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!


New Job

22 09 2008

Now I can finally write about my new job!  I am on secondment with South Lanarkshire Council as a Development Officer.  I am working on Glow and more specifically we hope to focus on how to help teachers to use Glow to support learning and teaching.  Other parts of my remit include the Curriculum for Excellence area of literacy and I am doing a lot of International Development as well, plus looking at gender.  So quite a few things on my remit! 

I am really enjoying it so far and am getting the chance to do a lot of different things.  One new challenge for me will be working with secondary schools on International Development as I have set up talks/questions and answer sessions/workshop afternoons with several schools, working with first to fifth year.  I can’t believe I was worried about going on secondment in terms of not being able to do my follow up work for LINK as this has actually led me, even in this short time, to have far more opportunity to disseminate information to pupils across the council than I would have had if I was in class.

I have only ever looked after kids, worked in pubs or restaurants or taught so it is a novel experience for me to be working in an office.  It’s great to have a change!

To the end…..

21 09 2008

Saturday 26th July

Last day of work today; evaluation day with our head teachers.  We had all been a bit worried how we would fill the day talking with our heads but actually it was very structured and we did not feel we got enough time!

We had speeches first etc as it was also a bit of a farewell ceremony and we got up and did a song and poem.  We then split up into our 3 zones and evaluated and assessed our impact, then assessed the insets and in the afternoon put these into priorities for the school to work on.

Working hard

Working hard

I wrote earlier that I was not sure how much my school would carry on but was really pleasantly surprised to have my headteacher tell me today that he had organised a meeting with all of the teachers during the holidays to discuss how they would carry on the work I had started.

Kim and her head teacher

Kim and her head teacher

At the end of the day we did Strip the Willow with them outside and Auld Lang Syne and then they suggested some Malawi dances.

We thought that was done but we had one more meeting once the teachers left, although after quite a bit of moaning from us realised it was mostly logistical about what was happening the next few days!  I went out for a run with Ed afterwards (already having run with Robert that morning).  The full story is on my running blog but suffice to say I was panicking as Ed is a 2.26 marathon runner!!!!

Sharon and I spent Saturday night writing evaluation forms and diaries in our beds – we know how to live!  Actually we were saving ourselves for Lake Malawi!  We had to call the attendant twice more today for the toilet  as first thing in the morning it would not flush at all and then later it flooded again.  We were very glad to only have 2 more nights left there.

Sunday 27th July

‘Cultural day’ today and Ed, Sharon, Claire, Robert, Roger, Wilford and I all went up Dedza Mountain – actually you drive up most of it and walk along a ridge with the only climb being near the end but it was still good to be out doing some different exercise.  I did not really notice the altitude because of fitness and the running while in the village.  In fact I really wanted to run but was not really dressed for it!

We all met up for lunch at the pottery and then Emmanuel took us up with a guide to see some rock paintings which are now a UNESCO world heritage site.  That was a really bumpy ride and a much steeper walk up to them than the mountain had been this morning.

rock paintings

rock paintings

Had a real treat in bed that night as some nurses had been staying and had left real girlie (as in gossip!) magazines so I nabbed them when they left and we spent all night reading those.  I would never buy them but am not adverse to reading them if someone else buys them!

Monday 28th July

Made our way to Lake Malawi today stopping at Mua Mission on the way, which is one of the cultural highlights of Malawi.  One of the rooms there had a particularly interesting section on customs and rituals from birth to death and cleared up a lot of the things we had seen in the village but had not been to ask about.

views on the way

views on the way

We got to the lake about 5pm and Sharon and I shared a hut right on the beach.  After a quick explore of the pottery shop it was straight to the bar, where we were soon joined by most of the others.  We consumed some wine and all in all had a great night. I think we really needed the release after such hard work.  It ended up being party back at ours with Robert, Wilford and Emmanuel and my ipod with speakers.  The bar shut before we were ready for it too so Sharon and I ended up ruining our packing by pulling out all of the beers we had bought for gifts and sharing them round!  Bed about 2am!

our beach hut

our beach hut

Tuesday 29th July

Had planned on getting up to watch the sunrise over the lake – unsurprisingly this did not happen!  Had a totally lazy day, pretty much on the beach all day bar a little walk to the pottery later on for coffee and cake!  Even went in the lake for a swim!  Now I had sworn I was not going to do this as there is a nasty bug can get inside you, the condition is called Belharsia I think, and if it goes untreated can be very nasty.  I discovered though that I may have it from going through streams in my village and being in the water to wash my clothes so I thought I may as well just risk it!  Must go to the doctor’s soon for the test!

We had dinner outside tonight with a choir singing and dancing all night, so of course we did too.  They went on for hours and I was starting to feel really sorry for them as it must have been exhausting but came to the conclusion they were really enjoying it and we did collect a lot of money for them!  I got landed (not quite sure how) with doing a thank you speech for the link staff, so it was short and sweet!

Sharon and I ended up up late partying again, with Wilford and Emmanuel – this time we ran out of money and so Sharon dug into her bag again and brought out half bottles of gin she had bought as gifts and we mixed them with sprite – highly recommended!  3am bed tonight – and this is from the girl who barely drinks a glass of wine a month at home sometimes and while marathon training I will quite happily go without anything for months at a time!  I am also not worth a button after 10pm at night usually! It was a great finish to the trip though.

Wednesday 30th July

Even got up for the sunrise today at 5.40am!  We left at 8.40am to go to the airport and it was a really weird feeling knowing we were leaving!  I didn’t like it at all and barely said a word for the 2.5 hours we were on the bus!

sunrise over the lake

sunrise over the lake

Four flights to get home – Lilongwe to Zambia which was really busy and then same plane to Addis Abbaba where I got 3 seats to myself – bonus!  It was a bizarre flight though as first the family behind me were virtually causing air rage over not getting the food the wanted, then one of them couldn’t breathe or something and so they called for a nurse or doctor among the passengers (she was absolutely fine) and the guy beside Shiraz had flown from India to Addis Ababa, somehow was directed back on the plane (he was supposed to get off there and did not speak much english) and then flew from Addis to Lilongwe to Zambia to Addis again.  Poor guy was utterly confused!

Could not land for a while because of fog (!) and they were obviously totally unprepared for this as we could not get off for ages when we landed till they organised things.  Had loads of time for food etc there and Sharon and I saw the Zimbabwe Olympic team heading off for Bejing including Kirsty Coventry who had a great games and makes for a really interesting story.

Had hours in Heathrow but it was great to get a nice latte!  I happened to say to Jill that I thought I had coped really well with the flights on the way home and stated that that might have had something to do with taking my beta blockers with gin at the lake!

I felt pretty shell shocked that it was all over and really did not want to be home.  It was quite emotional saying bye to everyone especially Jill and Sharon.  Of course the first thing I did when I got home (after going to Braehead to see my brother and have another latte!) was look at all my photos and video clips on the computer!

So after almost 2 months and 31,602 words I have finally finished writing my story.  Now I might actually be able to write about my new job, glow, international education etc!

Last days of work

17 09 2008

Friday and the last day of insets.  Sharon, Shiraz, Maureen and I were really early, having been driven by Emmanuel and got a chance to go for a walk around the village where the District Education Centre was.  It had a lot more infrastructure than my village including a few stalls/market, a well built church, a maternity hospital and some well built houses.

Maureen during the break

Maureen during the break

We very quickly got started on the active stuff when we got going and took them outside to play tig and do stretching all together.  We had, throughout the week asked whoever was at that TDC to encourage them to come on the Friday in casual clothes and most did including most of the women and Mrs Mchuchu who was the PEA for the zone and not only came dressed in PE gear underneath her chitenji but really got into the whole thing and proved herself to be very competitive.

We then split them into 2 groups with Shiraz and I taking one group.  The game they liked the best was definitely octopus tig and we ended up doing it three times!  We got a few games done with each group, different ones for each group so they could then share them and have the choice of more games.

Shiraz did some yoga with them and then I did the one minute cool down with them.  The teachers who got up the first got up after only about 20 secs!  Emmanuel, who was joining in with a lot of it, won both times.

Shiraz using the hand washing facility

Shiraz using the hand washing facility

The head of the whole district came with Ed to see what was going on and spoke to the teachers for ages, we then finished off with a recap of the whole week.  We took each day and went over what they had done and asked them to discuss with a partner 3 things they had learned and what strategy they were now going to try. 

Emmanuel and one of the teachers

Gerald, one of the teachers and Emmanuel

It was then Sharon’s turn to have to say bye to teachers she would not see again but at least there were no teachers there this time!  We got Emmanuel to let us buy chips again – we bought him some each time too.  We also then got him to drop us off at the cash and carry in Dedza so we could check and see if they sold paint etc for us to buy next year for the schools since we were already discussing coming back at this point.  They did and then we bought more chocolate!

We went back to Dedza pottery for dinner and then Sharon and I had a bit of a crisis!  We did not get back till after 10pm and of course this was really late for us so we were shattered!  Sharon was brushing her teeth and the toilet had just been flushed when all of the sudden there was a fountain coming out of the back of the toilet!  We screeched a bit, rushed about, threw down towels, I had to move all my bags as they were just outside of the bathroom and were about to get soaked and Sharon then ran to get someone (in her pj’s, as I was)!  The attendant managed to get it to stop and filled a couple of buckets mopping up the floor.  He then flushed it again which we held our breath over and made a decision not to flush it ourselves through the night as we did not trust it at all!

Some comments from the evaluations of the Leadership and Management inset:

  • Each moment was useful
  • The whole day has been most useful because it has reminded me more about my profession
  • Nothing was not useful because everything learnt today was very helpful and effective
  • I will try my best to be a role model teacher and accomplish what I have learnt today
  • I would like to continue learners to continue in education

Comments from the Literacy and Numeracy Day:

  • The inset was very interesting and enjoyable
  • The skills we have learnt will indeed assist the learners in the schools
  • Well done for your good job, we are learning a lot from you
  • The inset is very helpful and come again next year
  • Inset was funny and educative.  Try to come to Malawi time and again
  • Our inset today was nice, most joyful
  • Keep it up to promote our desire of long life learning in both teachers and learners
  • It was so nice and lots of fun
  • It was a very nice one and I think this will help us to start a new step
  • Your hard work has helped us to know our work
  • It has been fruitful.  Come again
  • I am really happy with your work.  I just beg you to come again and assist us.
  • I have learned a lot today.

And these quotes were only from the two insets I did at Tschetsa, there were so many more like this from the other zones too!

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!


9 09 2008

I am going back a bit before I discuss what we did at the inset training to review what I actually managed to do at Gwengwe.  I would like a detailed record of this as I want to know what they actually keep up!

Within a couple of days of arriving at the school I made up a list of positive things, and a list of things to work on.

Positives (not necessarily by all teachers but I saw it happen by some at least!)

  • Use of praise
  • Use of talular (teaching and learning using locally available resources)
  • Group work
  • Active learning
  • Working with the local environment
  • Explanations and examples (sometimes)
  • Behaviour and listening skills of learners
  • Gender balance
  • Enthusiasm of learners
  • Enthusiasm of some teachers and a willingness by all of them to learn
  • Involvement of local community

Could work on:

  • punctuality (starting with teachers)
  • Use of teachers time/classes being left
  • School finishing early
  • Dead time for individuals/groups while in class
  • Literacy
  • Active learning in all classes, in different ways

Development Plan

The following were priorities on this session’s development plan:

  • School starting time
  • School rules clearly stated, displayed and followed
  • Staff meetings to be held regularly
  • Improve learners recording, thinking critically and understanding contexts.

Also stated were:

  • Self-assessment of learners
  • Start youth clubs and physical exercises
  • Assessment of teachers
  • Encourge parents more to take part in school activities
  • Parents to help with homework
  • Teachers to follow what parents advise if appropriate

Schools, and not just the ones the GT’s were going to, have had help from LINK to form their development plans this year as this is one of the things the LINK Malawi office were developing.

I decided to try to focus on the ones that were prioritised and also self-assessment of learners, youth groups, assessment of teachers and try to do something about involving the parents.

I kept a list that I kept adding to and by the end of my time I felt I had achieved the following well:

  • Establishing and displaying school rules
  • Introduced strategies for timekeeping and set a good example.  Rearranged timetables so that they were not doing English, chichewa and maths first thing and children were not missing this
  • Got a teacher for St7 by combining St6 and 7 and rearranged all timetables to ensure other teachers are helping in the afternoons
  • Managed to get funding for a teacher for St2 and they got a classroom
  • Introduced monitoring of teachers, modelled it and the feedback myself, including written feedback(very postitive) and left guidelines and feedback sheets
  • Established a regular time for staff meetings and gave them structure (not sure if this will continue as previous to this they had only had 4 meetings in the last year and a half)
  • Introduced pe games
  • Moved all classes into groups
  • Introduced mental maths and active learning games into maths
  • Introduced jolly phonics and some training on reading, including paired reading and active learning
  • Sorted and tidied cupboards and resources and made some office space
  • Introduced athletics, rounders and scottish dancing and tried to make a regular time for after school clubs

The following I did but could not spend as much time on:

  • Introduced thinking skills and left them with strategies to try
  • Gave them more of a structure for their lessons including sharing learning intentions and success criteria and a plenary etc
  • Self-ssessment and self-evaluation by pupils
  • Tried out peer marking a few times and hopefully this will continue

The teachers had their learning intentions etc in their planning but did not share this with pupils partiuclarly.  Their daily lesson plans were an utter waste of time but this comes from way up high and there was not much we could do about it except express our concerns to the PEA’s.  All they did was copy the lesson plan from the teachers guide into a jotter.  There was no need for it whatsover. 

They also had forward plans which also seemed to be a lot of copying and writing for the sake of it. Not that ours are perfect of course!  They were starting to do continous assessment in that they had a book that had checklists and they ticked off when pupils could do things which I often saw them doing while physically going round the classroom and checking this.  Must be hard with 100 pupils though!  There was some space for self-evaluation in their plans but they just wrote the same things all of the time like ‘learning was achieved through questions and answers’.

I have found the test that St2 were set in english at Fumba Primary, it is quite interesting!  These children should only be 7 and have only been learning english a year and a half by this point.

  1. This is a ____________ (plate, door)
  2. This is a ____________ (ball, tree)              (Pictures were drawn beside the questions)
  3. Make 2 sentences from the words below.

          We  play/eat/sing  together at home

  1.  I like _____________ (thieves/nsima)
  2. A nurse gives ______________ (medicine/poison)
  3. A driver drives a ____________ (car/moon)

The results ranged from 0 to full marks with the majority being in the low to middle range.  I thought it was pretty hard as they would not have learnt a lot of these words yet.

What happened next….

7 09 2008

On the plus side these posts should not now be so long, on the minus side for those reading there will be less photos to break it up, although that is a plus for me as it was a really annoying part of it! 

There are less photos now as I finished my memory cards when I left the village and had already deleted lots of photos, there were no more that I felt I did not mind losing.  I can’t believe I did not take the other camera as well as that had about another 600 photos available!  I had 420 or so that I used up on mine.  I took a lot of video footage to make up for it and some photos on the video camera but they did not turn out very well.  We are all swapping photos so I will get some but it is taking a while.

Anyway, when we left the village we had another 4 teachers to pick up and I spent 5 hours in the land rover!  First we had to go and meet the Isuzu with two teachers in it and swap over so all the luggage was in that and we were all in the landrover.  We were early to meet them in Mayani and got to go and have a wander around.  I met one of the boys from St5 which was nice to get to say bye to him and then another 3 people I knew from other schools or World Vision. It was really bizarre – I don’t meet people I know randomly wandering around Glasgow!

We picked up Jill, Clare and Kim and got to have lunch at Kim’s house which was good since I had met them before.  We were all really emotional every time one of us was saying bye to our family, that is until we picked up Robert – he wasn’t emotional!  I started to feel quite numb though as I was so upset to have left my kids.

Sharon and I discovered when we arrived at Panjira Lodge that we had to share which at the time we were a bit annoyed about, as even though we had got on well we both wanted our own space.  I think we were both the same in that we were a bit worried what we were going to feel like that night and would rather have been by ourselves.

Our bedroom in Panjira Lodge

Our bedroom in Panjira Lodge

the bathroom caused some problems later!  And was crawling with ants!

the bathroom caused some problems later! And was crawling with ants!


We had a bit of time when we got back before dinner, during which time Taggart came on Malawi tv!  Not that we had a tv in our room, far from it, but there was one in the dining room.  Although I have not written it I am sure we went down to the supermarket and bought crisps and chocolate.  I was determined this would be a one off as a treat for feeling so emotional but it would turn out to be a very regular occurance.  It was not what I planned after not having any treats etc in the village to stay good!  Dinners (and lunches when we were there) were always pretty much the same in Panjire Lodge – rice and veg curry (or stew which meant the same as the curry without the spices) and green veg.  It was fine but got very samey!

outside at Panjira Lodge

outside at Panjira Lodge

We had to have a meeting that night which we were not expecting, in fact we were quite shocked, and very, very tired.  I actually did find it okay in the end though, we were just asked to highlight professional and personal highlights and challenges.  My highlights were the running with the kids and the paired reading.  I can’t remember my professional challenge but it was probably the timekeeping and professionalism of the teachers.  I could not think of a personal challenge as everything I had thought would be a challenge, ie toilets, rats, english were not at all so I said being forced to eat so much.  These were anonymous and we had them on flip charts in small groups but it was glaringly obvious which mine were of the personal ones!

Sunday 20th July

We actually got a couple of hours off this morning!  Got to go on the computers in the office and that was when I first updated my blog myself.  I had also just found out that Debs was pregnant and so spent the rest of the time reading her blog as she had not published her whw race report either before I left.  Other people were emailing or reading news etc but that was far more interesting, and exciting to read about the baby!

just outside our hotel - the prison is the white building on the right!

just outside our hotel - the prison is the white building on the right!

Sharon and I realised today that actually it was fine to be sharing, we had just been unsure of how we would be last night and in fact it turned out to be great fun and I enjoyed this part of the trip so much partly because of this.  We maybe encouraged each other a bit too much with the chocolate though!  It was actually nice to have someone there to talk over what had happened to each of us.

We spent some more time self-evaluating in the morning and what we ended up with was sheets and sheets of all of the things we had all achieved in our schools.  This made us all a lot happier and more confident about our time there to see it all up on the wall and it look like a huge amount.

We split up in the afternoon to do our inset planning.  There were 14 of us divided into different groups for 4 days of inset.  We each got one day off.  We split into groups of the people who were planning for the inset and then had another that we would be participating in but not doing the planning for and another on the last day that we would plan for later in the week.

Sharon, Kirsty, Claire, Kristeen and I were doing the planning for the leadership and management inset, during which we would try to hit some of the hard issues like timekeeping, timetabling and professionalism.  We were still planning for it in the evening after dinner – see the photo!  It was really cold in the lodge, especially at night and we were all so tired it was surprising we managed to leave the room and get back to our own to go to sleep!  Incidentally we were not having to plan during the day in the bedrooms, it was only as we were so cold and tired at night!

a bit tired!

a bit tired!

Monday 21st July

We basically worked all day on the insets today.  It was very hard going and far harder than being in our villages.  We all felt the timetabling for all of this was difficult with so much prep to do when we were so tired but it was Link’s first time of trying these insets and they openly said they were learning to!  Ultimately it would be well worth it as they went so well and we felt the teachers got a lot out of it but it was hard at this stage.  We had to finish our own prep and then hear from the other groups what our other day was that we were participating in was like and explain to the others about ours.  None of us, for obvious reasons, felt as prepared for the other one as for the one we had prepared for.

I felt this was really useful, I had work with peers on something difficult and explain it to others.  It involved working with Master, who was part of the link staff and the PEA for a different zone whom I had not met before so there were a lot issues to work through and we had to be quite diplomatic too!

We were all desperate to go out for dinner tonight as it would be the first time in the trip we chose our own food and we just wanted to go somewhere different and not associated with where we were working.  On reflection it was a bad idea as were served and it took a long time to get seated ie 1 and 1/2 hours, although once seated we were served quickly.  This was despite stating the time we wanted to eat at when we ordered at lunchtime!  It was at Dedza pottery which is lovely though and I think probably the only really decent place to eat in Dedza!  It also turned out to be a bad idea as after no dairy or rich food for weeks some of us felt quite an effect afterwards as it was very much like that there!