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!

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