I’ve been in the classroom for the last three evenings with our older children doing some study skills and encouraging them to get more serious about planning. We will be running some training for our teachers next week so my evening teaching slots have been a good opportunity to try out some of the resources and techniques that we will be training on. To support this endeavour I have spent a very pleasurable day today in Primary school teacher mode creating classroom resources. This included using sellotape as a cheap version of laminating to create a set of prompts for one of my activities tonight. Having spent my teaching career in secondary education I have never really had many opportunities to work with younger pupils. I think I would have enjoyed life in a primary school classroom.
One of the biggest challenges to teachers over here is the lack of basic reprographic and ICT resources. Just about every teacher I know, in any sector, takes the school photocopier, computer network and whiteboard for granted, (and rightly so). I am old enough to remember life in the classroom before ICT and colour copying. Running off your own worksheets using a very simple spirit duplicating machine, (a Banda machine as I remember), was a headache – literally. The smell of the meths or white spirit that it used could be quite overpowering if you had lot of copying to do.
Even a Banda machine would be a luxury for many Kenyan teachers. It is possible to get photocopying done but very rarely at school. When we need to do copying in any quantity we send it up to Kosele where it we are able to arrange for relatively cheap copying, binding and laminating. This is obviously convenient when copying is planned well in advance but it does make it difficult to service inspired bursts of creativity. Despite having a small number of laptops and a projector the cost/reliability issue of mains power over here make it very difficult to use the ubiquitous PowerPoint as a routine teaching tool. Servicing the requirements of a computer and projector in every classroom is currently beyond us. This may change in the future but for now we have to be creative and use what’s to hand to make lessons more interesting.
One of my favourite reference books over here is called "Where There Is No Doctor". It’s designed to make healthcare possible for people living in poor communities like ours, where most people can’t access even the most basic health services. I’m sure somebody, somewhere must have written the equivalent book for teachers. "Where there is no Laminator, Photocopier, Projector or Whiteboard" would, I’m sure, be an instant best seller in a place like Kosele. We’re working on our version of it. Any pointers to online sources of suitable inspiration would be most welcome.