Saturday, 6 August 2016

Who’s teaching who?

I’m a teacher by trade and I really enjoy coaching and mentoring others. It has been a really interesting experience to try doing both of these things out here in another culture. It has also convinced me I am learning far more myself here than anything I am passing on.

Staff training day hosted by Kapumpe

This term at Kapumpe we have been looking at how we can make our school more Zambian. I have visited a number of other Zambian schools which has got me thinking about the ways in which we do things and how we make decisions about what is best for the children we teach.

A private school in Ndola

A community school in Kitwe

The easiest way to do something is to do it the way you have always done it. For example, when I started teaching Grade 2 at Kapumpe last year, I set up my classroom in a similar way to how I would in the UK. I used planning formats that I had previously used, and a behaviour system which had been successful back home. Soon after term began, I was asked to mentor a Zambian teacher and share class responsibility with her. This meant that I was able to show her my way of doing things whilst providing encouragement and feedback to broaden and improve her teaching skills.

My grade 2 classroom last year 

On reflection I think that I assumed that I knew how to teach and that I was the one with skills to pass on. Since then however, I have had quite a change of mindset. I’ve learned that a method or strategy that is effective in one environment or culture does not always transfer well to a different context. Our best resource here at Kapumpe Christian Primary School is definitely our Zambian staff. They have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the local children and culture that I will never have. If I were to take on a similar challenge again, I would approach things a different way. First, I would ask about how things are done in Zambia.

One of our members of staff who I have learned a lot from

In my work to develop the school, I have introduced systems that will help us monitor and improve our performance - a school improvement plan, lesson observations and performance management appraisals. Each time I started to introduce one of these systems which I thought might be new and innovative at a staff meeting here, I found that the Zambian teachers were already familiar with it. The process might look different (for example, I’ve heard that lesson observations over here focus on identifying the teacher’s mistakes!), but they are still carried out for similar reasons.

I am confident that some of the teaching strategies we have introduced at Kapumpe have really helped to improve the quality of the education that the children receive. We recently invited parents and guardians to attend a meeting with their child’s class teacher to discuss their progress and see their work – like parent’s evening but in the afternoon. It was lovely to hear so many positive comments. Numerous parents and guardians came to find me so that they could tell me how pleased they were with how their child was getting on. Many of them mentioned that they have noticed a distinct difference between children who attend Kapumpe and others in the community. I myself have noticed this difference in terms of confidence, spoken English and thinking skills.

Looking at children's work before teacher-parent meetings

One area that Zambian schools seem similar to those in the UK is the challenge of government demands. The government expectations for teaching and learning in Zambia are further ahead of where I expected them to be, yet many teachers tell me there is a big focus on statistics. Completing a census form about Kapumpe for the government took us two meetings and several additional hours, yet we’re not sure what the data collected is actually used for. I’ve heard that teachers have to re-write their register every time a new child joins the class (a frequent occurrence here). At many local schools there are over 70 children to a class and most teachers do not have a computer so will write everything by hand.

As a school, we at Kapumpe are very much learning as we grow. It is my hope that next year all our classes will have a Zambian teacher who we can mentor, support and learn from. The different knowledge, skills and experience that each member brings will only make us a stronger, more effective team.

Our current grade 2 teacher

1 comment:

  1. Great work and well written about as usual - love reading about your work and journey!