The End is Nigh!
on Susan Somers (Namibia), 01/Jul/2010 19:19, 34 days ago
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It’s the first of July today – usually the first day of the summer holidays, or in recent years, the start of a summer course! – but today I find myself in my NIED office starting my final report on my placement. Its so strange to be at the end of my placement, as it seems not so long ago that Iwas at the half way point and now I’m all but finished. The last few months have flown.I’m a typical teacher, and I’m really only thinking only of my forthcoming holidays. I don’t think it’ll hit me that the year is actually over until sometime in September! There have been lots of volunteer leaving in the last few months. Many of the volunteers who came out with me have already left; Eva, a German volunteer, at the end of April, Jelda and Mignon, Dutch volunteers left in June. There seems to ‘leaving parties’ every second weekend but it still hasn’t hit me that my ‘year out’ is almost over.These past few weeks in work, ever since the‘National Training’ in fact, have been all about finishing up and it turns out that the training workshops on the ‘Integrated Planning Manuals’ were the perfect way to finish off my work with NIED. The two weeks of training went really well – to be honest, far better than I had ever expected. However it was hard work as there was some resistance to some aspects of the manual at first, particularly to the section on assessment and the structure of the lesson plans.Assessment here is all about teachers assigning grades (each learner is given about 40 grades on various subjects in each term!) but the manual suggests moving away from this and that the purpose of assessing the learners should be to find out where they are having difficulties and then trying to help them. Although everyone agreed this was right and should be emphasised, some Advisory Teachers and classroom teachers at the workshop needed convincing that filling in record books with lots of‘criterion referenced’ grades was not the best way to go about this. Assessment in Lower Primary will be a focus area for the next few years but hopefully the first steps in improving assessment procedures have been taken.Everyone also agreed that lots (if not most) teachers are having huge problems in structuring lessons and planning the work to be covered in each week but they were very worried about introducing new ideas that would“confuse” teachers. But when we explained the thinking behind the 2 part lesson plan in the manual wasn’t new but would help teachers be more organized (they have to write a weekly overview of the main content of the week’s planned work and then use it to write their day’s lesson plans that concentrated on the ‘how’ of the teaching – very labour intensive by our standards but that was a big cut back from the previous structure) We then demonstrated, step by step how it would be done, as well as having the participants do a practical exercise in using this type of plan and theywere slowly but completely converted!By the end of the workshop, when we were coming up with the key messages of the training, a few Advisory Teachers claimed that they felt so enthusiastic about the manual that they couldn’t wait to go and show it to teachers. I’m not sure how serious they were or what the quality of the follow-up training will be but it felt good to have been involved in something that teachers felt positive about!As part of the training workshop we also included some sessions on teaching methodologies/strategies, which weren’t strictly speaking to do with planning but were lapped up by the participants. It so rewarding to see teachers have ‘light bulb moments’ (when I explained that a teacher should have a purpose in mind when playing a game or teaching a song) and get excited about been shown some simple games (Simon Says and Fruit Bowl) and strategies (using the Daily News) In some cases they got a bit over excited about playing the games and learning some simple songs. At one point I had 22 something middle aged women ready to beat the heads off each other over a game of Chinese Whispers and at another stage I had half of the same group literally rolling around the floor to the song ’10 in the Bed’!On the last day I even got the offer of a woman’s son in marriage if I would stay in Namibia and do more workshops. Another lady tried to top this offering me a farm and 2 goats! It was very flattering and humbling even if they were joking (I think!) Alina was practically glowing with pride by the end of the 2 weeks and kept telling me how shefelt so much more confident in herself and in organizing workshops.So it is feeling very positive about my work that I end my time in Namibia. I’m pretty sure I haven’t solved any major educational issues in Namibia and ‘the bloody manual’ is about as far from perfect as it could be, but I think it is an improvement on what was there before and if it clarifies things a bit or helps a few teachers do their job better that’s enoughfor me. As for the other part of my work, ‘sharing skills’ with my counterpart, I’ve seen Alina’s confidence grow immeasurably in the past months and she is definitely more organized in her approach to her work. Since I didn’t come out here to change the world, or even try, at the very least I can be happy that I didn’t do any harm!