2nd week at school

11 08 2008

This is hard work but by the number of hits I am getting a lot of people seem to be reading it so it’s worth it!

Put out my punctuality sheets today and ironically there were only two teachers there at that point!  Assembly did not even start until 7.30 (when it is supposed to finish) and that was when the two others teachers arrived that were coming that day.  That meant three classes had no teacher that day.  The deputy headteacher was always there early and I thought he was super dedicated (he did live right beside the school though in one of the teachers houses) but today anyway, and not for the first time, the headteacher was late!  They divided the classes up between them but it does mean not very much gets done when not all of the teachers are there.  By the end of my time there I had at least got them to move two classes into the same classroom if not all of the teachers were there which helped a bit.  It was at least better than leaving a class with nobody.  Can you imagine doing that in Scotland?! 

punctuality sheets

punctuality sheets

I took all of the classes with the teachers today to do pe games as the only things I had really seen were football and netball.  Both the teachers and the pupils loved the games I showed them and I did different ones with each class and encouraged them to swap the ideas.  It was very tiring though  and took so long as you were having to explain the games to the teacher (easier said than done in some cases!) and then they would explain to the children and then you try them out and more often than not had to re-explain and re-explain as you realised flaws once they started playing it.  I could not believe they did not even know how to play tig!

I managed to get them stay back after school today and we agreed on and got ready for display their school rules.  This was one of the things on their school improvement plan and seemed a straightforward thing to get on with.  I tried to just be a facilitator and get them to decide together on the rules and they did this pretty well although I would say that again most input came from the deputy head.  They then took the longest time to translate the rules into Chichewa as we were putting them on display in Chichewa from St 1-4  and then in english from St5-7.  I did the english ones and they did a Chichewa one each and I was finished all of mine before they finished theirs which they were a bit astounded at!  This all took until 2pm and they said they were very tired when we finished!

school rules

school rules

I got out snakes and ladders at home in the afternoon, without anyone there to translate if I remember rightly and they got the hang of that quite quickly.  I also got some balloons out which they loved but it was about the only time they actually played with them.  Most of the time when I got them out they just deflated them pretty quickly so that they could keep them.

playing with balloons

playing with balloons

I did hill training while running today and could not believe how many joined me and how easy they found it!  Dinner was rice and sugar – I told myself it was rice pudding!

On Wednesday more teachers were there on time which was very encouraging!  I went round each class in the morning with the school rules and encouraged each teacher to go through them all and explain them well and then put them up in each class.  This took ages!

One of the other things in the school improvement plan was monitoring of teachers which I had been prepared for before coming out and so had brought some guidelines.  I had totally meant to bring my own monitoring sheets as well but somehow forgot them (it was total madness trying to get stuff to bring, pack etc and pack my own classroom up before leaving).  So I had prepared for the headteacher a set of guidelines and advice and a master form that could be used if he wished.  I know I should have done this in conjunction with him but it was so difficult to find time with him supposed to be in a class and my biggest  ‘bug bear’ was the teachers not being in class teaching and so I did not want to ask him to come out to discuss things.  It would have been a lot easier if he had been staying in the village but as he was  a good walk away it was hard to ask him to stay later.  He should have been in the other teachers house beside the school but the old headteacher was still there – there had been a bit of a situation which led to the new head being appointed!

So today I observed in St1, filled out the form and most importantly I felt made sure I gave the feedback right away to the St1 teacher and the head happened to be about so he heard how positive I was which I think was really important.  I basically had some stuff written for each part of the lesson and then had 2 stars and a wish for the positives and next steps.  I could have had far more than two stars though as the lesson was great, everything I saw her do was good and she was so pleased to get positive feedback as I do not think they are praised for their work very often.  In fact I would say I spent a lot of my time there ‘bigging up’ the St1 teacher and the deputy head as I felt they were working so hard.  The thing I said though that pleased her most was that she was doing a lot of similar things to the primary one teacher in my school as a lot of what she was doing was active and they are introducing group work and continous assessment.  She was just so chuffed with this.

St1 sitting in groups

St1 sitting in groups

I spent the rest of my morning re-doing the timetables to take into account the lateness of pupils (and teachers) and the problem of St7 not having a teacher.  English, maths and chichewa were all taught first thing in the morning and so if lessons started late these lessons would be shorter and the pupils who were late were these important lessons all of the time.  So I moved other subjects to first thing in the morning and those subjects to after first break, making sure they did not go too far on in the day when the pupils would be tired as this was the only thing the teachers were worried about.  I had done this after asking the teachers first and it could be seen as a waste of my time for me to be the one to reorganise the timetables (and spend many hours after school making new masters nicely on flip chart paper) but I know if I did not do it while I was there and make up the big masters then it would not have been done.

It was the next part that really took me the longest.  I really thought that for the most part it was a waste of time St7 being in school as they were hardly taught.  It was supposed to be that teachers left their classes with work and went and taught St7 a couple of subjects but this was just not happening and was hardly an ideal solution anyway.  I had discussed the idea of a composite class with the head teacher and he was agreeable so we had asked the deputy since he taught St6 and was so good.  He was apprehensive but agreeable to giving it a go and so I re-organised all of this.  I was pretty sure St7 would pretty much be taught the same as St6 but this was better, I think, than them not being taught at all especially since everything by this stage is supposed to be taught in English and I am sure they were not understanding a lot of it anyway.

I still wanted (was determined!) that the other teachers would be involved as well so the way I worked it was that the deputy would teach both classes till 11am, doing english, maths and chichewa, social subjects and agriculture.  When the infants went home at 11 and the juniors went home at 12 the other teachers would share between them expressive arts, life skills and other subjects which were left.  All of the teachers were agreeable to this but I would be interested to see if it is really put into practice next term.

these took me a long time, especially since I forgot to take tippex!

these took me a long time, especially since I forgot to take tippex!

Grace from LINK and Mr Balaka, the PEA for the zone came out to do a visit this afternoon.  I found it amazing how the children always heard the vehicle coming long before I did.  I chatted to Grace myself for a bit, she made sure this happened as they had realised I may not have been able to say if there was a problem last week since the teacher was always there.  As it is I was buzzing with excitement about how well I was dealing with things and how I felt I was finally getting somewhere with developments in the school.  At this point I felt I had wasted time in the first week but you had to find your feet and I did spend the Friday at another school (as had been requested of me). 

I then, on the spur of the moment, ended up going up to the headteacher’s village with him, the deputy head and Lameck, the boy I ran with.  I did not realise at the time that he had been specifically asked (probably told) to come with me so that he could accompany me back.  If I had known this I would not have gone as I felt bad at him having to do this, although he seemed fine with it.   Grace was no slower a driver than Wilford and as I was in the pick up truck, sitting on the floor of it at the back I came right up at one and then banged my bum hard back down – it was probably slower than banging my head! 

the view from my headteacher's village

the view from my headteacher's village

I spoke to my mum outside the head’s house for a long time as it was her birthday (I would regret that when I got home and saw my bill!) and during this time more and more children gathered as obviously I was such a novelty.  They just sat and stared at me the whole time I was on the phone but I just found it really funny.  I then of course had to go in and eat and then I went back outside and got the bubbles out which was good fun as it was the first time these kids had seen them.  I said a few times how for the smallest kids at the front it was always like being in mosh pit!

playing with bubbles

playing with bubbles

Back just before dark, in fact we had to rush the walk home!  I was shattered and yawned the whole way through my dinner again – which was rice and sugar again!  One thing I found quite hard was not only being fed by anyone I visited but also being sent away with food by people who were so poor.  I had a mountain of monkey nuts in my room by the last week which I did eventually manange to offload on the kids at school and was also given maize, potatoes and some other strange vegetables which at least I could give to my family to cook but they were being paid to feed me, these other people weren’t!

On Thursday I did a bit more work on the timetables to finish them off; this was only on scrap paper, I did all of the big masters in my own time.  I observed the ST4 volunteer teacher who translated a lot for me, doing english which I can’t lie about – in my diary I wrote it was a bit depressing!  He tried and he knew what he was doing in some ways but part of the problem was that the children’s english was not good enough (not their fault) for what they were doing and the teachers in general did not explain enough in Chichewa to explain what the english was.  To be fair they were only following the teacher’s guides so they were doing what they were told.  I did spend a lot of time explaining how it was okay to talk and explain things in Chichewa.  I also observed the HT and that was better, there were still the same problems but he dealt with it better.  Had a quick meeting with the staff to discuss what we had done so far and what they and I still wanted to do before I left.  Luckily the things I had in mind were what they wanted help in so we were sorted!

Went up to the other school again also today and helped them with their school rules as that was also on their school improvement plan and gave them some other ideas similar to what I had been doing at Gwengwe.  I found them really quiet though and it was hard to get going with them.  Good experience though of working with different types of staff.

I was really frustrated as I had just sorted out teachers for St7 when the St2 volunteer teacher left!  Someone from the School Management Committee came round when we got back from Fumba Primary to talk about paying for another and this proved to be a bit of a sticking point.  Managed at this point to get them to think about it and have a meeting with me on Sunday morning.

I did some work within the compound in the afternoon – everyone always thought it was really odd that I wanted to sit in the sun as they would automatically sit in the shade.  Since I was working at the same time I got out a Scottish colouring book I had brought and some coloured pencils.  I had originally thought Nowa and his friends would most use it but they had no idea what to do!  I demonstrated and they did have a bit of a go but it was not really active enough for them and then it ended up being Jaylois and another teenage girl who sat for hours and did it.  He was really engrossed.

the little ones colouring!

the little ones colouring!

 

the big ones colouring!

the big ones colouring!

Wilford from LINK and Mr Balaka came late in the afternoon with the second batch of money for the family and we got fed the only thing I really did not like while there.  It was basically hot water and maize flour and I really found that quite hard to stomach!

Usual bubbles and snap after they left until bathing time and dinner.  I got my favourite thing for dinner which was potatoes cooked with tomatoes and red onion!

My host mother cooking the potato dish

My host mother cooking the potato dish

Sorry this is a really long one, I think it shows I was getting there with doing stuff in the school but it means I will leave Friday for next time!

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