MLOL Heart

Laura McEachran, Depute Head Teacher, St Martin's Primary

Sep 21,2022 MLOL Blogs

When our plane finally landed at Chileka (only around 75 hours after we had left) we were quickly given our visas and cases. The cases had all arrived safely! At least some good luck after the last few days… We were greeted at the airport by some of our MLOL friends and departed for Kabula Lodge swiftly. When we arrived at Kabula, it was like home. It doesn’t matter how many times you see the view, it still takes your breath away. Alice had kindly prepared our rooms and we had a quick freshen up (as you can imagine, we smelled delightful). We then met briefly with Paul (District Education Manager) and some of the PEAs (Primary Education Advisors).

We shared some of our aims from the  sessions we would deliver, with collaboration and sharing practice featuring as recurring themes. We were taken aback to hear that schools were currently on holiday, but the teachers and head teachers would still be coming along to training. Committed professionals who have a passion for professional learning. Something both our Glasgwegian and Malawian colleagues have in common.

After the meeting, we headed to Shoprite to pick up water and biscuits for the training, as well as other essentials (juice, crisps, chocolates and other munchies). All the perfect nutrients for late night balcone reflections with the MLOL team. We were all exhausted and in need of an actual bed (we had only been in one in the last 75 hours!). So after a quick prep of the session resources and materials, off we went. We’re already onto a winner as I’ve only had one spotting of Boaby the bathroom spider. Elizabeth has reassured me that if big Brenda the bathroom spider appears, she’ll come to my rescue.

A much needed sleep and the sound of the electricity buzzing (which meant the fringe could get a quick straighten) = a great start to the morning. We were all well rested and raring to go. Elizabeth and Katy were en route to deliver their leadership training and Dale, Shannon and I were on the way to Ndirande TDC to work with around 40 wonderful teachers.

The streets of central Blantyre were full of the usual bustle. Stalls with fruit, the occasional mops and as Dale found the previous night, an attempted sports sock sale through the car window.

These are just to name a few!

It was lovely to see everyone going about their business, particularly after an extremely challenging few years. There are even a few new shops and restaurants too. Before we knew it, we had arrived. With 35 teachers and 6 PEAs, who were all ready and raring to go.

We were introduced by our friends and colleagues, Paul and McArthur. Dale, Shannon and I then introduced ourselves, which was followed by a resounding ‘No!’ when Paul asked if our Malawian colleagues managed to catch our names. A gentle reminder for us as facilitators of the sessions, to be mindful of our pace and pronunciation when working with our colleagues. We were delighted to have 6 PEAs with us throughout the day. It’s incredibly important to be consistent and feel empowered as we embark on this next step of the MLOL journey.

And what a start it was…

The group of teachers we worked with today were nothing short of fabulous. From the Think, Pair, Share, to our make shift TALULAR (Teaching and Learning Using Locally Available Resources) ball, the teachers were engaged, positive and inspiring. We made our way through the ‘Good Lesson’ cycle and were keen to intersperse many of the strategies and ideas throughout. This ranged from body movements to songs and actions to group work. A particular favourite was a good old ‘Heid, Shudders, Knees and Taps’ to highlight how the use  of songs and body movements/actions could be used in learning. Dale and I tried to start off in the same key but this resembled the distressed dog that could also be heard in the grounds of the TDC. We were encouraged and inspired by our colleagues ideas and activities that they have also been using in the classroom. The MLOL mantra is all about improving education in Glasgow and Malawi.

This was reinforced throughout today’s session and I know that Dale, Shannon and I have certainly gained lots of wonderful ideas from our colleagues so far. It wasn’t long before we were joined by another VIP… Ndirande TDC’s resident cockerel. He obviously took a wander into the MLOL session but left rather quickly. Clearly he’s well versed in the Good Lesson cycle… ?? I’ve been teased before for my ‘training voice’ shall we say, and I can assure you it was in full pelt come 9:30am. The teachers used the Good Lesson to plan a lesson for their classroom, using many of the strategies and activities we had covered so far. Their ideas were wonderful and as the sun got warmer, everyone had a much needed break before we began the next few sessions. 
After the water, biscuits and movement break, we dove straight in to the library and reading leaders. We began with an outdoor game of ‘inde’ (yes) and ‘ayi’ (no). We started off with a simple, ‘Our singing was great this morning’ and to our horror, around five colleagues chose to stand at the ‘ayi’ side. We weren’t too bothered, as they were able to justify their answer, the whole point of this activity and how it can be used to develop critical thinking and effective questioning. We used this to facilitate discussions around the libraries in school, again, we were over the moon to hear about lots of positive experiences regarding the library and how books can be used to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. 

Ruth (HT of Blantyre Girls), very kindly let us borrow some of her books  for the training sessions and our colleagues soon explored the texts and completed a Sharing Walk to discuss and share their ideas of how to use the texts to support lessons in different curricular areas. Lots of super collaboration and great ideas that our colleagues (and us!) seemed excited about. 

It was soon the moment Dale and Shannon had been waiting for, role play time. With the training voice ramped up by this point, we role played how we may train the reading leaders to work with our younger learners to explore books together and to use questioning to find out more. Dale made a great Standard 1 learner, particular as he is about 3 heads taller than me! We used ‘I see, I think, I wonder’ to discuss the exploration of imagery and critical thinking and soon it was our colleagues turn to have a go. They were superb!

We followed it up with a ‘Nice, nice, nice, soooooo nice!’

We had used many praise chants throughout the day, so much so one lovely teacher asked Shannon to write them all down for her so that she could use them with her learners. To finish off, we headed outside for a game of ‘Moto Mpiri Moto’. The aim was to stop and freeze when ‘Wazeema’ was shouted. The last to freeze had to share what they love about their job. Working with learners and parents, supporting learners on their journey to becoming doctors, lawyers and nurses was another. A  reminder that teaching really is the best job in the world. With the first session done, we collated the evaluations and felt very positive about day 1. A quick munch, reflection and more prep for tomorrow, I’m now under my mosquito net with a bar of chocolate and a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Day 3 of dry shampoo, I may need to grin and bear the hair wash tomorrow or I may soon be evicted by my MLOL friends. Tiwonana mawa ??


MLOL Heart
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The group of teachers we worked with today were nothing short of fabulous.
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