Saturday, 28 January 2012

Support, communication and motivation

As a child, I can never remember being stressed. Not how I would define stress at this stage in my life anyway.

But can it affect children in the classroom? I've been wondering this for a while, and if

So..A little bit about me..
My Dad is an alcoholic, and throughout my childhood I saw him repeatedly steal, attempt suicide, hurt people, lose his license and go to prison. But at school, it never affected me. At least I don't think it did. I was popular, I was hard working and I generally enjoyed myself. My home life never got brought into school, and the only time it did was when we were moving away.

I just don't get why so many children now are diagnosed as being 'stressed'. To me, its just a label. There are ways to cope. We had ways as children, and if we didnt, we found them and so did my parents, grandparents and great grandparents, so why cant these children do the same? Not everyone needs medication!

I've been looking up stress in children on the internet and have come across a statistic site called Our Stressful Lives (it uses stats from something in america called APA) which says that when stressed, teens and tweens (8-12) reported difficulty sleeping, headaches and eating too much or too little. But come on, what child didnt get the occasional headache, had a sleepless night or had a day where they stuffed their faces and then a day where they didnt eat at all? To blame it on stress seems completely barbaric to me. Send them to bed at a reasonable time, feed them proper food and dont let them just sit in front of a TV all day long!

Dont get me wrong, as an ICT specialist I think games and TV's can be good. But in the right quantities.

Support, communication and motivation.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Wooden School

This is my first blog, so forgive me if it's bad!

I have been meaning to start a blog for a while now, but never found a topic. Not one professional enough anyway. I have so many questions about blogs, but maybe that can be the next topic!

Anyhow, in summer last year (2011 for those of you reading this in the future on your eye-phones...get it!) I travelled alone to a school in Uganda where a family friend had started a charity school.. a wooden one.

 She was trying to do too many things at once - run the school, bring western teaching into it, raise chickens to sell eggs, raise money to build a permanent school as well as doing the organising for her compound.

At first I thought the school was quite 'cute' as it were - small in size, only 75 children and 4 teachers, one office of resources, a kitchen the size of a classroom cupboard and the nearest field like playground was a 10 minute up hill walk away. The children were not English speaking, but they were taught in English, why? I never found out the answer.

Children of 3 were sitting end of term exams, happily with no complaints. Could you imagine that with the 3 year olds in the UK? They were just pleased to be in school as many dont get the opportunity. This picture shows Alvin, the teacher's son who wonders all day around the village. He's 2.

I noticed considerable differences between the schools here, and the two I visited there. I'll make a list.

The head teacher Agnes, was quite happy to beat children with a stick, for pretty much any reason known to man. The family friend really wasn't fond of this, and I'm not suprised. The children were made to concentrate for hours and hours at a time, did she expect them all to stay awake? At least 1 child was asleep in every classroom, head on the desk in the middle of a lesson.

Classroom structure
Here in the UK, I've definately noticed the freedom to move the classrooms round so the teachers can see all of the children, or all of the children can see them.. But Uganda, just a typical rows of little wooden benches with children crammed in so the teacher could have the back one to mark the books. It would have been better to move it round, but there's no space. Our staffrooms are bigger, and believe me I've seen some small ones.

It doesnt matter if a child is absent from school. They dont do registers often, they dont necessarily need them. After all, the parents of the children are paying per term for their child's education so what does it matter if the child doesnt turn up?

Being an English schooled person, I took in my suitcase pencils, colouring books, stickers, writing books, coloured paper, balloons and some other toys you would typically associate with a party bag in the UK. I spent 2 hours one morning with the oldest class (5-9 year olds) doing what they call 'crafts'. I gave them each some colouring pencils, a page from the colouring book, a sheet of stickers, some glue and some of those little pom poms. I have honestly never seen such excitement in any classroom in the UK. That was amazing.

Here are some pictures of the children's works of art.

I got brought in on a meeting one lunch, and I had to answer the question: What would happen if you didnt turn up at work and didnt call?.. Well I'd most certainly lose my job, unless there were special circumstance. Difference is..Umaroo (the teacher) had a headache. He didnt call, or show up, and he left the children with nothing to do. No supply teachers, not like here.

What shocked me more than anything, was the 2 young teachers wondering off at regular intervals. They lived not far from the school, so would go home to get a magazine to read or to put their phone on charge. To them, it was ok to text and answer the phone in the classroom. Imagine the hype if one of the UK teachers did that!

Ok, so this picture was during my crafts lesson but I saw this frequently.. The teacher sat staring into space.

I guess its easy to say there is a lot to talk about when you consider the difference between 'privileged' schools and ones who run in poverty.

Tip of the iceberg. And not the lettuce kind.

Comments on this would be massively appreciated, what with it being my first blog and if anyone wants more infromation on the school, go onto or search for UCETK Uganda on Facebook.