MLOL Heart

Sophie Thomas, Leader of Learning

Feb 12,2024 MLOL Blogs

After a long 35 hour journey which took us from Glasgow to Manchester, Geneva, Ethiopia, The Republic of Congo and Lilongwe, we finally arrived in Blantyre, Malawi.

But my, was the journey worth it!!!!

We were greeting by the beautiful scenery, weather and people. After settling into our cottage at Kabula Lodge, we had time to catch up on a little bit of sleep and get our planning and resources all organised ready for training on Monday.

I am not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous going to bed on Sunday night... not just because of my little spider friend who resides underneath the table in my bedroom. The much needed rain arrived on Sunday night, I know this was welcome and the crops here were desperate for water, and the pitter, patter of the rain on the roof helped to ease my nerves and send me off to sleep. 

It was an early start on Monday morning as we were beginning our training in a rural area. We had a quick breakfast- the pineapple here is the best I have ever tasted, combined with pancakes and chocolate spread I don't think there is a better way to start the day...we set off with Frances and Charity to our schools at 7.30am.

Myself and Katy are delivering the Leadership training this time round and I was so excited to learn more about leadership from our Malawian colleagues.

The journey to our first session in Nankumba took us past so many incredible views. My favourite thing to see was Nankumba Markets, I loved seeing all of the interesting food they were selling and the way the community all gather together in this area.

We were greeted at the school by Wilson and we took some time to arrange our room for a collaborative session. I was so excited to finally be inside one of the schools I had seen so many pictures of.

We were so lucky to be able to have a very special opportunity to visit a class and be a fly on the wall during a lesson. We visited a Standard 6 class and said hello to the 103 pupils.

Quite a change from what I am used to. It was amazing to see so many learners off all different ages listening and learning together.

Their teacher was so engaging and you could sense the positive ethos within the classroom. I was honoured to be welcomed in by the staff and learners and loved having the opportunity to chat to the learners and answer some of their questions about Scotland. They asked what kind of things we liked...there was a buzz of excitement when I told them I liked music, singing and drama.

Clearly music is so valued and appreciated here - which I think is amazing and I wish we could have been a fly on the wall in the classroom all day.

After our classroom visit, we headed back over to our room to begin our session with local headteachers, section leads and deputy heads. We began by exploring what we do as leaders to ensure effective learning and teaching is happening in our school. We asked our colleagues to discuss and share their thoughts and ideas and compile their answers on to post it notes.  We then asked them to order and prioritise which things they think are the most important to the less important.

This created a great debate and buzz around the room. We went on to share, compare and contrast our experiences and linking them to the MNES standards. 

One of my favourite activities we did today explored how effective learning and teaching looks, sounds and feels, to really pinpoint exactly what we can be looking for during observations.

I could see how similar our views were on the importance of motivated, engaged learners, positive environments and ethos, and nurturing relationships. I also loved learning how our Malawian colleagues engage with stake holders such as their village chiefs and church leaders to support attendance in school, which we know is a challenge in both of our contexts.

I would say my highlight of today came by accident and surprise. Our colleagues were very engaged in professional dialogue and to bring the group back together I decided to try one of my P1 favourite attention grabber songs, as I began to sing everybody stopped and listened then joined in - their voices were just beautiful. They asked to do it again and we all sang together as a group, it really was one of those magical moments.

I can't wait to now try this again tomorrow.

I felt honoured to meet so many learners around the school today, they were so curious and impressed me with all of their "Hello how are you? I am fine thank you!" 's and I am looking forward to meeting learners in an urban school tomorrow. 

I absolutely loved my first training session as a MLOL and I can't wait for what tomorrow brings.

MLOL Heart
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I could see how similar our views were on the importance of motivated, engaged learners, positive environments and ethos, and nurturing relationships.
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