MLOL Heart

Shannon Fairbairn, PE Teacher, Smithycroft Secondary

Feb 15,2024 MLOL Blogs

The Journey so far ...

30 hours, 6 airports, 4 very relieved faces at the luggage collection and we have arrived!

After some last minute flight cancellations, a new travel plan was created  with a huge thanks to Maureen and Katy for getting this organised on such a tight schedule. With some tight turn around connections we were unsure if we would arrive on schedule and had very little hope our baggage, that we waved goodbye to in Manchester would have arrived at the same time as us, thankfully luck was on our side.

A quick stop at our trusty Shop Rite to stock up for the week and we were off to Kabula Lodge for a very well needed sleep.Despite this only being my second time in Malawi, returning to Kabula felt like a little home from home , with the views over Blantyre blowing me away once again. You truly cannot get a feel for the place until you are standing on the balcony, taking in the view and hearing the buzz of activity from the streets below. It’s true when they say Malawi has such a special way of getting under your skin.

When I visited Malawi in 2022 , let’s just say travel plans went anything but smoothly which meant we had very little preparation time before we were straight into training. So I felt very grateful this time around, spending time today preparing our training sessions and discussing our visions for the delivery this week. If only we could have this set up for all planning meetings back in Glasgow.We then had a little time to explore Blantyre, taking in the culture, before our meeting with the Education advisors in the early evening. We met with District Education Advisors to discuss our shared visions and aims for the training to ensure the participants would be receiving valuable training linked to the National Education Standards here in Malawi. With aims in place, sessions planned we were eager to get into the schools and meet our Malawian colleagues.

Training Day 1

Day 1 of training led us to the rural areas of Blantyre to Lirangwe TDC. When we arrived on the school grounds we were welcomed in to observe a standard 4 class who were just starting to learn English ahead of the English curriculum they will receive in standard 5.  This was a huge contrast for me as in 2022 when I visited, the schools were on holiday so there was no opportunity to meet the learners and experience a typical classroom lesson here in Malawi. It was so insightful to observe the teacher as she was utilising so many strategies we would use in Glasgow and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the learning context we could then draw upon in the training sessions - with 93 learners in her class she made it look easy!

It became evident very quickly during the training that even in the short space of time from September 2022 to now the conversations around Education and the needs of the Teachers & Librarians are shifting. Previously, our Malawian colleagues were seeking support on organisation of books and strategies to aid large class sizes. However, conversations were shifting towards inclusion strategies, challenge & differentiation and behaviour management.As a result, myself and Morgan felt it crucial to adapt our sessions in order to facilitate more discussion around the barriers the teachers are facing and work collaboratively to develop solutions. With the training over and some standards on break, it was straight to the playground to interact with the learners. I am in awe of their comprehension and  the elocution of their English at such a young age - it puts many of us to shame back home only ever learning our native language.

Training Day 2

With our training sessions adapted and a clearer understanding of what our colleagues wanted to gain from our sessions, it was on to Ndirande TDC in Blantyre Urban, on he grounds of Blantyre Girls School. Our colleagues today were immersing themselves in the active learning strategies which made our job so enjoyable and allowed them to see the benefits these strategies can have on our learners. To end our session Morgan asked our participants to comment on ‘ What I used to think and Now I think’, such simple questions which provided us with some incredible feedback. Hearing just how much the participants have taken from our session and them being so passionate to take back to their own schools was nothing short of inspiring. A key take away which was evident in feedback from the day being the ‘I can show, tell, teach’ strategy for success criteria, allowing all learners to achieve success within lessons relative to their ability levels and that success can be achieved and demonstrated in a variety of ways.

When on a break I took my opportunity to get into the playground and speak to some of the learners who were waiting on their classes to start! Their English was impeccable and the conversation was flowing as to what games were their favourite with one girl giving me the low down on some local cuisine she had bought from the ‘tuck shop’ on the grounds of the school. When asking the learners what they do for fun outside of school ‘FISH FISH’ was a firm favourite - the PE teacher in me was in my element, I sourced a rope from a colleague and within seconds we were surrounded by 100 smiling faces awaiting their turn. I can’t put into words how special this felt in the moment and it’ll be a memory that stays with me for life. The levels of poverty some of the learners are living in and yet the simple things create such happiness, it really does put so many things into perspective.

Looking forward to the next 3 days of training; visiting more lessons, collaborating with our colleagues and hopefully learn a few more playground games!

MLOL Heart
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The levels of poverty some of the learners are living in and yet the simple things create such happiness.
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