with a half hour break in the morning which we went for at 10.40am and lunch was an hour beginning at 12.30pm.  Even deciding this was not straightforward as we had to decide what was going into each session and how long it would be.  On the Tuesday as it was management and leadership there would be about 40-50 teachers there; mostly heads and deputies.  On the other days there would be 70 as there was actually another zone that had been invited to come the whole week as well even though they had not had any global teachers.

We knew from the outset that teachers would be late but we had to show a good example and start on time so we tried to start with something that it would not be too bad if people missed.  We also tried very hard to stick to the timetable we had on display to show good practice with this. 

We had decided our saying for the day, which actually really turned into everyone’s saying the whole week, was:

‘The teacher is the most important resource in the classroom’.

It became a mantra that we always had on the blackboards, timetables and flipchart sheets, as well as saying it all of the time.

We actually ended up being a bit late starting though which we were quite annoyed about as we were ready to leave when Link said but they were not.  It takes about an hour and a half to get to Tchetsa zone and we were picking up the PEA’s for both zones on the way so it was a long time in the land rover each day.  So by the time we actually started and had the welcome and prayer most people were there; some of whom had travelled a long way to get there for that time!

All of us were aiming to make all of our sessions all week as active as possible as again we wanted to set a good example.  We also did walt and wilf, plenaries, other AIFL techniques, brain gym and self-evaluations.

Timetable for the day

Timetable for the day

We started off with team building as our first session, after an initial ice-breaker.  We used the characteristics of a football team for this to give an example and then had some group work on characteristics of an effective team.  We had a flip chart prepared after that to show the benefits of teamwork.

Benefits of teamwork

Benefits of teamwork

We then used this to introduce work on staff meetings.  Our statement for this was:

‘One of the ways of bringing staff together and working together as a team is to use staff meetings.’

We asked the teachers to do think, pair, share to discuss what staff meetings could be used for and we during the share part of this we recorded the ideas on a mind map.  I led this part and think I did pretty well in speaking slowly and being understood.  I have the evidence of this as I was videoed doing this and on looking back afterwards I could see the improvement I have made over time.  So now I will need to just pretend whenever I am doing public speaking that English is not the audience’s first language!  It also made my accent not sound so bad, as usually I hate listening to myself but this was not so cringe worthy!  We then displayed for them what we considered to be the elements of an effective staff meeting and discussed this with them.

What can staff meetings be used for?

What can staff meetings be used for?

It had been made clear to us that the teachers should all be taking notes for their own CPD and that they should come prepared to do this but also that some wouldn’t (!) so we bought pads of paper and pencils etc and dished them out.  We decided to tell them that we would let them know when we specifically wanted them to write something down and be clear about what woudl be written for them to copy later rather than them either not writing anything or trying to write everything we said as we had also been told that some would not do it unless seriously prompted.  We found throughout though that the teachers were more enthusiastic and willing than I think they had been given credit for and most were writing things either at break or lunch because they wanted to know it all.

Use recycling to play at lunch!

Use recycling to play at lunch!

After break – during which they were given a bottle of juice and a roll and this happened again at lunch – we looked at the key roles of heads, deputies and section heads and split them into these groups for this.  We asked them to brainstorm what they thought the key roles were and then decide on the top ten through voting individually for their top three and counting them up.  I took the deputies and I had to prompt them for things like setting a good example on time keeping and things that we were trying to push the message across on.  We thought, and this did happen, that very adminy things would come across and we wanted to try to get away from that.

The roles of the DHt, before narrowing them down

The roles of the DHt, before narrowing them down

We then brought everyone back together and had some discussion with the whole group.  We then put our ideas up on flip chart paper (for schools here, not Scotland) and compared and contrasted them.  Instead of saying any were particularly right or wrong we then asked them individually, and without having to share it, to think about whether they would now change their top three and record that for themselves.

What they thought the role of the deputy HT was

What they thought the role of the deputy HT was

 

What we thought the roles of the DHT and Section Heads were

What we thought the roles of the DHT and Section Heads were

What we thought the role of the HT was

What we thought the role of the HT was

In the afternoon we looked at monitoring, and as with all of the day there was so much we wanted to cover and so little time that we had to focus on just a couple of things – these being timekeeping, timetabling and classroom observation.

We began with timekeeping and had the following questions on the board:

Why should teachers be on time?

How can teachers best support learners?

What is the managements role?

We asked for ideas and stuck them up on the board too.  We then gave them a list of strategies that they could use to encourage staff, trying to be mostly positive but we did also say what they should do if the situation did continue with an individual (and we had consulted the PEA on this).

This did lead to one of the funniest moments of the day as one of our strategies was simply to praise and thank individual teachers who came to school on time every day for a week.  Someone asked us for an example of this so we thought they meant a demonstration of giving praise !?  I went for it (and drama is not something I am usually into) and laid it on really thick to Jill, who pretended to be the teacher as I pretended to be the head teacher.  I was practically hugging her and going on about how pleased I was etc etc and she was nearly in tears as she was so grateful and so on.  Well when we finished the same person said ‘so you didn’t mean a reward of money then’!  We had a good laugh about it afterwards and hopefully it still taught them something.  Emmanuel later said (as he sat in on everything) that he thought it was great and learned a lot from it so maybe the others did too as I don’t think they are in the habit of praising each other at all!

We then moved them into their school groups and looked at timetabling to try to minimise learners missing out by latecoming or lack of teachers.  We asked them to discuss:

Is the timetable being followed?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your school timetable?

They were asked to give feedback on one weakness and one strength and then to discuss how they could minimise the timetable weakness they had just identified.  Most of them had said the timetable was being followed, maybe because the PEA was in the room?, but then their weaknesses showed that this could not possibly be the case.  We gave them strategies to help them but this was where we ran into resistance as things like changing the school day, changing when maths and language was done or making composite classes some of them just could not see the benefits of.

We did not have much time left for classroom observation but did ask them for their comments on what the purpose of a classroom observation was and then gave them strategies on how to do it.  We did a role play on feedback with me being the head teacher again.  First we showed a bad example of it with Jill being the teacher again and nearly in tears again but this time because I gave her such rotten feedback and then with Robert as the teacher and I gave him constructive feedback using 2 stars and a wish.  They thought the one with Jill was hilarious as she was acting the part so well!  They are on video to be used later!

Each day we did a recap and an evaluation and although we handed them into Link I kept a note of some of the comments and will write them up later.  It was the first time I had experience of having written feedback on inset I delivered and as soon as we were in the land rover I read them all out to everyone – which was not easy in the back of that and on such bumpy roads.

I had already been feeling like I was getting a bit of a cold but ended up running back the last 3 miles or so to the hotel – in the dark and feeling awful, one of my worst ever runs.  Check my running blog for the full story of why I ended up doing that; Emmanuel was so helpful about dropping us off but I would rather not have gone, didn’t feel I could say that though!  Straight to bed after the meeting with no dinner!

Wednesday 23rd July

I was off on Wednesday with Jill and Kirsty, unfortunately I was feeling pretty lousy with the cold and had no energy as I had not eaten any dinner the night before after a really bad running experience.  I still did not feel like eating today as I had a bit of a sore stomach too so although we went to Dedza pottery for lunch I only ate a bit of a roll and a scone.    Other than that I only ate some tea biscuits and rice just to make sure i only had plain stuff.

There are a few touristy shops in Dedza – and we went to them all!  I got some pottery to go with what I bought last year and some cards but apart from that I was pretty sensible.  I got a lot last year and I had so many gifts to take home I did not have much room in my bags!

It felt really weird being at the meeting that night when I had not been out doing an inset during the day.  Stayed up afterwards to do more planning for the next day with Jill and Kim.

Thursday 24th July

Back off to Tschetsa today with Jill and Kim, Roger and Emmanuel.  I was feeling rubbish with the cold still and it felt like a really long way to get there!  Most of my staff were there today and this would be the last time I would see everyone except my head teacher.

It was literacy and numeracy today and we started with literacy and more specifically phonics.  We asked for some think, pair, share on what literacy meant to them.  We gave thinking time first and they were getting used to this by now but at first on Tuesday it had been really hard for them.  We had gone for one minute thinking time but we were lucky if they managed 15 seconds.  Better today though!

Kim led the next session for nearly an hour on phonics and she was amazing!  We looked at making sounds and simple words with the most common sounds in english.  We then asked them to think of the 6 most common Chichewa sounds, which took a while, and then we made some common words up with them.  This does not sound like much but we spent quite a long time on each bit and the teachers were very interested in it and very enthusiastic!

Kim at work on phonics

Kim at work on phonics

We split the time up with some brain gym and then did some literacy activities before break, which we just did between us.  We put a group of words up on the board and they had to spell them on each other’s backs, we also had them try to make other words with the word ‘hospital’ which they were very competitive about and some other activities which I now can’t remember, or understand what I wrote now!

After break we moved onto mental maths and filler activities.  We specifically wanted to show activities that the teacher did not have to be there, since that happened a lot!  It would mean children would still have a useful activity to do.  We started off with the counting stick, including crossing over 100.  We used sugar cane for this to show them another example of talular (teaching and learning using locally available resources) and they got to keep the sugar cane afterwards, which they closely guarded!

working with the sugar cane for maths

working with the sugar cane for maths

We had had to stop on the way to get sugar cane and we cleaned out the boy at the side of the road that we stopped for.  He was delighted as he was now off the hook to go and play all day!

Again we just split all of these activities up between us and did rythmn clapping next in different ways and the pendulum swing. 

We then played slam which went down an absolute storm, once they got the idea!  We put numbers on the board and they had to give sums that made that answer and played countdown.  There were some other activities we did as well and we made sure we discussed ways of encouraging thinking and participation particularly in games like countdown.

The PEA, Mr Balaka, did the next part which was great as we had wanted them to be involved.  He did self and peer assessment and had them moving about, discussing and being active.  I have lots of video clips of today which I will try to make into a more coherent short film and post at some point.  The October holiday would have been the perfect opportunity but the Chicago Marathon is going to get in the way!

Mr Balaka at work

Mr Balaka at work

Mr Balaka was good but his style was still so totally different to ours.  Not that ours was perfect, although KIm and Jill were amazing I thought, but he was not as encouraging, it was more of a ‘you must do this without question’ way of doing it I thought.  Great though that he was getting involved and on something so important as self and peer assessment.  The teachers were a little resistant to soem of this as they thought it would encourage cheating.

In the afternoon we were doing a session on developing literacy using books, well really Jill was doing it!  I videod the whole thing as she was so good.  I told her afterwards it would be perfect for showing students as a model lesson.  She had the book of The Hungry Caterpillar, told the teachers they were all going to be children for the afternoon and proceeded to spend 45-60 mins telling them the story.  Of course she started with the cover and pictures, the back, the author etc and told the story asking many open questions the whole way through and using wonderful expression.  It felt like a real privelage to be watching it and the teachers absolutely loved it.

I was supposed to follow this up with how to use books for older pupils and we had wanted to use the textbooks they have but they only had one copy at the school as the older ones take their books home.  We were also really running out of time and I just had time to show them how to ask questions about the title and the one picture while then describing how they should read it with the children, and make sure they understand the english etc.  We hit home on that point as many times as we possibly could; that there was no point in doing all of the teaching and reading in english if they did not understand and that it was okay to explain in Chichewa.

I was feeling better today stomach wise and asked Emmanuel if it was possible to stop in Mayani for chips, especially since I had helped him do the money all lunchtime.  (This was reimbursing the teachers for their lunch and travel expenses.)  Of course he said yes and I did enjoy them!  They are much nicer than the chips here as it is nicer potatoes, the chips are cooked fresh for you and the oil seems nicer.

We are really late back every day coming all the way from Tchetsa and we were pretty much having our meetings nearly as soon as we got back, as even though we finished the insets at 3 it was much later than that when we actually left as we would be talking to people etc.  I found it hard to today to say bye to Mr Kalivute, the deputy head, as he had been so great and Jill’s family lived right beside the school and she had to say bye to them.  I was crying for her just about as there was a young teenage boy in her family who had been really great and had been very upset to see her go when we left the villages that I met today and had to watch them say bye again. 

Sharon, Shiraz, Maureen and I spent some time in the evening preparing the inset for the next day on p.e and a general recap of the week.  Sharon and I had already done a lot of it one night before dinner – in bed as it was cold!  We were so busy doing it we did not even notice the electricity had gone and I was managing to write in the dark.  When someone came to offer us candles they thought we were a bit odd!  As it was the last day it was only going on until 12 o’clock which meant there was not that much time to do a lot.  We were going to Sharon’s zone which was nice not to be travelling so far and to see somewhere else, and we got to have Emmanuel as our driver still so even better!

I commented to Sharon that we were doing the equivalent of getting **** faced every night, except with chocolate and crisps rather than alcohol.  I had been so good in the village but it was partly tiredness and the cold etc, I just really wanted comfort food even though I was really enjoying myself.  We even ordered tea one night and got into bed with our tea and chocolate – bliss!  Although we were trying to write our big evaluations at the same time – not so blissful now!  Our diaries also fell way behind this week and I finished writing mine up on the plane which is why I keep having to say I have forgotten things from these days!








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