Frustrating start to the day, but it ended up a highlight!

2 09 2008

Thursday 17th July

Again I sneaked a bit of marmite for my bread today – it felt like such a treat!  The kids were really late today and we did not get started for ages.  I found today frustrating because the head teacher had been called away to fill in some forms (why did someone, like the PEA, not come round with them!) and would be away all day and the teachers, although definately not the pupils, were in holiday mode and really winding down.  This was hard for me as I knew this would be the last teaching day and there was still so much I wanted to do.  I found myself being quite tetchy with the teachers and I know this was wrong, and knew it at the time!, but our time was so short we wanted to make the most of it.  They did not seem to notice or pay any attention to it if they did though.  I was glad at the weeked when I found out that most of us had felt like that and had been in the same sort of mood as I had felt really bad about it.

I kept having to tell myself that they get paid a pittance etc and that if visitors came to use at the end of term with new things to try out and do we would have told them where to go probably, whether politely or not I am not sure!

I did some more activities with St 1 and 2 first again and looked in a few times on St 6 and 7.  I had asked the deputy if they could reply to the letters that the p.6 class had written to them so they were thrilled to be doing that and spent a long time on it.  I, mistakenly I think now, had not been sure how much english they would be able to write and so we gave a few starters for them like name, age, family members, what they liked in and out of school and so they just ended up using those and they probably could have added more of their own.  I am sure they will be writing again though!  I have loved working with these 2 classes as they got more and more confident about trying their english, the boys hung out with me in the afternoons, they loved all the activities and trying out things like the dancing and the teacher being so enthusiastic made such a difference too.

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs

 

St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

I then went into St 3-5 which because the HT was away were being split between the St 3 and St 4 teachers, the St4 teacher actually being there today was amazing!  It seeemed though that unless I was actually in the room there was no work being done.  And this was not that there was work there and the children were not doing it, it was that they had not even been given any work and the teacher was away doing whatever else they liked.  I ended up getting so annoyed that I went to clear out the two cupboards in the school as they had been horrifying me!  One was filled with rubbish really and was easy to clear out and sort.  The other was full of textbooks and they were in an awful state.  The photograph is not even from when I began as I did not think to take the photo till later.

Before
Before
and after!

and after!

I could not believe they could let textbooks get in that mess and yet they were complaining about not having certain ones etc.  They were mostly infant books and some junior, as everyone expcept the infants tends to take their books home with them.  Even if they were not being used anymore it was still an awful way to leave books and I was going to be leaving a lot of gifts etc behind so did not want them to end up the same way – hence me taking a photo of it tidy!  I have sent a copy of both photos back to the school, as well as many, many nicer ones, to encourage them to keep it tidy.   I did warm them I was going to do that!

One of the things I was going to be leaving was 50 story books with 10 different stories in Chichewa for the pupils.  These are beautifully illustrated and brand new and I did not want them ending up the same way!  It was the children at Castlefield who raised the money for these and for the parachute.  I then, in Dedza, bought a further 20 in English so they could have the same books in both languages.

Virsula the Giant

Virsula the Giant

I really wanted it to be demonstrated how to look after the books and for the children to see them and know about them so that hopefully they would not just stay in the cupboard so I decided to disrupt lessons – well if you could have called it that anyway – and ask to do some paired reading!

I took the books and explained this concept to the deputy head who as usual was very excited and launched into a big explanation to St6 and 7 about how, with prompting from me, to look after the books and how they should be read to younger ones.  They were very excited!

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

We had break and then brought all the children who were left into the St1 classroom and explained what we were going to do, rather unfortuntely the infants had already gone home but that was probably enough children for the first time anyway.  Mr Kalivute spent ages explaining how to look after them etc again but I had to close my eyes when then seniors came to pick a book as they were all grabbing and pulling them as they were so excited.  They quickly picked kids to read to and went outside.  Luckily the coldness of this week was going and it was nice and sunny.  I expressly told all of the teachers I wanted them to be involved and go round and see what the pupils were doing and listening in.  So no wandering off for them and to be fair they didn’t as they were really interested too.  I had suggested maybe about 20 mins but it lasted an hour as they were all so interested in the stories and pictures and they just kept swapping the books around. 

He is following the words with his finger!

He is using his finger to follow the words!

 The older ones were amazing; they used their finger to follow the words for the younger ones, spoke with expression, asked questions about the pictures and got the younger ones to repeat bits back to them.  Some of this we had told them about but I am sure they used their fingers instinctively. 

I love the smiles in this photo

I love the smiles in this photo

This whole activity made me feel so much better about this last day of teaching as I think everyone learned so much and the books are, I hope, such a useful gift that I am leaving them.  Some of the pupils actually taught some of the teachers a couple of things I think!  Even better was that then Mr Kalivute brought them all back together and was asking open questions about the stories to all of the children.  I really could have hugged him as I was so pleased with what he was doing, everyday, but that is so not the done thing in Malawi, certainly not between opposite sexes.   When asked about personal and professional highlights I now found it easy to pick – going running with all of the children was definetely my personal highlight and my professional one was the paired reading as it really perked me up and had a little of everything in it.  I wrote a case study about these for the LINK Malawi office.

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

I took St 5, 6 and 7 off to do some more dancing while the teachers did the second part of the testing with the St3.  They were supposed to do it yesterday but most of them were part of the World Vision visit and did not want to leave the various queues which was fair enough really, it was just bad planning that we did not know about that beforehand and could have planned different days.  We had just got them to do it straightaway and not go home for lunch first as I did not think it was going to take that long but, and this really angered me, the teachers were totally unprepared for it and kept the children waiting for ages while the faffed (there is no better word) about not even trying very hard to get ready.  So not only did they keep the children waiting about an hour before starting but they also had had no lunch.  That would just not be done here at all but they had no concept that the children mattered!  They would not even have thanked them for staying back if I had not insisted on them saying it about three times from me and there was no praise.  I was feeling doubly bad as it was explained that it was really because of me being there that this was being done and I did not want them to think I was making them stay back etc!  It is not part of their culture to thank children ect for that kind of thing but I just thought it was bad manners.  They were probably also worried about what the results were going to show.  The maths results were a lot better than the Chichewa marks but this had been expected and is really the same in all tests nationwide.  It only reinforces the fact that it is reading that is more of a problem.  I gave the children biscuits that I had bought for them to keep them going and then a balloon each as a reward.

The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!
The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!

Mr Balaka was there for some of the afternoon and I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought would most improve schools in his zone and he said more teachers houses as the teachers do not want to come and live in rural areas but if there is a teachers house it does encourage them to come.  He would like several schools in his zone to move to having eight standards including Gwengwe, but my school would definetely need another teachers house for this as you could not add on another class without having another qualified teacher there.  There are enough volunteer teachers already.  Hence why I would like to raise money for another teacher’s house in my village as this confirmed what the pupils had said the day before about wanting more teachers.

We had a staff meeting after the testing and I softened them up with fanta and scottish food like shortbread, macaroon and tablet.   I did maybe come across quite harshly at this point but I was really trying to get the message across about timekeeping – how can you expect the children to come on time if you do not – and staying in the class, which I actually found to worse in this school than the timekeeping, especially after what I heard from some other people when we all met up again!  Other than that we went through everything we had achieved since I got here, revised some things like thinking skills and questioning and talked about how they would carry things on.  I know I did most of the talking here and that was totally wrong but I was so aware of time marching on and wanting to get through things but I really should have let them have more discussion time.  That was bad modelling of a staff meeting!

Things we did while I was there

Things we did while I was there

I had been adament that I would have to go and use my phone afterwards as I wanted to see if I had a message yet about when I would be picked up by link on Saturday so I could tell the pupils and it was also my wedding anniversary so I had thought I had better give a call home!  Of course we got all the way up the hill before I realised that the batteries on both of my phones were dead.  I knew one had been about to go but I had just had the other recharged in Mayani on Tuesday so that should have been fine.  I had played some of the boys some music on it though and must have left it on so there was nothing!  That was me, I knew I was in trouble when I got home!  In the immediate future I was more worried about not getting the message from Link as I had no clue when they would come and really restricted what I could do on the Saturday.  The boys tried to come up with solutions of someone going to Mayani in the morning to get it charged but I did not want to waste their time doing that and just left it.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that.  Part of their witchcraft traditions.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that. Part of their witchcraft traditions.

When we got back I went to do some work in the classroom but a couple of the boys came and called me down to the bottom of the hill at the back of the school.  I was totally mystified as to what I was to see but it was a large group of the St6 and 7 boys making me my mat out of bamboo that the children had brought in the materials for.  I had wondered why Philipo had a knife with him to school that would have been a dangerous weapon in a ned’s hands in Glasgow.  And probably similar has been seen in schools here!

Some of the boys who made the mat

Some of the boys who made the mat

I stood for ages watching them, really touched at how much effort they were putting into this and how much time it was going to take them.  They ended up bringing me down a desk and chair and I brought down my work (they told me to run and be quick while I was doing this as they did not want me to miss anything!) and I did some work while they worked and we had an awful lot of amusing, if stilted, conversations. Some of the younger kids came down as well when they realised I was there and the bigger ones tried to chase them away until they realised that I did not mind them being there and they were practically cuddling up to me on the chair – no wonder as it was getting cold as it was quite late in the afternoon!  I was there for 2 hours and they had started before that and continued with detailing it the next day, I was about in tears at the time and effort they put in and it really was from here on in that I was an emotional wreck about leaving.

using that sharp knife!

using that sharp knife!

 

Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon

Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon

 

One of the other global teachers I was with, and who was in the same zone as me, started a blog shortly before we left for Malawi.  Check it out at http://clarecaley.edublogs.org/