Scottish day

6 09 2009

Wednesday 8th July

I made the HT work hard today!  I had a world map, Scotland map, Scottish book of photographs, my two photograph albums, postcards and a big book on Castlefield made by the pupils with me and the HT had to translate all of the information on this 9 times through the day!

We went into each class and took some of them in 2 groups until everyone had seen everything.  It took about 45 mins per session and we were both exhausted at the end.  I was really pleased all the pupils had the chance to see everything and it also meant if the pupils looked at the photos in the afternoon they would know what they were.  He was very good at it, as far as I could tell, but he did say I had tired him out.

Busy HT

Busy HT

We also did the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with St 1, 2 and 3.  I had taken over a copy of the book as we had used it last year in our literacy in-service day and they loved it so I demonstrated and the HT translated how to read the book with the children using good questioning techniques and think, pair, share for discussion questions between the pupils.  We made sure that the other teachers were also watching so that they could practice this as well.  The children found it strange at first as they were not used to discussion and I was highlighting wait time which I am not sure will catch on!  The children are too keen to answer the question (if they know) so they are all shouting out right away and the teachers are very used to just asking for the first answer.  We did keep trying all of these things for the rest of the time I was there.  Something I could have gone to do but you really need longer there, would then be to encourage them in how they react to a pupil if they give a wrong answer as I felt it was quite discouraging but the time just flew away!

I went to the HT’s house for lunch that day and found that he had a tv and dvd player although the tv only works for the dvd player.  He only had one dvd but it made me realise that I could send dvd’s over of photographs, the film clips I took, messages from Castlefield etc and he could take it all into the school and show the pupils.  It runs from a complicated looking car battery system but we both got very excited of showing the pupils photos and film clips of themselves on screen.  I would love to be there to see that!

HT's house

HT's house

curiousity about the dvd player

curiousity about the dvd player

 

Five year old peeling and chopping potatoes for dinner

Five year old peeling and chopping potatoes for dinner

Had balloons out for them in the afternoon which is always a bit of a riot and then went for a run with them but my usually strong stomach was rebelling and I ended up not very well.  I had a feeling sorry for myself moment as I had really bad stomach cramps and just felt a bit miserable and realised I was going to have a few more trips than planned to the squat toilet and that I would have to explain to the family through Lameck as I would have to not eat for a bit. 

DHT's son - Tony

DHT's son - Tony

all ages loved the balloons

all ages loved the balloons

He was pointing out the children all waiting on me while I went off to bathe and saying they would really miss me this time which then made me more upset and I went off to bathe and sat in there having a bit of a cry!  With a toad for company!

So then had to explain about not eating – as I thought Lameck understood this but my family were very concerned and wanted to take me off to hospital!  Managed to not eat for 2 days pretty much and then I was okay but they never stopped asking me if I wanted food.

My usual things to do with the pupils were running, skipping, balloons, bubbles, tennis balls but I started playing tig with them tonight just as it started to be getting to dusk.  This meant they were moving about and I was keeping them warm!  It was great fun and for them they obviously just loved the fact that I was actually playing something with them and they were so excited!  We did it every night after that and I would pick different pupils to be the chasers with me.

Thursday 9th July

Today only 7 teachers were in school and when I asked about this was told that the rest were away at the TDC (Teacher Development Centre) marking the ST8 mock examination papers.  Things like this happen (and this happened for the next four days) all the time and it is another thing that hampers the pupils development.  If I had not been there I think the classes where teachers were not there would not get a teacher but I made sure that each class had a teacher.

We really did a lot while I was there this time to encourage the link with Clastlefield.  Each class in Castlefield had either drawn pictures or written letters or fact files for the other class and today ST1 and 3 with more coloured pencils and crayons that I had brought drew pictures back and wrote their names.  St 5 also wrote letters but this was hard for them in English and the teacher had to write up the bones of a letter on the board and then work hard translating the rest of the things the pupils wanted to write.

drawing pictures

drawing pictures

I wanted to do a similar thing with all of the other classes that I did with the Hungry Caterpillar so I took one of the stories we had bought English and Chichewa copies of last year and I had spent time the night before making up good discussion questions and grammar and language points to ask questions about and I did that today with St4 and 5, with the pupils having copies of the book in groups and doing paired reading and then having the teacher translate my questions and doing the same wait time and think, pair, share techniques that I had done with the infants.  These classes took to the discussion much better and it was great to see this but it was harder for me with these teachers trying to explain what I wanted the pupils to do as they were auxilliary teachers who had only just started.  If I spoke more than a few words of Chichewa it would really help!

I made up a number line when I got back to the house this afternoon and as I was sitting outside kids started to come out and join me so I got the crayons out and got them to colour in the numbers for me.  What started off 5 kids quickly became 40!  So luckily I had a lot of paper with me and crayons and I got that out for them all as well as photos and the postcards for them to copy scottish animals if they wanted.  This ended up reguarly being the first thing we did in the afternoons although it took all of the time I was there to teach them to share the crayons!

colouring in

colouring in

I was reminded today about the card my mum had sent after I got home last year.  As Lameck and his mum had written cards to all of my mum, she replied with a very short note along the lines of thanking everyone in the village for looking after me etc.  Well I got told today that it was absolutely revered; read out to pupils and shown to teachers, passed around parents in the village and now held safe by the school management committee and village chiefs.  Sent her a text saying she would have to do another one this year!





Back to school

5 09 2009

My first impresson of being back at the school was certainly a good one – the teachers were all there on time!  Not so with the pupils but you can’t have everything and I have always been more sympathetic of the pupils not being there on time since they probably have work to do in the house and have nothing for time keeping.  Plus at that time of year it is worse since if it is cold then they stay in the house longer before leaving for school.

Ringing the bell

Ringing the bell

 

Attempting to sweep the playground

Attempting to sweep the playground

assembly

assembly

Today was the only day I spent just watching the teachers, they were expecting it and kept asking when I was coming into their classes specifically to watch them.

I took very detailed notes on that first day but rather depressingly it was mostly chalk and talk and I saw no evidence of anything that either I had done with them last year or that we had done in the in-service training.  In infants though there were good technology lessons:

using clay they had made themselves

using clay they had made themselves

and working outside to do it

and working outside to do it

using maize leaves to create things

using maize leaves to create things

When I left last year the school had seven classes and was down to 5 teachers.  This year they now have 11!  This is split into the 3 qualified teachers from last year inc the HT and DHT, one of the volunteer teachers from last year, 3 newly qualified teachers who are doing their probationary period there and 4 other auxilliary teachers funded by DFID and being trained by LINK.

They were mostly well split up, with the auxilliaries supporting qualified teachers and taking some subjects.  Some positives that I noticed rightaway were:

  • most classes were in groups
  • some good displays on the walls
  • teachers there on time
  • a garden in the playground
  • school rules still displayed from last year
  • good use of praise and enthusiastic pupils
  • some good team teaching
results of their gardening

results of their gardening

What I was horrified at though, and had tried so hard to stop last year, was that the St5 teacher was not there (and in fact he was off the whole time I was there) and the class was just left to sit there all day without a teacher and with nothing to do.  This was despite the fact that at any one point during the day there were 2 or 3 teachers sitting outside chatting and doing nothing, not even marking or preparing work!

sitting in groups in St 6

sitting in groups in St 6

I did comment on it to the HT, couldn’t help it!, and I have to say it did not happen again while I was there.  I think part of the problem is that the HT does not particularly act like a HT.  He was only recently made HT when I arrived there last year, with no training and no support really.  I am sure it does not help that he has a class and that HT’s are often called away to things.  I did say to the education advisor for the area when Clare and I had a meeting with him the next weekend that it would be helpful for them to have more support.

Other things I noticed were:

  • timetable was back to being English/Chichewa/maths first thing in the morning when lots of pupils are not there
  • It seemed to take a long time for classes to start after assembly
  • As per the curriculum lots of lessons fully in english which the pupils struggled to understand but the teachers are obviously forced into this

I talked to all of the teachers after school and although I was really disheartened I tried to stay positive and I focused on the good things and the enthusiasm of some teachers and all pupils.  They kept asking me though what they needed to improve on and what they were doing wrong.  So I did say about them leaving their classes and about doing more of the interactive stuff with the kids and just kept saying I would show them lots more activities over the next two weeks.  It felt awkward, like they thought I was an expert and much better than them and like they actually wanted me to completely criticise them.

I stayed at the school till about 3pm, cleaning out and tidying the same cupboard that I had done last year.  It was a state and all of the things I had brought and left last year were messed up but at least I realised that that meant they had been using them!  I did explain that with the loop cards etc they would not be able to play them unless they were kept in order.

I cannot be sure what this sounds like to other people reading this as I am too close to it all and too involved.  I hope it does not sound like I was horrible to the teachers, or dismissive etc and it is partly why I had put off starting to write about my return visit. 

For meit was difficult to go back and feel like nothing had changed since being there last year when we all put so, so much work into it and for me it is all about the fact that that meant maybe nothing had changed for the kids, that their chances had not been improved and that especially they were still being left with no teacher despite 11 being in the school!

desperate to be in photos

desperate to be in photos

Spent the rest of that afternoon playing with kids and running with them.  The reaction from them of me being back was just overwhelming, maybe that more than anything will encourage them with school etc.  However the obstacle there is that they have to pay for secondary school!

playing around the school

playing around the school

local toys

local toys

LINK had done some school improvement reviews just before we arrived and my school did come out top in the cluster, although it still seemed  negative to me and a lot of schools found them disappointing.

Some things I noted from it:

  • unnecessary use of english in Chichewa lessons – I would strongly disagree with this
  • poor time management
  • they were to incorporate challenging tasks into lessons
  • poor storage of textbooks
  • no records available for supervision of teachers
  • no monitoring of repeaters and special needs or of staff attendance

Their recommendations:

  • improve leadership and management of the school ie supervision of teaching and learning, financial managment and teacher attendance
  • ensure thorough lesson preparation in all subjects
  • improve co-ordination between school management and school committees
  • constant support for volunteer teachers

Strengths they noted:

  • community support
  • encouraging learners attendance
  • presence of talular in some classes (teaching and learning using locally available resources)
  • displays
  • water, sanitation, toilets
  • hiring of volunteer teachers
  • promotion of girls education
  • parental involvement ie open days and reports
  • encouraging pupils to stay in school
  • school rules
  • health being taught
very even numbers of boys and girls, even further up the school

very even numbers of boys and girls, even further up the school

 So lots of things for me to do in the next weeks, while realising I was not going to get much done after school as the children were certainly not being shy this year and were all over me all day long!





Lots of walking!

3 09 2009

My next days in Malawi were Sat, Sun and Mon which was a public holiday as it was independance day.  This was strange, not going straight into the school and getting going with it.

I had been pretty lucky last year in terms of animals, particularly with having no ants really. So this year I did not buy any Doom (great ant spray) in Lilongwe and what happened….I woke up in the middle of the night on my first night covered in ants!

They were all over my face,  hair, neck and inside my ears (did you know ants make a noise, I didn’t until I heard and felt them inside my ears!) as well as all over my pillow.  I did not feel I could move or put a torch on as that would disturb the family so I just lay as snuggled down into my sleeping bag as possible as they did not seem to actually be in there and waited till morning, which was a long time coming!

It was disgusting in the morning seeing them all over my pillow, mattress and over the outside of my sleeping bag.  I am not known for being able to rough it (says the girl who climbed kili two weeks later with a severe lack of washing, sleeping or useable toilets)  and I had to show my host mother what the situation was like.  She put down some powder everywhere in the room and the living room and surprisingly I was not bothered by them in bed again!  Thank goodness!

So that combined with the emotional arrival and the sight of the kids the day before left me a bit emotional and teary again although I was pleased at finding something else I could cope with!  Lameck and I walked into Mayani, about 1 1/2 hours each way so that I could buy some more of the cloth to cover my skirts with like the woman in the village.

In the afternoon I got out two photograph albums I had brought with me – one had personal photos of me, my house, the flat from outside and going upstairs so they could understand that, family and Scotland as well as running again.  The other had lots of photos of Castlefield primary inlcuding sports day as we were going to do similar activities and other activities.

 The children (and the adults) loved them and would pore over them for hours.  Lameck had to translate everything for me, including me explaining things like I did not wear dresses like my wedding dress every day!

Looking at photos

Looking at photos

They asked to go running so we did that, just going round the football pitches but again after that I really struggled as it was getting dark and cold and some (most) of the kids were just in rags and obviously bare feet as well.  I just could not handle it.

After running

After running

On Sunday, as I expected, we went to church and I was not exactly surprised to be asked to get up and say a few words which one of the teachers translated for me.  Of course if I was struggling a lot the previous couple of days, hearing the wonderful singing before and after they were going on about how delighted the whole village was that I had come back and that I was so humble to do that etc etc well that just made me ten times worse!

Apart from being at church I was just with kids all day; playing snap, blowing bubbles, showing the photographs and also postcards of the cities, villages and animals etc in Scotland, and I also had tennis balls that I got out and let the kids just chuck about to each other.  It started off with me throwing them but they were much, much better than me.  I can’t stand cricket but I am sure some of them would be brilliant fielders (well I think that would be the position) or great baseball players!

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Trying to keep warm!

Trying to keep warm!

I was asking the St1 teachers about their support for girls at the school, which is something the school gets very positive feedback about from inspections etc.  It is also very obvious just being in the school that the numbers between girls and boys are much more even than in a lot of other schools in Malawi/Africa.

She said that the female teachers try to offer support for the girls and encourage them to come to the teachers with any problems/questions/hassle from boys.  They try to encourage them to tell a teacher if a boy proposes (she did not qualify what it was he was proposing), wear trousers for physical education and wear underwear, although she did say that is expensive for them.

Ran with the pupils again, that would be about 100 of them – I counted!  They were all standing waiting for me and were so excited.  The big difference with this year is that they were right around me all of the time and not shy like at the beginning last year and I knew one full day in that I would not get much chance outside of school to get any work done!

For the holiday Lameck and I walked 1 3/4 hours to go and see Clare in her village.  It was reasuring to hear that Clare was feeling the same way and struggling a bit as well.  On the way back he asked me if it was true the rumour that had been going round there that Michael Jackson was originally black!

I spent the rest of the day playing with the kids, there is a bit of a theme starting here!  It was a bit tiring and I was still struggling a bit but I would not have had it any other way really as it was great that the children were getting attention from an adult and just had someone to play with them.  There were certainly plenty of them there!

Some of my favourites below (which I know you shouldn’t have):

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160

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