Positive changes

8 12 2011

Finally, I’m getting the chance to write up my visit to Malawi.  I have been on a self-imposed blogging ban until I finished my unit 1 assignment for SQH.  I handed it in on Monday, a couple of days early which must be a first.  It was basically in three parts; a contextualised discussion of education in Scotland, a self-reflection and a rationale for your learning plan.  The actual essay was 4,000 words but with all the appendixes you also had to write it came to 14,000 words so it has taken up quite a bit of my spare time!

The same day I handed in my essay I became acting depute head in my school.  Our depute has gone on secondment to an acting head position and I have taken over her position.  I am very excited, and anxious, about this and looking forward to the challenge and the chance to prove myself.  I am keeping all of my remit from the principal teacher role as well as taking on supporting for learning, ICT co-ordinator and mentoring our probationer.

One of my new jobs will be to establish the link we are making with a new school in Malawi which came about as a result of my trip there in October.

This was going to be quite a different trip for me this time as I was no longer at Castlefield and officially part of the link and I was going with another teacher from the school, whereas I have always been at this school and staying in the village by myself before.  I was slightly apprehensive about going with someone else but it turned out very well.

I had arranged the same driver that I had had before and it was lovely to have him waiting to meet us, full of stories of what had been going on.  We were three hours late unfortunately after a delay in Nairobi which meant it was probably going to be dark and late when we got to the viallge.   We still had to go into Lilongwe as well to sort out money, stamps and water.  Billy had had to queue for quite a while to get petrol, there had been a chronic shortage for a while which was really affecting life in the towns. 

We did not get to the village until about 6.30pm and I felt terrible because the children had waited all afternoon for us but of course most had gone home by the time we got there.  A few stalwarts had waited and a few more came running down as we arrived and they were all shouting “Caro Caro”.  The first thing they said when I got out of the car was “jogging, jogging” so I was trying to tell them it would have to wait until tomorrow!  At the same time though they were crowding around me and a few children were pressing nuts and biscuits into my hands that they had been keeping for me which was so generous when they have so little and they must have thought I would be hungry after all of the travelling!

We were staying with the head teacher this time so that there was room for both us and it was pretty much straight to bed after being fed.  He has a son who stays with his parents in town and two lovely daughters of about 4 and 6.

As usual I was woken by the rooster at 4.30am but for the only time out of this trip I actually managed to get back to sleep until 7am!  I could hear kids waiting outside (it was Saturday) and just went straight out to them, it was lovely to see them all especially the three I had stayed with previously.  There were football and netball matches at another school today and the children would not leave until I did and stayed with me the whole way, fighting over who was going to be right beside me!  They kept wanting to run so despite the fact I had the wrong shoes on, a skirt, a wrap and a shoulder bag I couldn’t resist and we ran all of the downhills and some of the flats!

There were four games altogether and although it was good fun it was a long day and super hot.  It was actually dark by the time we were halfway back and a lot of the older boys that I knew from before had joined us by this time and again we were running quite a lot.  They were singing songs and chanting as we ran and just so happy.  A lot of the older boys have now left school and are married and some have children.  I did manage to meet a few who have gone onto secondary school but it is very hard when there are exams to pass, in English, and you have to pay for them and for secondary school.  A few of the boys were telling me they wanted to go back to school and/or come back to Scotland with me.

Right away, and for the rest of the trip, I thought that there seemed to be a slightly higher standard of living in the village.  Most children seemed to have shoes (although in varying states of use), bags for their books, slightly better clothes and I only saw a couple of distended stomachs which previously  a lot of children had.  Lots more families seemed to have bikes too and there is even one person who has a pick up truck – although no petrol for it!  Action Aid have also worked with the school to provide aid for 2 more teacher’s houses which are nearly constructed.  For 8 classes there are now 9 teachers at Gwengwe of which 7 are fully qualified and 2 are probationers.  This is a massive improvement from 2 and 3 years ago.

On Sunday we went round to see the teacher’s houses that were being built and then to Christopher, the depute head’s house for breakfast.  He was saying that if they were in Scotland his son Tony would be in the nurture group that Castlefield Primary has!  He certainly is wild!

Church was only 2 hours today including my obligatory speech to the congregation, getting used to these now!  I did some visiting with Joseph, the HT in the afternoon.  I went to see my mother which was lovely and Chiambi came to sit beside me and didn’t leave my side again!  Also went visiting Patrick whom I knew well as a pupil but is now married with a little girl.  I think I counted about 50 people all in the one room to see me hold a variety of babies!

The men’s life (or boys) doesn’t really seem to change that much when they get married and have children as Patrick, and others, spent most of their time with me while I was there but I feel for their young wives whose lives are now fully mapped out for them!

Went running with the children today.  I did not have Lameck yet for company so we just went up and down the village but I think there were about 60 children with me.  I went running with them every day even though I had a cold for a few days and just about lost my voice as I just could not let htem down.  I also played chases with them every day and got the balloons and bubbles and balls out as well as colouring pencils, crayons and paper.  Even the older boys were loving doing that and were trying very hard to practice out their english with me.

It was quite a different experience in school this time.  I had to keep reminding myself that I should not be here with the same agenda as I had been before – this was not supposed to be about school improvement but about improving the link.  Therefore it was more about establishingt relationships between the staff and developing the curricular planning for working together.  On the Monday we just went through each class starting at St 1 to see the progression and I knew the teachers would want us to see them teaching.  Most classes were sitting in groups, even St 1 outside under the tree.  St 2 were in the church, St 3 and 4 in their own classes but on the floor and the rest had desks to share.

Elidh and I spent some time tidying up that cupboard again after school!!!  Couldn’t do enough to finish it one day but it was a bit depressing to be having to do it again!  With new teachers there from the last time I was there though I really wanted to do it again so we could show them what was there and encourage them to use it.

On the Tuesday we went up to Fumba Primary with Joseph so that I could establish a link with them for Clydemuir Primary.  I had already asked Joseph to see if they were interested so I knew it was going to happen.  I had been up there a few times before to work with them which was helpful that we were not starting totally from scratch but I do not find their staff as easy and outgoing as Gwengwe.  Hopefully this will come with time.  They were delighted with the things the children had made that I brought, I just hope they use them and we went round to visit every class.  They have one outdoor classroom but it has a temporary structure and is really quite cosy!

I was thinking that we would just try to establish the link ourselves but logistically in such a rural location it is just not going to be possible so we are going to establish it through Link Community Development.

We spent the rest of the week at Gwengwe, although I would have liked to go up to Fumba again.  This was partly because two PEA’s (primary education advisors) turned up one day to inspect the classes which meant we could not go elsewhere but we also could not really do much with any of the classes.  They got a good report though and we got to discuss some issues with them over lunch. 

Over the few days though we did manage to do paired reading in a few batches with the whole school which was great as usual and it was good that the new teachers got to see things like this in action.  We also did a question and answer session with St4 and 5 and then St 6, 7 and 8.  I was absolutely blown away with some of their questions but am struggling to remember them now – wish I had written some of them down!

I was taken up to see Caroline, my namesake one day after school with Mme Gwengwe and this was the biggest shock I got.  Despite the fact she was over 2 she still looked like a baby and very skinny and sick looking.  I was told she was unable to hear and has been been very sick.  The HT thinks she may be HIV positive.  I found that quite upsetting but it gave them such a boost just that I had taken some clothes over for her. 

There were four young new teachers there who obviously enjoy hanging out together after school and so we got invited to their houses in the late afternoon quite a lot which was great for building relationships with them.

On Thursday evening Lameck arrived and it was lovely to see him again.  He was so excited too!  He is back studying engineering again after some time out to work and save money for the next year of his studies.

Friday was our last day in the school and as usual they did a farewell ceremony for us with lots of dancing, singing, speeches (including ones from us again) and poems.  This was as well as the races with medals that I have done every year.  We managed to have some meetings with the staff over the last couple of days about the resources there were and those we had brought as well as doing some curriculum planning which has been made much easier with the great resources Link have been developing.

It was great Lameck being there after school on Thursday and Friday and during Saturday as the children and older boys could talk to me much more with someone they knew to translate.  Nearly every waking minute the whole visit was spent either with the children or visiting teachers and others in the village with children following on and that is just the way I wanted it as I really just wanted to spend lots of time with the kids!

On our last day we walked into Mayani with Lameck and had a wander round and bought a few bits and pieces.  As usual you always meet lots of people you know including this time Patrick who decided to come back with us with his bike piled high with maize.  I felt so bad that he was walking with us pushing this instead of cycling, at least on the flats, that I pushed it the whole 5 miles with him.  That certainly gave me a lot of exercise but was fun too even though it was burning hot!

I had given Patrick a couple of bits of clothes for his baby and Patrick some photos of us together from previous years so he brought me a fruit that I had never seen before and told me I would have to bash it off the ground to open it – unfortunately when I got it home I still couldn’t open it even bashing it from a height off the ground! 

I let the kids, particularly the older ones, play about with my camera for the afternoon and they had a ball striking up poses and doing gymnastics moves!  This kept them occupied as unfortunately Billy was supposed to come at 4 but didn’t get there till 6.45pm as he had had to queue all day for petrol.  We were getting quite panicked as there was absolutely nothing we could have done if he had not turned up and we had no phone signal at all.

Most of the kids waited until Billy arrived so that made it really late for them and yet again I was feeling terrible about this.  Lameck spend ages translating their questions for me which were mostly about aeroplanes and certainly exhausted all of my knowledge about them.  They were also very insistent that I came back again and kept visiting them… and didn’t just go to Fumba Primary now!

As it was dark when Billy arrived I found it slightly less upsetting than usual as I could not see the children as well and I guess as we were so relieved he had been able to get there.  I never usually hug anyone as it is not really the done thing there but I felt I knew them well enough now to hug the HT and his wife and Patrick and Chiambi which then meant all the other kids were crowding round for a hug too!

Lameck was coming with us again to get back to Lilongwe  so it was nice to have extra time with him.  He left the airport before our crisis started though!  About 10 of us got kicked of the flight from Lilongwe to Nairobi to let VIP’s on and so after a few hours of hanging about during the night we got taken off to a hotel for about 3 hours sleep and breakfast!  Back to the airport and on the next flight out which was due to take off about 1pm and I think left about 3pm due to more VIP’s arriving and getting their flights first.  Ages then to hang about in Nairobi, although we did get in the lounge – not the really posh one though and ended up on overnight KLM to Amsterdam instead of Kenya Airways and we got put in the bit nicer bit with extra leg room which was great.  Thought I would still be able to make school on time on Monday morning but 15 mins or so after leaving Amsterdam we got told we were landing again due to a funny smell on the aeroplane!  So we ended up getting back to Glasgow about 11am and I was in work in the afternoon – although not up to much!

I felt really quite upset when we got back to Glasgow at the stark differences between the two countries.  One of the books I bought in Nairobi airport was Aid and other Dirty Business and it was just what I was looking for to find out what happens with Aid and what we can do to ensure best use of Aid and resources for the people who need it but that is for a different post

Lightbulb moment

27 09 2011

I’ve just had a bit of a eureka moment – at least I hope that’s what it will turn out to be.

I was flicking through blogs, having recently found this one: http://libertonheadsblog.blogspot.com/ (as recommended by Ollie Bray years ago; I was looking at his SQH blog posts) and again a couple of years ago the author Dj MacDonald had linked to a video on You Tube as recommended by Ewan McIntosh about children copying what adults do.  That was interesting and well done but of course then I started looking at other commercials etc and saw an upsetting picture of a child.  I couldn’t even bear to watch the video – one image is more than enough to set me off but it got me thinking!

Just yesterday I had, for some random reason, being wondering if there was anything I would regret I didn’t get the chance to do before I died.  Previously I have always been quite insular in what I have thought, usually did I get to travel to and explore all the places in the world I wanted to, did I climb enough mountains, run enough races etc.  I was thinking yesterday would I regret if I never got a faster marathon faster time, never qualified for Boston, never got a sub-24 hour west highland way race time (bit of a pattern here), didn’t do everything in my career I wanted to and would I regret it if I didn’t have kids.

Then I saw this picture tonight and realised what I believe and hope I would certainly regret when I died if I didn’t do it and that is to at least keep trying to make a difference in the lives of some kids that don’t have the same opportunities and life chances as most of the children I know. 

As we talked in my first SQH day last month about what our values in education are and what our vision is someone commented that I was looking for utopia and I suppose that probably is what I want – something that seems so unobtainable and impossible that it is not even worth trying.  And yet we have to keep hoping and trying that we can make a difference.

I quite firmly believe that doling out charity is not the way to solve this issue long term, although I do want to do some more research to find out which charities are most beneficial to support and of course in the case of the current crisis in the Horn of Africa immediate aid is needed to ensure people’s survival.

One way I hope I am making a tiny difference is with the link school in Malawi, both the one that has been going for 3 years and the one I am hoping to set up when I go out again next week.  That has been about developing learning and teaching and management skills in Malawi and the friendship and partnership between both schools.  However it has also been about raising awareness here and developing my pupils knowledge and understanding of other cultures and sense of equality. 

I have tried, and will especially try to do with this new link, not make it about northern school giving money/resources to the southern school but about sharing a frienship and learning from each other.  What I really think we have to do is educate our pupils in how to bring about change both in their envrionment and at a higher level. 

I cited Cummins (1996) in my essay for this SQH unit who said there was a need to educate for global citizenship; to treat people equally and enforce the redistribution of wealth.

That last bit about enforcing the redistribution of wealth is the hardest part I think, and I don’t have much idea about how to go about this but my lightbulb moment is I’ll regret it if I don’t keep trying!  The inequality in the world and the unfair distribution of wealth is the one thing that makes me really angry….and I know I’m as bad as anyone else, I like my holidays and books and clothes but I’m going to think about that too – how I spend my money and do I need to!

This post ended up longer than I meant it to and is possibly the most personal post I have ever written on here but I thought even if I am the only one who reads it it was important to write it.  Now the hard part – to actually do something about it!

I’m back…I hope!

24 09 2011

I had never intended to abandon this blog the way I have, there has been loads I wanted to write about but I just haven’t made the time to do it.

I love my new job; the SMT, all of the different staff, the pupils, the learning and teaching, the open areas, the ICT, my actual post as principal teacher and having made a move to a new, smaller authority.

What was supposed to be a term at the end of last session just to get to know the school, staff and pupils was turned on it’s head a bit by the arrival of the ‘box’ about 4 weeks after I started!  This was to be my third inspection in my 8 years of teaching but although I had a bit of a panic having only just arrived I was actually in an ideal situation.  I had technically not been there long enough to be responsible for much but would get the chance before they arrived to get stuck in and gain some credibility among the staff. 

The head teacher and I had already discussed a re-arrangement of the open area before we got the box for next session but this just meant we speeded things up.  This allowed me to have something to lead and to show that I was going to put in as much, or more, work on it as anyone else.  I also tried to do it collaboratively, consulting all of the infant teachers and involving them, as well as the learning assistants, in the planning process.  (I have to say I have never worked with such fabulous learning assistants and the fact that they feel part of the whole p1-3 area team is due to the great ethos in the school.)  I also consulted with pupils in the area to see what they would like/felt the area would need and the pupils are certainly confident individuals and effective contributers being able to discuss and express their opinions.  Plus little things like providing lunch on a Saturday when the school fayre was on and we were in working on the open area helps too, even just in providing time to chat and build relationships, and this includes learning assistants again.

The actual inspection process, of which we were a pilot for the new approach, went very smoothly.  Mary Ritchie, whom I have worked with before, led the inspection and from the start we were put at our ease and made to feel involved in the process.  On the Monday afternoon one inspector and the lay inspector were in and around classes while myself, the depute, the HT and our QIO met with Mary Ritchie.  This part was far removed from what I have heard of previous presentations etc by the HT.  There was no presentation, just an open discussion around what the school had ranked itself against the quality indicators they were inspecting us on.  After school all of the inspectors met with staff and after introductions and a description of what would happen during the week we split into small groups with an inspector each to ask questions/have our minds put at ease really and this then just set the positive tone for the whole week.  We were asked to put up post it’s on their door of things we wanted them to come and see and the door was pretty much full by the next day!  They spent a lot of time with different children and they certainly did us and themselves proud!

They disengaged by the end of the day on Wednesday, talked to all the children about what they had seen at assembly on the Thursday morning and spent the rest of the day writing their report.  I can’t remember when they talked to the rest of the staff but they met with the SMT and the QIO after school on the Thursday for a very positive report!  The format of the new report can be seen here:


The only negative about the inspection, or the bad timing of it anyway, was that on the Friday night at 1am at the end of that week I was attempting the 95 mile West Highland Way race.  The sheer mental and physical exhaustion must have had an effect but finally it was an injury that forced me to pull out.  I’ll be back next year to put it to bed, and at least I know I won’t have an inspection before it!

I am teaching primary 2 again this year and have 24 of them.  I am sharing the class with a fabulous teacher ( I am out Thursday and Friday) whom I love working with.  I wasn’t sure how I would get on sharing a class but as we are both there all week it works out great as we get to talk so much together about the class and really share it.

The class have just started a blog but as this is totally new for the school I think it is going to take a while to get it going properly.  The parents that have been on think it is a great idea for improving communication and involving them in their child’s learning.  You can find it here:


The only thing this term is I feel I have had hardly any time to take on my PT role even though I have 2 days out a week.  I have been out of class loads,  in particular because I was accepted onto the SQH programme and have had a few days out for that so far.  I am really enjoying it but it does take up a fair amount of time both in and out of school.  I particularly like at the moment how directed it is so that I know exactly it is I have to do and there are only 5 of us in my group which means we are getting to know each other well.

As if that was not enough I am going back to Malawi a week on Thursday!  This is with my previous school at my head teacher’s request as it was already set up before I left.  In fact we just had the head teacher and depute head teacher over here at the beginning of term which was quite an experience for them!  I’m not ready at all as life has been so busy but I’ll get it done in the end!

Moving on and up

16 03 2011

As I stated on my running blog the other day:

I’ve been waiting a long time to make this news public but now that I have all the necessary documentation and the children in my class and their parents have been told, I can finally tell everyone that I have a new job!!!  Hence why there was not too much running in January; I really, really wanted this job so was too busy studying and it paid off!

So after the spring break I will only be travelling 15 mins to work, just over the Erskine Bridge, to a school in West Dumbartonshire where I will be the principal teacher, particularly of the infant department which has 6 classes. This is definitely the job that was meant for me as the ethos in school seems great, there is lots of outdoor learning and other initiatives, it’s 15 mins from home after years of lots of driving and the head teacher whom I liked immediately ran the WHW race a couple of years and has done the Fling etc!  I’m really excited about starting and things really feel like they are going in the right direction for me.

I will be sad to Castlefield as it and the people there have been a big part of my life for quite a while now but I’ll still be keeping in touch with, particularly for our reciprocal visit I am arranging with the headteacher and the deputy head teacher of Gwengwe Primary in Malawi.

I plan to start writing on this blog again now to reflect on my new role and responsibilities.  I concentrated on my primary 2 class blog this year and really loved what that offered the pupils and parents and will definitely do that again but I want to use this one for me again now.

Not only have my class been blogging but my primary 2 pupils are getting very used to using Glow!  At first they were just using it to play glow games but now they can find the log on page at school and home, log on themselves, get to our class group and into our wedding topic group.  I have been using the text editor web part a lot to put in hotspots to direct them and this has worked very well.  With, and now for some of them without, adult help they are able to add to discussions, use weblinks, use the news web part and view and add pictures on our photo gallery.  I am loving using these things with them, as are they and the parents.  One parents comment when they found out I was leaving was:

“How will I cope without having the blog and Glow, I hope someone is going to carry them on!”

I’ve just had two fantastic days RM update training on various software programmes that are going to be of use in school after the refresh, some of which we already have and I have used before like Podium, textease and Comic Life and some others like Stop motion pro and revelation.  One of the things we were focusing on was how these could be used as some kind of eportfolio and I think there are huge possibilities for this with these programmes.  We also mashed different programmes together, putting a lot of what we did in other programmes into textease to then enhance it further.  Here are some examples of what I was working on, they are very much just a quick taster. 

Quality v Quantity?

23 03 2010

I spent an enjoyable morning at LTS talking with and being filmed by Con Morris and Anne McGhee about my Malawi CPD, it’s the first time I’ve ever managed to forget about the camera being there, probably because I could talk about that all day long!

I was then up in Castlefield to do a lesson on rights and responsibilities with P5/6 and P6.  This was part of our link school programme, LCD run a yearly event at this time that all link schools in both countries have the opportunity to take part and swap their work.

I spent an enjoyable evening on Sunday planning the lesson.  I was really excited about it, it felt like a while since I spent time preparing a lesson as much as this (LCD did send a lot of guidance if we wanted it from UNICEF to do with the rights respectings schools award).  I had asked the HT who was interested in this and two classes wanted to do it.  Once I started planning it I realised there was no way I could fit two lessons into the afternoon so I suggested that we put both classes together.

Although technically this did work I am not sure that it was for the best.  More of the pupils got to work on the lesson and learn about their (and all children’s) rights and responsibilities and then make some posters for their link school but I did not get to do all of the questioning and deeper discussion that I would have liked.  Time was a bit pushed and as we were out in the open area, as were others, it was pretty noisy.  There was lots of group work and we did get some good discussions, just not as much as if I had only taken the one class and/or over two sessions.  I have just barely had time in my diary to get into the school to spend more time on our link projects.

Below is a short version of what we did:

Rights and Responsibilities lesson

Introduction – most important cards

  • Set of cards and need to pick what the group think are the 6 most important.  There were 20 cards, 10 of which were needs from the UN Convention of the Human Rights of the Child and 10 cards of wants like mobile phone, TV holiday trips, fast food.
  • Discussion of what some picked

Needs and wants

  • Now separate into needs and wants
  • Discussion of how they divided them
  • Explain the correct answers.  Explain that these are some of the 42 articles within the Convention for the Rights of the Child.  These are rights that were decided all children should have and have been signed by 191 out of 193 countries.  So these countries have committed to fulfilling these for every child.  Children’s needs should be met for them as they can mostly not provide them for themselves but rely on adults.  There are things that every child can do though to make sure they are not denying other children their rights.


  • Unicef suggests some responsibilities that go with the rights:
    1. Right to be protected from conflict, cruelty and neglect then they have a responsibility not to bully or harm each other
    2. If they have a right to a clean environment then they have a responsibility to do what they can to look after their environment
    3. if right to be educated then have a responsibility to learn as much as they can, to share their knowledge with others and not to stop others from learning
    4. if they have a right to a full life then responsibility to help the needy, disadvantaged and victims of discrimination
    5. if have right to freedom of thought  and religion then have responsibility to respect others thoughts and religions.
  • Discussion of these, getting the pupils to think about their responsibilities


  • In pairs going to get a card with either a right or a responsibility on it and make a poster for me to send to partner school to explain to them what their rights and responsibilities

The pupils picked very similar cards for the 6 most important things with the two they most agreed on being decent shelter, clean water and clean air.  They did not all pick education!  I would have liked more time to discuss those but there just wasn’t!  With needs and wants they mostly got it correct with some groups just not sure about which category a mobile phone was in and play so we got to have a good discussion about play and why that that was a need.

I asked them what they thought their responsiblities were in relation to their rights above and with a little teasing it out of them in some cases they came up with the ideas themselves which I was very impressed with.  They had just about enough time to do the task, could have done with a bit more but if they were focused it was enough time and sometimes with more time they don’t actually get it done any better.

Part of the idea from LINK was for these posters etc to be sent to the school in Malawi.  I will do this but I am not sure about it as these children are getting all of their needs met and I’m just not sure if it is the right thing to do.  In saying that I could pinpoint pupils I was working with today who were not getting all of their needs met; clean air (pupils mentioned smoking), nutritious food and being free from neglect are a few that came to mind.

If I had my own class I would have spent much longer on this over a number of days and it could be such deep learning.  In fact looking forward to doing it (and going further, possibly with UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School Award) when I do have a class again.

On a different note I wanted to have a check over the things I said I would do this year and how I was getting on with them:

  • Post graduate certificate in Leaderhip and Management in Education.  I have handed in a further two assignments and am just about to start the module which will start me on the diploma plus next term I will do my final 1/2 module of the certificate.
  • Build up my use of this blog, Glow and twitter and attend the Perth teachmeet.  I have blogged a little more now than I had done the first half of the session and see that improving more as I return to school in August.  I do obviously use Glow all the time but had not built much from scratch in a while.  This changed with the Fairtrade SLC glow group that I have set up with consulation of a Fairtade group within the council.  I have really enjoyed this and have an International Education one to do now as well for the authority which I am want to do in a similar way having learnt a lot about what teachers want from the group from the input of the group.  I read Twitter all of the time but am not so good at posting stuff up, still working on this one!  I did attend the Perth Teachmeet and really enjoyed it.
  • Extend my reading again.  I am keeping a page on this blog with the non-fiction I am reading.  It’s not exactly deep reading all of it but it’s good not be reading the chick lit trash that I tend to gravitate towards durng term time as I am generally too tired for anything else.
  • Still not running and just saw a podiatrist today who says I have Plantar Fasciatis in both feet so I’m still not going to be running for a while.  Was keeping my weight down, although not managing to lose any more, but went off the rails the last week or so as I have been really run down and leathargic after having my wisdom teeth out and the gums getting infected etc etc etc.  As well as the Caley Challenge I now have a plan for the summer, although not booked it yet, which would give me something to look forward to.  I would like to fly to Southern India and have a week or so travelling a bit down there, then fly to Kathmandu and do a group tour with Imaginative Traveller through Nepal and the northern/Golden Triangle area of India.  The next day I would fly to Leh in the Indian Himlayas (highest airport in the world I think) and spend 10 days trekking/climbing Stock Rhangi, which at 6,153 metres and over 20,000 feet is the highest peak in India.  It is also about 250 metres higher than Kiliminjaro, ideal as I was looking for a bigger challenge than last year!  Although the bigger challenge would be that I would be going myself!  Walking the Great Glen Way in 3 days in the Easter hols in prep for the Caley Challenge and the trek.
  • Volunteering – I have got as far as looking up some info (in fact I was stunned there was so much) on the web about volunteering in my area but not done anything about it yet.

Bit of a mammoth post this one but I was in a reflective mood!

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!


21 03 2009

I was running the blogging part of my blogging and wiki course again this week, twice, and was ashamed that I had not posted in so long as the attendees were using my blogroll to get to others.  I resolved to post that night (Monday) and yet here I am on Sat morning just getting round to it, although about two hours later than planned after catching up on loads of other peoples blogs and finding some great new ideas, especially new wikis that I can show at the wiki part of the course next week.

I have just felt too busy to blog even though I have had loads I could have written about this term.  I have been keeping my running one up to date as it is my training diary as well as a blog and so it has taken priority.

Work has been super busy, but brilliant, I have been trying to train for these crazy running races I am doing (which are getting frighteningly closer) and I this last couple of weeks I have travelling around the country a bit and organising my summer!

In the last two weeks I have been in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow at a series of networking events for International Education masterclassers and others like global teachers and link schools.  I was there with the charity LINK that I went to Malawi with to highlight the glow group I am working on with them which will be primarily for global teachers and link schools but obviously for anyone else who wants to join as well.  It will sit within national international education glow group and one of the things I was doing was gathering resources from people to share within the group.

Glow was one of the things brought up quite often, especially when in the afternoons the groups split into their local authority groupings with some QIO’s present by this point.  It was fascinating to hear what different councils thought of Glow, obviously based on the experiences that they had to date and what stage their council were at in rolling it out.  It made me realise just how far SLC and other early adopters like Dundee had come when I when I came into contact with authorities who were at the very beginning stages.  I did feel bad talking about sharing resources and ideas etc on Glow when some teachers still seem very far away from getting a glow account.

There seem to be many different ways of rolling it out within authorities and I am not even going to pretend to begin to understand the work needed in setting up the infrastructure for local authorities when they sign up. However with the amount of content now on the national site both in terms of resources and in glow groups  it seems unfair for teachers not to at least get their username and password so that they can access the national site, even if nothing else is available for them at a school or local authority level.  I  did hear of this happening a bit in one council but I am sure there are very good reasons for it not happening too!

I had three brilliant days of co-operative learning training recently and have since been anxious to try it out with a class, particularly since I am now expected to deliver training on it.  So I asked at Castlefield and will be trying it out with a class who are particularly in need of some social skills!  I was amazed at the training at the things I thought I had been doing well in group work that were really just scratching surface and I now feel really enthused to try out things ‘properly’ like think, pair, share and peer teaching as just two examples.  I would previously have said I was doing these things, but now have an entirely new take on them!

I am going to tie in this work with Malawi.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  My school has recently become an official link school with the school I was in in Malawi (Gwengwe Primary) but I was was not feeling terribly enthused as I was unsure of how to take it forward when I was not actually there.  Going into the school this week to talk to the SMT about it and getting their support has helped, as did going to all of the networking events and getting ideas and the fact that just this week, after huge amounts of time on the phone, I have booked flights and trips for the summer.

I am going to Malawi for 2 weeks with one of the other teachers from the programme last year.  We are doing this independently although since we are both link schools the folk from LINK out there will give us a hand getting to our schools, either themselves or by arranging transport for us.  I am then leaving and going back to Nairobi to then travel to Tanzania and climing Mount Kiliminjaro.  I was talking about this last year so I had the idea before I knew about the celebs doing it!  I paid attention to what they did to prepare though and have watched the programme twice now so it was actually useful that they did it first!  In fact it persuaded me into spending yet more money to do a longer trek and not just doing the quickie, cheaper one to the top which you have less chance of getting to the top with anyway!  Not that I was trying to cut corners but with a brand new kitchen and huge total costs for this trip in total I was a bit worried!  When I saw how slowly Fearne Cotton was wallking and how much of a struggle it was for her I thought I would pay atttention!

Travelling back to Nairobi after that and going onto the Masai Mara for a three day camping safari and finishing with a couple of days in Nairobi.

The Kiliminjaro trek is partly to help raise funds for the teachers house I am raising money for in my village.  I am looking forward to going out and telling them that I am doing this for them and hopefully I will be past halfway by that point with a further very generous sum to come from someone if I make it to to the top of Kili.

I had sent letters asking about coming to stay again which unfortunately never arrived and so I had to text and ask but I got lovely texts back from my head teacher saying they would love to have me back:

“Caroline, your message has answered the dreams of a lot of people here.  They were asking me to call you and have a visit at Gwengwe school,  but I had nowhere to start.  Come and visit us.  You are most welcome.  The village headsmen, the family and all the teachers want to see you again.  The DEM and PEA say you are most welcome.  I am Jimu”

I since then asked them what they wanted to work on while I was there and they said english grammar, alphabetical order, global map, phonics and other things for maths.  Now despite my A at English higher I would not say my english grammar was the best and neither would my dad whenever he proof reads my assignments.  I am also not convinved that should really be a priority but I am going to keep thinking of it in terms of infants and maybe things like sentences and simple ideas of verbs, adjectives etc.  I would like to do more this year where I worked in english but the teachers helped the pupils to do it in Chichewa so they have a better understanding.

I would like to take out really simple jolly phonics books as well as teachers guides and other picture books and loads of other resources.  I will have to buy gradually over the next few months since I am already spending so much on the trip as a whole.  As part of the co-operative learning teaching I will try to enthuse the class I am working with at Castlefield to do things/make things/write to Malawi and work with the rest of the school to raise awareness and get behind the link and my visit.

More to follow on all of this after the holidays and a couple of questions to finish this one.

I signed up to twitter but have not really got into posting although I do log in and see what other people are saying.  It is blocked at work and I do not have present have internet access on my phone, although not sure if I can change this.  Can I send ordinary texts to twitter that would go on the web – that would be useful, and I hope interesting, when I was in Malawi again.  It was hard enough getting phone reception though never mind internet access so I doubt I would be able to do it through the internet even if I had it on my phone. 

Also I have been trying for a while to put powerpoints on slideshare, to then put on glow – it looks so nice!  These are all to do with Malawi and are reasonably big with lots of photos.  I am having terrible trouble getting them onto slideshare and just wanted to check if this was down to the photos and size of them – if it is I will just have to split them into smaller sections.