To the end…..

12 10 2009

Friday 10th July

Went into St 2 first this morning to show them pictures that primary 2 had drawn for them and to get them to draw pictures in return.  Did a bit of maths with ST 3 and I was impressed as I started off with the rythmn clapping and they knew exactly what to do so their teacher, Mme Champeni a volunteer teacher who was there last year, had obviously been doing it with them.  I felt it was easier to do things with her this year and she was enthusiastic and very clear about how to do triangle sums and use the 0-20 number cards.  I explained wait time again this year  and she was visibly counting to 10 before asking the kids for an answer.  The HT came in and I made him stay and watch her for a bit and said how well she was doing which she was so pleased about.


I then did the same in St 1 and also got the washing line out that I had made while there.  Kids from St 1 had helped me colour in the numbers so they were then excited to see what it was for.  It was a volunteer teacher in St 1 that morning and the volunteer teacher from St2 came in as well so they both seemed to get the hang of it well and enjoyed it.  The female teacher from St2 was at one point telling the male St2 teacher to make sure he alternately picked boys and girls which shows how much most of them are really trying to be fair between boys and girls.


I had taken one of the stories I brought from last year and designed good questions to do with the older pupils as they read it.  I did this with ST 6 and 7 with them doing reading in groups as we went along too.  It was hard though with everything being translated both ways to get the really deep questioning and discussion going.

We then did the paired reading with the older pupils reading to the younger ones outside.  I explained about how to hold a book properly and about reading to other pupils.  They did not understand too well though about how to go and get the other pupils and so we ended up with some very small groups and some rather larger ones.  Again they went on for ages as they were keen to be out reading, doing something different and looking at the pictures. Although I could not understand them I could see some really good interactions going on including the older pupils encouraging the others to read along with them and asking questions of the pupils.  One of the teachers commented on the good expression the pupils were putting into it and the way they were encouraging the younger ones to join in.




The older ones then did letters in return to the pupils at Castlefield.  I had letters from primary 5, 6 and 7 here with indiviudal photos on them and the pupils in Malawi loved seeing them and I took individual photos of them too.

I was tired of seeing St 5 with little or no teaching since their teacher was off so I went into them next and just played maths games with them like splat and buzz.  We then used the number cards and chain sums which they got better at.  Their knowledge of their tables is not great and I highlighted to their teachers that they would need to know those better to progress with dividing etc.

In the afternoon I was taken off to see a newborn baby.  She was born just as I arrived in the village the week before.  The mum had been in labour for ages and I’m told she was born just as I arrived so they thought she was waiting for me.  So they named her after me!  No-one will be able to say it so I presume she will get called Caro, the same as they call me. Obviously I did not know about this so did not have anything with me for a baby so ended up giving some Scottish tourist souvenir.  I will probably send an outfit over.  I was given her to hold as soon as I arrived and she promptly peed on me which I kept quiet about!


I just played with the kids the rest of the day.  I was sent off to bathe at about 4.30pm and washed my hair for the first time in 10 days!  It’s just too hard to wash long hair with a bowl of water!  The kids were amazed when I came out with long wet hair though as I had kept it back in two french plaits all week.

The stars were amazing tonight, the best I have ever seen and I was just standing outside staring at them.  The family thought it was hilarious and of course I could not explain to them that you just do not get stars like that in the city.  I had to ask the HT to explain the next day, that is just something they take for granted and never look at.

Saturday 11th July

I got quite a bit of work done on jolly phonics and jolly grammar before the HT and Lameck came round to go to Mayani.  We had some rather interesting conversations on the way about buying and renting houses, benefits, homeless people, asylum seekers and about bars and prostitution.  This came about as we were talking about students and having money and I said I worked in bars and restaurants.  I shouldn’t have!  Women only go to bars in Malawi if they are prostitutes and it was hard to explain about bars here.  (And about prostitutes for that matter and where they work etc).  It is not illegal in Malawi as it is seen as just being another way to earn money.

We were going to the education advisor’s house to meet Clare and talk to him about progress and developments since last year.  We were there for nearly three hours!

He had been  very positive last year and was the same this year, although he did not shirk from sharing the issues they are facing with us.  On a positive note he could see the advantages that there had been from having GT’s there last year as he had seen a lot of good practice going on in the schools he has visited in the last year like maths activities, libraries being set up, time management improving and link schools being established.

Five zones in the district have been giving auxilliary teachers for this year and if it proves successful hopefully that will continue and extend into next session and with further schools.   This has been possible with funding from DFID and has included training for them in schemes of work, resources, assessment and methodologies.  Unfortunately Clare and I found out that our auxilliary teachers would be going for this training next week!

Open and distance learning is beginning for teacher training in Malawi and some of the auxilliary teachers from this session have applied. They would go to college for 6 weeks and then have their school visits with handbooks to complete and the same exams as other student teachers have.

There had been a performance review done of the schools in the zone and the PEA had done a lot of work making up sheets of how each school had done which he was happy for us to see.  My school had done pretty well compared to others in the zone  (I have written about this earlier) but still with things to work on and a lot of the head teachers were demoralised by their reports which was unfortunate. I guess it gives them clear direction on what to work on!

We had lunch at the PEA’s house and it was one of those times I am really glad I am vegetarian!  I asked what the meat was out of curiousity (and Clare really wished I hadn’t) and it was goat’s offal.  I got to stick to egg!

We did some wandering around afterwards and after our discussions earlier I actually got to go into a bar!  I had noticed at the TDC there was a sign for photocopying and it was at the bar so in we went and it was called Obamaland!  It really was not that exciting – there was no-one there, barely any furniture and barely any drinks.  The owner not only had a photocopier though but also a computer with windows media player playing the tunes and big speakers!  Not what I would have expected in a place as small as Mayani!  Something else though that goes on in Mayani at the weekends though is that there is a building with a big tv and speakers and they charge folk to go in and watch the ‘cinema’, mostly kids and there are loads more that listen from outside.




I got asked by Clare’s HT today how many children I had and there was another shocked response when I said none and then the obligatory questions over why not!

Even though it was almost dark by the time we got back there were still children out waiting for me and I ended up playing for quite a while.  For the first time tonight I ended up tickling them and they just thought this was brilliant and I played chases with them doing that.  It is so obviously such a delight and difference for them to have an adult playing with them.

Sunday 12th July

Nice relaxed morning with some of the older pupils from last year whose english is really coming along and I was able to show them photos etc.  Went for a 5 mile run with Lameck which was great and then managed to get off to the school to do a bit of work.  The HT had come to see me and complained of sore legs from walking so fast with me yesterday!

Lameck then took me out for nearly 4 hours visiting people in the village.  Everywhere we went more and more pupils gathered and I would basically be introduced to the adults, shake hands and say hello and then play with the kids while Lameck showed the adults my photos and I would ask or answer questions while playing!  It was hard to do anything else!


The last house on the way back was upsetting for me.  I am never any good when people are complimenting me or praising me and at this house the dad spoke really good english and just kept on saying how much the children love me and how good it was that I came back all the time while children were all around me.  I did have to turn around at this point and wipe the tears away as it was just too much!

The kids accompanied me all the way back to the house and I so felt I had to play with them for a few mins – in bare feet as I only had sandals with me and in the dark!

Monday 13th July

For having so many teachers in the school this session how can we only have had 5 today!  Three auxilliaries and a mentor were away to Dedza for training, one was still off sick and one was away to mark more mock exams!  This made it pretty disheartening to either try and do things with teachers and kids for them to see or to do after school training.  The even crazier thing is though that the HT did not even know until Sat that the auxilliaries and the mentor were going to Dedza this week so that makes it even harder to plan! 

I went into St5 and 6 first (having suggested that they be put together) and by myself since there were not enough teachers I got the atlases out that I had bought both in Scotland and in Malawi (and the Malawi ones especially were brilliant for them although still in English obviously) and let them look through them in groups.  They really enjoyed this and were so chuffed to get them.



Did some maths with them as well using number fans and number cards and then took them out for scottish country dancing.  This was funny again this year and similar in that it was the boys who listened and joined in the most and the girls were more difficult.  Doing it by myself was hard work!

I  went to see St1 and 2 afterwards and made a fool of myself again teaching them head, shoulders, knees and toes and doing the hokey cokey again!  Did some maths with St2 afterwards and got out the number cards to 20.  I had enough for them to do it in 3’s and I asked them first of all to lay out the numbers in order, thinking this was the quick bit before doing sums.  It took most of the time to get them in order!  I would like to do this with a p.2 class here and see what the comparison is.

After school today I showed the teachers various resources I had brought like the jolly phonics, jolly grammar, books, posters, 100 square cards, number fans, number cards, inflatable globes and the atlases.  Testing at all stages was supposed to happen this week and luckily, and I was really pleased they felt they could do this, they decided to postpone it until I had gone so we could do more with the pupils.

Played with kids all afternoon!

Tuesday 14th July

I spent the day today doing Jolly Grammar and maths in all of the different classes.  I spent a lot of this visit feeling that I was not doing very much/achieving much.  Maybe it felt different last year when we had to write up what we were doing all of the time/justify it.  Not that I was not following the same kind of guidelines I did last year but it just felt different!

Did another meeting after school today, although again there were not many teachers there to be involved.  I showed maths strategies and then we discussed the the link school programme and the outcomes and shared programme we would have between Castlefield and Gwengwe.  This was a really big positive of the trip; to be able to discuss and decide together what our partnership agreement would be and this did make it seem much more of a true partnership.

I was supposed to be going for a run with Lameck and using my phone but there were loads of kids with me colouring etc when he arrived and some of them would practically not let us go unless they could come too.  Sixteen of them ended up coming with us and they managed fine although the strategy some of them used was to run a bit as fast as they could and then lie down and have a rest until we caught up!

Mme Gwengwe came round tonight and I made pasta which we mixed with tomatoes and onions.  I also had baked beans and sweetcorn with me.  Everyone loved it all and I had tunnocks teacakes and macaroon to finish off.


Wednesday 15th July

Difficult day today trying to show group, rotational work.  I did similar activities in St 1, 2 and then 3 which included the washing line, giant chalk on the floor, giant floor number puzzles, card games/matching activities.  It worked with varying degrees of success, it was hard work explaining to the teachers how it would work!  I did the same with different activities in St 4 but it was not as good as the activities were not as active.  I had a Scottish maths game with me for St 5, 6 and 7 which again took a long time to explain.




I gave each child in the school a pencil and a sticker which they were really excited about.  I had taken Connect 4, Who’s Who and Uno last year but we never got round to them.  The HT asked today how to play them so after school with many of the older kids sitting around outside watching them we played them together.  Connect 4 was a great success although it is not so good only been able to have 2 players at a time.  Who’s Who did not work although I am not sure whether it was me or the HT getting it wrong.  Uno was great though (I only learned how to play the previous week at Clare’s HT house) as so many could play at the same time and they all got it right away.

Lameck and I were supposed to be going up to the next village today to see a family that I had visited last year as the mother had asked to see me again and again about 25 boys decided they were coming too including a lot of them ones I knew really well by now (and who were favourites).  It was sweet actually as they said they did not want to leave as it was my last full day and last chance for them to be with me and they all wanted to escort me!

I felt terrible though as for once I had no bubbles or anything with me for the kids up there and I had had last year, plus now I had all these boys with me who just sat while I was there, as did everyone!  I got given bananas and nuts though as I left and I shared them with the boys when we left which they were delighted about.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with all the kids and went in about 6pm planning to get my gifts out for my family.  When I came back out of the house though Lameck was there with about 40 kids who refused to go away even though it was dark and they were probably hungry because it was my last night and they wanted to spend more time with me and talk to me.  So I encouraged them to ask me questions which Lameck could translate and of course the first question was when I was going to come back again!  Some of the more confident boys were saying they were coming back to Scotland with me!


Thursday 16th July

Sports day today! I did potted sports with St 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 and then 5, 6 and 7 after races for each class.  I got some St 5 pupils to help at each station which worked well and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  I had beat the goalie, netball shooting, skittles with my old water bottles refilled, beans bags on their head while running, skipping and a few others.  St 5, 6 and 7 were a bit less interested/enthusiastic but I think that was partly as it was near the end of the day and it very hot!




We did races again this year for each class but they did the same as last year and whenever it was obvious that someone was winning everyone else stopped and just let him/her win.

My taxi driver had turned up about 3 hours early (not complaining though) and he was jappy just to wait for me.  The kids helped clear up and then walked me back to the house singing, dancing and chanting.  They all then waited while I finished packing me bag and had my lunch (with the taxi driver!)

I was sobbing again when it was time to go, just like last year and there were some very sad faces and a few tears from some of the pupils.  The kids surrounded the car and Billy could barely move the taxi, he must have been going about 3 miles p/hr while the kids danced at the front and pushed from the back and sides.  He was very patient and did not seem to mind.  It took about 45 mins to get from the house to the top of the hill.  It was really quite a surreal experience and it did not help me to stop crying!



And so as it started at the airport with a fuss to get to the hotel so it finished with me having a fuss at the airport.  I was going to just wait at the airport for my flight at 2am but when we got there there was nothing open and there would not be as at 6pm the next flight out (or in) would be mine!

Billy ended up taking me to a nearby hotel/guesthouse and when he explained they let me stay there and have dinner/read/watch t.v.  There was a young guy there who was living there and a student and he spoke excellent english so we had some interesting conversations and then Billy had arranged for another taxi driver to come and pick me up at about 11pm so I still had a while to wait!

Reunion weekend

2 11 2008

I have been in 12 different schools during the last 2 weeks, for Malawi talks, rich task discussions and work on Glow.  It has been really interesting going into the different schools, especially the rural ones around Strathaven and seeing how they work in different ways.

The Glow Mentors in each school have been really interested in how they can start to use Glow for learning and teaching and I have been really encouraged by this and am keen to get in and work with the teachers in the classroom.  I now have some times set up in a couple of schools to do this.  I am drinking far too much tea and coffee though from being offered it everywhere I go!

I also did my first CAT night in another school by myself – luckily I was too busy in other schools to worry about it too much before it started.  I was doing the e-beam and easiteach and went through the programmes first and then was lucky enough to have some time left over for them to practice using it.  This was what made the difference I think as they were apprehensive while I was showing a lot of the different things that could be done but giving them the chance to try them out right away would help them to remember it.  I got really positive feedback from it.

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Glasgow Airport 27th June

Friday and Saturday this week I was at the Stirling Managment Centre for our Global Teachers post-placement training weekend.  This was done in a different way to previous years.  LTS have now partnered up with LINK Scotland to do the Global Teachers Programme and so Friday was a nationwide conference for all present and previous Global Teachers, LINK schools co-ordinators and this years participants to Uguanda with SCIPD in partnership between LTS and LINK, as I suppose a kind of launch of this and to allow all of us to begin to network with each other.

Kaye Livingstone and Nick Morgan from LTS spoke to us and then a couple of global teachers.  It was a really positive day I thought as hopefully from this people should be able to swap ideas and help each other.  One of the things we were discussing was Glow.  Nick and I have been working on a few ideas for the national site and I mocked up a Global Teachers group, although in reality I think this would change to include link schools too, so that people could see how they could share ideas and resources that way.  There was a really positive reaction to this, I thought, even though the vast majority of the people there were not even on Glow yet.  I am going to do this, and my children’s Malawi glow group, as my follow up work for Glow and will be able to work with the Link staff on this which will be good as they are really enthusiastic about it too.

In the evening and on Saturday it was just our group who were there, to reflect on the experience and start thinking about our follow-up work.  It was great to all meet up again and share what we had been up to – and we finished at 2:00pm on the Saturday so still had some of our weekend left!  It was somewhat nicer than being at the youth hostel in Edinburgh for our training although we were only at the management centre because it was LTS who organised and funded the conference.

I feel quite strongly from discussions at the weekend that I want to do something a bit more sustainable with pupils in South Lanarkshire, not just going in to do assemblies and then leaving again. I have not quite worked out what yet though!

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!

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!

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!

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.

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

Teaching by sign language

25 08 2008
Monday 14th July was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life and yet was also one of the best days that I had in school.  In typical Malawi time wasting fashion all of the qualified teachers in the zone had to go the TDC (Teacher Development Centre) during school hours to be head counted.  As this was a good couple of hours walk away this obviously stopped them coming to school. 

This happened all over the district this week with some schools closing for the day.  My teachers had only found out on Friday or Saturday and did not think of closing the school which was good for me in the end.

This left myself, the volunteer teacher in ST3 and the volunteer teacher who was starting for her first day in St2.  The volunteer teacher in St4 was also away as he had taken up a post with World Vision and although said he would still be able to teach as well was pretty much away at training events etc from the beginning of this week.   This was highly frustrating as I had just managed to get another volunteer teacher so there would have been 6 teachers and now we were pretty much back to 5 again.

I had jokingly asked Lameck (the St1 teacher’s 18 year old son that I ran with and hung out with quite a lot) if he wanted to come in and help me for the day by translating in the different classes I went into.  Of course he said he would and then I felt really bad but actually I think he was enjoying spening time with me, practicing his english and learning new things as he asked me so many questions all of the time.  He was able to do this because he had finished secondary school the year before but had not got a good enough mark in his engish exam to progress to uni so was resitting it this year but this meant he was just studying from home through the year, hence why he was able to spend so much time with me.  You had to get a certain grade in english to be able to progress any further.

I think it showed the difference in cultures when he said to me near the end of my time there that he had learnt so much from me in terms of planning and being organised as I was always saying I had this, this and this to do today and knew what order I was going to do them in and what time I would be going running etc.  They were obviously not used to that at all and he was clever and would presumably have had a bit more of a structured environment in the secondary school but it was still so different.  I know that I could have done with having more time there to get used to not being so driven by time and lists.  I should probably have stopped wearing my watch but that would be more than I could bear and I still had lists on the go out there!  Somewhere in the middle between both cultures would great but that is what we say about everything!

Mr Kalivute did come into the school first thing in the morning since he lived in the teacher’s house right beside the school.  He gave Lameck a class though so that was my translator gone!  In some ways it shows how easy it could be for someone with an education and good english to teach in Malawi as the curriculum and teacher’s guides are so prescribed that he could just pick up the book and teach it.  Also with behaviour being so good there was no need to have training in behaviour management etc.  Not that I saw anyway; I am sure there are behaviour issues in other areas.  There are the other issues of fall out, time keeping etc that schools in the rural areas have to deal with.

Mr Kalivute...on a Saturday!

Mr Kalivute...on a Saturday!

So the St3 volunteer teacher took St1 and 3, the new teacher took just her own St2 class, Lameck too St 4 and 5 and Mr Kalivute had spent a long time preparing work to leave for St 6 and 7 which was questions which they had to use their own notes from previous work to answer.  Absence on previous days did end up causing a bit of bother with this!  I popped in and out on them a lot but they were so hard working and just got on with it fine themselves.

St6 and 7 working hard

St6 and 7 working hard

I started in St 5 and did some maths with them and let Lameck take St4, just calling him in one on the odd occasion when I could not make myself understood.  We did the rythmn clapping for their tables and used the number fans and then I gave them some written work which we then swapped over and, very simplistically, peer marked.  I was very anxious to get this up and running as the teachers, particularly in the bigger classes, wasted so much time individually marking each child’s work – in the class!  So the children sat there doing nothing while the sums were marked and then nothing was done about corrections etc either.  This was not as much of a problem at Gwengwe though as I had seen last year in the urban schools where the classes were huge.  I loved this whole time in St5 and they loved it too as they were so keen – desperate! – to learn and had an absolute ball trying out anything different.  There was probably an element of the fact I was doing it as well and that we had a good laugh trying to understand each other. 

hanging out at break time

hanging out at break time

Looking back it seems very strange to have been in school and to have been smiling and laughing all of the time while teaching as that is so different to how I have behaved with my p.7’s this year.  I am not just blaming the children here either, maybe sometimes I have not given them enough credit for what they could cope with in terms of humour and still get on with their work.  It would just be blissful though to be teaching Malawian children, and I am sure any children from less developed countries, all of the time as you could actually teach all of the time instead of dealing with disruptive behaviour so much and they would want to learn.

It was very hard to get accross to the teachers that they are the most important resource in the classroom and they do not need lots of other things to teach with and we tried to constantly reinforce this later at the inservice training but they still it as an impossible task without the things that we have.

Digression over.

I did the same without the written work with St1 and they then started doing it whenever they saw for the rest of the week which was something I just found so cute.  I also worked in St3 on similar things for a while and loved it!  St2 were also loving having a teacher today and the fact that they now had a classroom so that made the two hour meeting on Sunday morning and the amount of persuading I had to do worth it right away.

I also spent time moving desks around etc; it had been incredibly frustrating to come in that morning after sorting them on Friday to find they had been moved about for choir practice and church!  Another hazard of only having lockable doors in two classrooms!  

I did keep going into St6 and 7 but they solidly worked away, even refusing to come out for the first break because they had not finished.  Nearer second break I sat and did some work on number cards while they worked and they started asking me to help them with the social studies questions they were doing and so I ended up going over it all with them as a class as it was the same questions I was being asked all of the time.  They were so pleased about this because it meant they would all finish their work and because I was spending time with them.

Still working hard

Still working hard

After break I took them and St5 for maths and did splat and the times tables round cards that I had just made.  I, and consequently them, ended up crying with laughter at trying to explain and then get the games going but it worked well once we mananged that.  This continued when we gave up on lessosn after this and I took them outside to play rounders with the bat and ball I had brought.  Half the school ended up playing, although it was only a very vague sort of rounders as that was by far the hardest thing of the day to explain even with Lameck’s help.  They did not get the idea of counting points for getting round but instead seemed to go by how many people the fielders got out and whoever the batting team were they got very nervous about trying to bat and often passed it onto someone else!

Lameck, Patrick and Philippe, my bodyguards as I called them in Chichewa!, came with me while I used my phone.  As Lameck was there I managed to get a bit more information from the two boys through translation mostly so that was nice.  I asked them what they had expected before I came and they were talking about how they thought the teacher would just spend time with the other teachers and not them so they were pleasantly surprised.  They wanted me to come back again when the new term starts and to come back to Malawi later when their english is better so they can talk to me properly!

With my bodyguards, Phillipe and Patrick

With my bodyguards, Phillipe and Patrick

It had turned a bit colder today after two lovely weeks so there were not really many children about playing in the afternoon and I was able to work in the school without feeling that I should be doing something else with them and I took the chance to get a lot of work done.  I had felt though that there were a lot of children who were not warm enough at school today.  It is hard because I know that for most of the year it is very hot and so they do not need many clothes and that the stone walls and floors in the classroom without sun coming in keeps them cool but I just wanted to be able to buy them all a jumper today!

Lameck could not run with me today as he came down and said he had felt the first signs of malaria coming on after school which I was really shocked at but he said he would be fine as he had taken the preventative drugs but that he better not run!!!  It was the first time anyone had really mentioned illness apart from HIV and it brought it home a bit.    I ran with Jaylois and it was great fun again.

Lameck is in the middle

Lameck is in the middle

The days food was:

breakfast – dry roll (nice when fresh, a bit harder to chew after a couple of days)

lunch – nsima, fish (had it about 3 or 4 times) and a vegetable relish

dinner – dry roll and rice (the rice was served with sugar, I told myself it was rice pudding)

I would have been given a morning snack too, probably bread again but would have avoided an afternoon snack since I ran at about the time I would get it.  Carb-tastic as usual! Not ideal when I was doing so much less exercise than at home!

I also helped, well watched really, how to make groundnut oil today, which is basically peanut butter and it is delicious.  All that is in it is nuts and a little salt,  I could not believe how much moisture was in the nuts, nor how strong my host mother is.  She is basically doing manual labour all day every day!

Check out the muscles!

Check out the muscles!

My poor attempts, but I really wanted one of those pestle and mortars to bring home!

My poor attempts, but I really wanted one of those pestle and mortars to bring home!

I had a fabulous day that day but at the same time was very aware that time was running out on my stay in the village and was getting concerned already at the thought of leaving.

I am sure the St1 teacher will not mind me mentioning it, as she told me within about 5 mins of meeting her and she was secretary of the whole district’s association for it, but she was HIV positive.  I am pretty sure, although I did not ask, that Lameck was not from what she told me about how she contracted it.  She kept pretty well and went to Dedza every 3 months for drugs and was also given special sachets of gel type food with extra vitamins etc. If she did get a cold etc she would be off school for a few days to make sure she recovered well and she always had to make sure she got plenty of rest.  One of my few moments when I threatened to get upset was on my second night when she introduced me to a girl in the school who was also positive.  She had not been in school much lately as she was quite sick and she looked it too.  I found this hard to deal with and I did just kind of block all other thoughts of it from my mind as the chances were 1/3 to 1/2 of the children I was meeting at school had it.  There was also the numbers who would have been affected by parents having it etc.  When I mentioned this when I came home some people thought I was worried, or were worried for me, about catching it but it was not, as I know I would have to be doing something really pretty stupid to be at risk, it was more that I could not in my head cope with knowing these children, teaching them and playing with them and knowing that they might be sick and have a low chance of survival.  I am sure most of them would not know they had it and even if they did would not be getting drugs.  On my previous trip to Malawi and even more especially the year before in Cambodia I had been very upset a lot by homeless, or just very poor children and I did not want to be getting upset here while living in the village so just had to put it out of my head.  To put into context how upset I was in Cambodia, on my last afternoon there I just could not bear to leave the hotel room as I could not cope with having to see these children anymore and deal with trying not to cry and inevitably failing anyway and crying and getting upset in front of them and trying to hide it.  I did love it there and would love to go back.  I think I would cope better now, well I hope I would.  So I did quite well in Malawi this year and I am glad as it was one of the things I was quite worried about.  I had a couple of lump in the throat moments but that was mostly when people were giving me nice speeches etc, until I left that is!

Mme Gwengwe following my example of making big charts and doing one for her HIV+ group

Mme Gwengwe following my example of making big charts and doing one for her HIV+ group

Sorry, this has been a really long post but I wanted to get thoughts etc down that I was worried I would forget or that I had been unable to write in my diary at the time.  It has taken me about a week to write this one as it is hard now I am back at work.  And made more difficult when you go away to Cardiff all weekend to see Madonna in the millenium stadium.  She was amazing, worth every penny and hour standing waiting on her but there was a slight guilt feeling about how I can spend that if I wish while still writing up all of this about people for whom that is unimaginable!

Into the Groove