Here’s a blog post I wrote yesterday for READ for Life about a classroom observation I did. Puts it all in perspective…
This morning I went to observe an early morning ‘extra’ lesson at a
nearby government school at 7.30am. I had recently read an article on BBC News Online with the headline: ‘In school, but learning nothing’. This morning I observed one of these lessons. It was frustrating, and on several occasions I restrained myself from interrupting the teacher to correct her and help the children.
The teacher, approaching retirement age, had attended one of my training sessions on teaching reading with phonics. But simply attending a training and teaching a ‘phonics’ lesson doesn’t necessarily transform teaching; there’s a lot more to it than that!
Some of the highlights of the lowlights would have to be the teacher mispronouncing sounds and making grunts of sounds and asking children to write that word – even I had no clue what she was asking them to write. Or the good ol’ pick the word in the teacher’s head question that wastes a lot of time and achieves nothing. No learning took place in that lesson. I waited until the end of the lesson and during marking of the pointless writing exercise I dashed to the head teacher’s office to share my concerns. I left the head teacher’s office with a wider perspective and insight into the story behind the lesson: the teacher has one child, a son who is currently in prison. The family recently purchased land, which the son was looking after, and whilst he is in prison other people tried to steal the land from them. The teacher sought school leave to try and solve the situation. She also has diabetes and HIV and regularly receives treatment from the hospital. Life shifts back in perspective and I consider carefully how to give her feedback.
Meanwhile, I observed two other infant classes in that school. I was blown away in one lesson with the level of progress one teacher had made with his P2 class. I remember observing him more than a year ago and not knowing where to begin with feedback. But today, he taught a quality lesson: he gave constructive feedback to students, had high expectations for his pupils and beautifully scaffolded their learning. I was encouraged and inspired after watching his lesson.
Yes, some children are in school but learning nothing; but fortunately other children are in school and a lot of learning is taking place!
Find out more about how READ for Life is trying to transform teaching and learning in primary schools in Uganda and to flip the switch from children ‘not learning’ in school, to ‘learning in school’. To keep up to date with how we do this, check out our blog and our Facebook page.