Sunday, June 12, 2016

Teacher Observations Begin – May 18 & 19

Grade level in Zambia is not determined by age. Students generally start first grade at age six  but grade one can include any beginning student regardless of age.  This is why when viewing the photos in this blog you might see older students even adolescents sitting in primary grades. Some students must work in the fields or care for a sick relative instead of attending school and then start back at school wherever they left off.  Mabuchi and I try to encourage older students to persevere.
Mr. Mtonga and Mabuchi reflect on the lesson
For this portion of the project Mabuchi and I will observe as many teachers as possible and provide positive feedback as well as suggestions but only if teachers want them.  Mabuchi will be observing in classes where Tumbuka is the primary language of instruction.  I will be observing in classes where English is the primary language of instruction.

Today we returned to Kaponga and Mazulouwa.  We met with the teachers at Kaponga and asked each one what the children would be learning or the objective of the lesson.
Teachers of Kaponga
 The head teacher, a government teacher, seemed unsure of what he was going to teach so we gave him a minute to look through his books to determine his lesson objective which he still had difficulty articulating.   A new volunteer with no training told me he was teaching “the sky.”  After asking many questions I was still unsure exactly what he was teaching but during the observation realized the story in the book was called “The Sky” about a girl who sees a bright star in the sky and her grandfather tells her it is not a star but a planet called Venus.  He, like so many other teachers, teach like they were taught, reading the story and then writing the fill in the blank questions on the board without understanding what the students should learn by the lesson. He later told me his grade 5 and 6 students cannot read in any language, especially English.  After observing and providing feedback Mabuchi and I decided there is still much work to be done here.
Mabuchi speaks to the girls while the boys look on

Mabuchi never misses an opportunity to encourage the girls to stay in school and avoid "early marriage."  In this culture the boy or man's family must pay a bride price before marriage.  Many families with girls view this as a way to make money.  Sometimes young girls are "sold" to older men with other wives.  

We arrived at Mazulouwa after a relatively short drive where we met our two volunteer teachers.  Both have had some training from me.  After some questioning and paraphrasing the teachers were able to articulate an objective for their lessons. 
Mr. Nyirenda provides additional support to those who need it
Mr. Nyirenda taught a math lesson from the book on multiple digit subtraction. Although he uses only Zambian methods to teach the content, he utilized many engagement strategies to make sure the students understood. 

Some of the grade one students
Mrs. Nkhoma taught parts of the body including head, arms, legs, ears, eyes, mouth, and nose.  Mr. Nyirenda had a meeting to attend and usually teaches the grade ones at this time so Mrs. Nkhoma taught all the grade ones, twos, and threes – over 60 students.  We observed she had many pieces of instruction in place and with some additional practice and coaching could be an excellent teacher. Mabuchi and I left Mazulouwa pleased with the teachers’ abilities.
Some students are a bit distracted by the white woman in the back of class
Students predict the number of squares in various grids
The following day we traveled back to the village of Lovi.  Mr. Mtonga was the only teacher present.  The government teacher has not been present at school since we visited over a week ago.  Mr Mtonga taught a math lesson on grids which was planned and included ways to engage the students.  He started out strong but required some assistance part way through. 
These girls show me a 3X3 grid has nine squares
I ended up giving more him some support by taking the students outside and showing them some strategies using rocks and drawing in the dirt.

The head teacher's enthusiasm engages the students in the story
Our final stop for the day was at Matipa.  The two government teachers were well prepared and well-planned.  Mabuchi and I were pleased with the progress they have made.  The head teacher seems committed to help the volunteer teachers improve their instruction.  The volunteer teachers were not present because they were attending a funeral.
I will leave you with this photo of a typical afternoon sky we see as we drive through the countryside.   Mabuchi teases me for me frequent comments about how beautiful the clouds are or how blue the sky looks.  These are things my Zambian friends do not notice.

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