Arrived Safely!

29 06 2008

Caroline left for Malawi on Friday afternoon. She text me on Saturday to tell me that she had arrived safely, that the planes had been very basic, but that it didn’t matter as she had slept the whole way anyway – end of term tiredness strikes again!

She also text me this morning from her Malawi SIM card. She said running seemed hard at 5000ft, but that her village would be at 7000ft. I think she’s hoping that she can class her runs as altitude training!

No news of actually doing any work yet though…

I’ll continue to update this blog when she contacts me so you can all follow her holiday while she works out there.

posted by Neal


25 06 2008

I thought the filming went quite well today – although I have not seen it so I may quickly change my mind.  I got filmed being interviewed first, during which time the server went down in the school (typical!) but thankfully Margaret and Jim were there so they were able to sort it out.

I had decided to have the filming with me teaching done with primary 6 as they will still be at the school next year, they are more enthusiastic and better behaved and I got more parental permissions in!  When I had finished my explanation and the children got down to using glow I actually had to tell them that they were allowed to talk as they were trying so hard to be extra good that they were totally silent!

The lesson (I had got a bit of a fright when asked to do this, being the 3rd last day of term) I decided to do involved having a lesson plan on the noticeboard page of my Malawi glow group that the pupils had to follow involving documents and surveys.  I had them skim reading the first few pages of an information book I had saved on the documents page and then aswering questions on it on a survey.  They were then to go onto the discussions page and chat to talk about games that did not need any resources that I could do in Malawi.

Some of the pupils also got interviewed and I think they did quite well although I was not able to see as I had to stay in the class.

Afterwards I went to the advisory service to meet the other people coming out on secondment and to hear a bit more about what I will be doing next year.  I will be doing 2/3 days (I am hoping 3) a week on glow and the others on a curricular aspect of curriculum for excellence although there will be a lot of doing other bits and pieces.  As far as I could gather the glow and CforE aspects will also tie in together as a focus of the glow work is to be how to use it in learning and teaching. 

The only thing worrying me is the amount of food sitting in the office I will be in – apparently it is always like that.  I will need to work on my willpower!

The packing continues

24 06 2008

I am still packing!  Not only am I still packing up my classroom, in among many other tasks, but I have been packing to go to Malawi as well.  As it was the West Highland Way race last weekend I packed the weekend before just to get an idea of weight.  At this point we thought we were only allowed 20kg and I got to this weight having packed all of my gifts, resources, toiletries, first aid items etc.  The only thing is that ‘etc’ did not include clothes!  I had to put that to the back of my mind the rest of the week but it quietly simmering into panic.  I would have to be wearing a lot of clothes on the plane if I did not take some stuff out!

However just as I was trying to persuade myself to sorting everything out we found out that Catherine from LINK had somehow, I really don’t know how she did it, managed to get the airline to up our weight limit to 45kg each.  Of course as delighted as I was at this I did also have a niggle in the back of my mind about whether the planes would actually be alright with that much extra weight!  (I don’t like flying that much!)

I do not want to fill up to that weight but at least it means I can take all of my clothes!

My only other worry about going away is that my wind up phone and ipod charger never arrived.  I then ordered another one yesterday, asking for next day delivery knowing that someone would be in the house today.  It has not arrived either and this is the item I most need so hope it comes tomorrow.

The whole thing feels a little unreal and I am not sure when it is going to hit me what I am doing.  Ironically I am so busy getting ready to go that I do not have the time to think about what it will actually be like out there.   I still have silly things to do like clear the camera and video camera, make up a photo album and update my ipod.  And get some money out!

Primary 7 have been busy clearing out the classroom and getting ready for their assembly.  I have been busy getting next years p.4-7 set up with their glow passwords, changing them and logging on and having a look around what has already been set up.  This has taken some time, most of which is to do with the initial passwords that the pupils have to change – I should not have done this with p.3 (!?) but the thought of doing them all myself seemed less preferable.

I have really got going with p.6 using glow, their teacher and I are used to working together and we have been swapping over classes so I can work with them.  Tomorrow LTS are coming to video us for a DVD for SLF and interview myself and the children.  So after telling them all to be in school uniform I need to go and decide what to wear myself and do my nails etc!  I have set up a lesson on my Malawi glow group so they have to follow instructions to read a document and then answer questions on it through a survey.  If they are still filming after that we can use the discussions and/or chat pages on that glow group.

I had a lovely time in p.4 on Friday setting them up with glow.  One boy, who can be difficult but whom I have a real soft spot for, was really interested and did everything asked of him.  When I passed by him he just came out with ‘I love glow’.  Now he had only been on about 5-10 mins at this point and had not done very much on it but it was just one of those lovely moments and so I then spent 10-15 mins showing him how to put on web links and contacts onto his my glow page and then how to change the size of pictures and load them on his my glow page.  Something I have put on the web links page for the classes is the link to the LTS copyright free images so that they know where to find images they are allowed to use.  By spending time with this boy and showing him how to do things the rest could not do yet I hope he stays interested and maybe it will be something that will help keep him interested in other things at school too.  Far fetched maybe but nice to think of!

Boxes, boxes and more boxes

12 06 2008

I have been spending a lot of time this week doing what feels like manual labour because I have been packing up my classroom, particularly my cupboards just now.

For a couple of reasons I had not blogged about this until now but I am packing up because I am going on secondment for South Lanarkshire Council next session and hopefully the next year after that too.  This all came about a month ago when I got asked if I would like to do it. 

I was not sure about it at first as I thought I should be in class next session for all of the follow-up work I have to do with the Global Teachers programme.  However I spoke to the manager of the programme and she was quite happy for me to take and actually is quite excited now about the different direction I could take with my outcomes.  One of these I am hoping will be a global teachers glow group for all past and present teachers to be able to share their resources etc.

The chances are that I will not be back at Castlefield after that so I thought I had better take all of my stuff away, it is now at present piling up in my spare room!  My sister-in-law is starting the PGDE course in August so I do not want the stuff to go too far away but I am not sure where it is going to go.  I am also amazed at how much stuff I have accumulated in only 5 years of teaching!

I had at first assumed I would be doing ICT but actually it is going to be a bit of everything which I think will be really good experience for me, including ICT, Curriculum for Excellence, learning and teaching and a lot of leading inset and CPD courses as far as I can make out.  I am really looking forward to it now and excited about the challenges it will bring.  Also the thought that I do not have to set up a classroom after being away the majority of the summer is very appealing.  I still intend on going into Castlefield quite a lot to do Malawi and ICT/glow stuff, partly as I do feel as though I am abandoning ship a bit and am keen to keep up contact there!

This now also means I have been stupid enough to state on my running blog that I will run the Devil of the Highlands 43 mile race on the second half of the West Highland Way next August as I think I may be less tired than when I have a class.  I hope I am right!

Catching up

8 06 2008

Feels like ages since I blogged and now can’t remember everything we have done!  I spoke to p.4-7 on Wednesday about Malawi and about glow but did not have much time left for glow after I went on about Malawi.  In typical kids fashion of being so comfortable with new technology they were not phased and did not even seem particularly excited until I started talking about video conferencing!

I had someone out to see me on Thursday to support me with my Malawi cross-authority glow group and that was really helpful as there were a few admin things I could ask to get help with sorting out and I got some different ideas for doing new things.  Most of all of this will probably happen after I get back from Malawi.

She also forwarded me this link which is an article on the LTS website –

It is strange being told about things on the web about yourself that you were not aware of!

I had another group of 3 girls do their maths lesson on Thursday.  They did area and perimeter and had some brilliant ideas and resources they had made themselves.  It was quite short again though and again they did not know how to deal with the noise the class were making and I had to interupt a lot to quieten people down.  Managed to get the peer and self-assessment done again on video after it which I think is one of the most useful aspects and in general the others in the class were very positive but they do not see how difficult they make it for the people doing the lesson.

We had our health day on Friday and I spent most of the day chopping fruit as p.7 were doing our ‘health bar’.  This was after making jelly until nearly midnight the night before.  Somehow I was running around like mad all day preparing things which is not what I had expected to be doing.  Just as well we were having a dress down day and I had my trainers on!  Our dress down day and the health bar were to raise money for resources for the school I am going to in Malawi and although I do not have a final figure yet it looks like we made over £250 which is a big help.

Glow and Malawi working together

3 06 2008

Yesterday I made the other teachers from the Sharing Success and Making Connections conference that had expressed an interest in my Malawi glow group members of it and used it with my class.  A few weeks on from the conference I know but as I have said on here before school has been incredibly busy and I was adamant I wanted the glow group finished to how I wanted it before I opened it up.  This I gave up on as I realised that is not important and it is not long until I go!  So the only thing I have not put on it yet that I specifically wanted on it are the surveys that I had planned – well the point is they are not really planned, I just know I want them on there!

So I asked my class to go on yesterday and start answering questions I had set on the discussion pages about what games and ideas I could take out to Malawi for maths, language, P.E, playground games etc.  This was after I had read them out the letter from my family etc which certainly sparked their interest and made them keen off their own back to raise money for the school and for gifts, ie a football particularly, for the four year old boy that will be in the house.

They were really only interested in writing about their pe and playground games so still looking for active learning/needing no resources games for maths and language, hopefully I might get some of these as other schools get involved.

Tomorrow I am going to spend time with p.4-7 showing them glow and hopefully getting them interested in it, as well as explaining a bit more about Malawi.  Then I want to make sure they all have their passwords changed and have been on before the summer.  One problem I have at the moment with staff passwords is that apart from myself we only have another 2 permanent class teachers in school at present so I don’t have the passwords for the other teachers.  Most children are going to end up with their passwords before the children do!

Today I bought myself from Amazon a wind up mobile phone and ipod charger, a wind up torch, a wind up radio and a lot of batteries!  I am going to take my ipod to the village (and keep it on me!) and use it with small speakers to play scottish music on as requested.  I had better brush up on my scottish country dancing to teach it to the village!  I will give the radio as a gift to the family since they mentioned that.  I suppose then I only need the batteries for my camera but I am sure I will be using that a lot.  I will be taking my video camera too but will just need to use that sparingly as it will be three weeks before I can charge anything with electricity.  I will be taking a head torch but thought I had better get a wind up one too.  I was really surprised at how cheap all of these things were but then even more surprised that the packaging came to more than the actual cost of the items.  Still bought them though as I have no time to get to the shops and search things out!  I also bought a load of tablet and shortbread!  I am planning on buying a parachute as a gift for the school, they are not exactly cheap but not as expensive as I thought they might be.  I might pack it in my hand luggage – I am not feeling very confident about the flights!

Not long now

1 06 2008

I have just got home from Edinburgh where I have been at the second training weekend for the global teachers programme.  It is now only 3 weeks on Friday (that is quite scary sounding!) until we go and this weekend has really made it seem real!  It was also very exciting, for most of us this was probably due to the fact we got given a profile about our school and a letter/profile about our host family.  The other great thing was meeting last years GT’s and getting to ask them all of our questions.

I think we are getting our profiles emailed to us so if we do I will post them on here.  My school is called Gwengwe Primary School and has 381 pupils and 5 teachers which includes the HT and DHT and is split to 3 males and 2 females.  Of this number two of these are volunteer teachers so are untrained and there can be difficulties paying them.  The pupil to teacher ratio is 76:1 which is good for Malawi.  There seems to be good support from the community and the school is in fairly good condition – there are desks in every classroom and pupil: textbook ratio is supposedly 1:1 which would be extremely unusual.  We were warned not take all of the information as correct!

I will be living with Mrs Dalikeni Chiziya and her four year old son.  There was no mention of a father but this does not mean there is not one about apparently – he might just not have been there the day the profiles were made up.  They rely on farming and the house is located only 50m from the school with a borehole for water 100m away.  The house has two bedrooms and I will have one of them.  In the letter it said they liked chatting to friends in their spare time and listening to the radio; although they do not actually have one!  The mother is hoping I will take out ‘Scottish music on a cassette that we can listen to’ so I guess I need to be looking for portable radios and cd players preferably with some wind up charger!

The village has a small shop to buy soft drinks, matches, biscuits etc and there is a tea room!  It is supposedly 50km from Dedza and 10km from Mayani trading centre which has shops and transport links and a health centre and probably a market.  I am not that close to other global teachers although near a main road so it might not be difficult to meet up.

We got all of this information on Friday night and spent the rest of the night talking about that and locating our village on a map of the district. 

               Where we are all going

On Saturday we got information about education in the Dedza region specifically, a session on strategies for working in schools, a Chichewa language session, advice on running our INSET’s in the TDC’s (Teacher Development Centres) and a display from last year’s GT’s as well as talks from Kay Livingstone from LTS and Elizabeth Williamson from the Scottish Government.  When we do the INSET’s I will be taking (with a couple of other GT’s) full day sessions on Leadership and Management, Numeracy and Literacy and PE so I was quite happy that I got what I had expressed most interest in.

Today was really about living and coping dilemas both with our host families and in the schools and there were some difficult issues that we had to discuss, all of which had happened to former GT’s.  These included:

  • LCD has told your host family that you would prefer not to eat meat yet you can tell they have spent a lot of their allowance on buying meat for special meals.  They say it is a sign of respect and honouring you as a guest.  How do you respond?

          Being vegetarian I got a bit worried about this one!

  • A local trader becomes very insistent that you help him get work in the UK.  You pass his stall every day on the way home.  Tactics and strategies?
  • Certain cultural customs disturb you, such as children, particularly girls, kneeling when speaking to male teachers.  You do not want them to do this when speaking to you.  What is the best course of action?
  • After three weeks of all your efforts, the young teacher to whom you are giving the most support is still allowing corporal punishment.  Although she is not doing it herself, she is allowing a senior pupil to walk around swishing a stick.  The Head Teacher is not too concerned.  What would you do?

The last one there was quite interesting as my group were discussing this one and we thought you would have to leave it as you had tried, it is a custom and the Head Teacher was not concerned.  It is not supposed to be allowed though.  We had with us this weekend a Malawian who works for LINK in Dedza and he discussed this with us and said that actually we could take it further, either to the School Management Committee or to the head of the zone.  During the whole weekend it was really useful to have Wilford there as he could answer so much for us.

We also had an input on glow today and out of this years and last years GT’s it was interesting to see how few had any involvement with Glow so far; that is about 30 teachers across a number of authorities.  I guess I have become so involved with it that I have not realised how many councils/people still have to come onboard.  I ended up showing a couple of my glow groups as they were to do with Malawi and I think that one of my outcomes for LINK is going to be about using glow with past and present global teachers to share resources etc.

I would say there are three things I now have left to do:

  •  buy things like wind up chargers, batteries, gifts etc
  • photocopy/collect AIFL things etc and get the kids to make stuff
  • pack! – We only have a 20kg allowance so this could be tricky!

And get something stronger for the plane – we have five flights on the way home, although I was told by someone from last year that we do not get off the plane every time, but it is Malawi – Zambia – Ethiopia Rome – London – Glasgow.  I will have had my fill of flying after that, unfortunate that it is only 10 weeks after that I will be flying to Chicago!

Also really worried now as several of last years GT’s said they put on weight; no wonder after they also then told me all of the stodgy, carbohydrate type food that we would be eating.  I had already thought of starting a running club at my school as my excuse for going running and not appearing like a totally crazy white woman but I may have to do it 2 or 3 times a day!

             Chichewa language session