Teacher Education – sharing and learning
My first visit to Uganda in March 2013 with Vicki, Marian Marlow & Matthew and Rosemary Devlin was a truly memorable experience which began as we flew in to Entebbe close to midnight, with dramatic flashes of lightning and driving rain clearly visible out of the plane windows! This was my first visit to an African country and I was looking forward to new and very different experiences and culture, including views of the countryside, unfamiliar sights, sounds and encounters with new faces and communities.
In encountering the school as a teacher, I knew that there would be much to experience and to learn and, whilst I had an expectation of being able to share some of my teaching skills and experience with my Ugandan colleagues at St Michael’s, I was only too aware that a period of observation and reflection would be necessary first. The teachers would be likely to have their own practical constraints and ways of working which were likely to be quite different to my own and that any understanding of different learning abilities/ dyslexia was likely to be limited.
Spending time in the classrooms was remarkable for me in seeing the skills and dedication of teachers, very often faced with classes of well over one hundred pupils with very limited resources. The children were disciplined and keen to learn and I realised that some of the more traditional teaching methods could serve many pupils well in these circumstances. However, as a dyslexia specialist, I also realised that those with learning differences may not be finding life so easy. There would be those who may not be able to see the blackboard, remember instructions, absorb information or read, write and spell efficiently.
It was possible to meet with the teachers on two occasions as a group, having previously sat in on classes for all the different grades (P1 – P7). We touched on aspects of literacy, teaching and learning and I was able to share some resources which were taken away for later discussion. The teachers seemed to find these interesting and useful and I briefly shared my observations and ideas with them. As a consequence of this, I was asked if I could stay on a little longer to continue the discussions. Whilst this wasn’t to be possible, it did plant the seed of plans for a return visit.
In November 2013, I will have arrived in the school once more, hopefully with three other companions, two experienced teaching assistants and a psychologist. We plan to lead some teacher workshops which will focus on the area of literacy development as well as spending time with some of the pupils who have been identified as being in need of extra support. We hope that it may be possible to train a member of staff to continue with this work and then for one or other of us to return at intervals in order to help to maintain this initiative….. I can’t wait!