This is the reflective (mostly) blog of Adam Sutcliffe, a teacher of Modern Languages at The Gordon Schools in Huntly, Aberdeenshire.
All opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own. Any complaints should be expressed directly to the author.
A film of an event which perfectly (in my mind any way) encapsulates the ideals of ACfE.
As part of our connecting classrooms visit the pupils of TGS, Gordon Primary and Rhynie Primary put on an evening of Scottish entertainment for our guests from Namibia and Ethiopia. The result was a fantastic evening highlighting not only our students' talents but their willingness and confidence to go onstage and show off their own culture.
successful learners - each one had to learn something and perform it under the most stressful of circumstances
confident individuals - each student strode onto stage as if they were seasoned performers (which many actually are)
responsible citizens - students were asked to take part in their own time for the benefit of their schools and the partnership
effective contributors - how much more effective could they have been, not only in their performance but also in the delivery of various aspects of their own cultural heritage.
This event was also a very physical representation of multi-establishment co-operation between two of our feeder primaries and ourselves and it showed the encouragement of leadership coming from the students.
We welcomed our partners fro Lalilbela and Windhoek to our school for the first time and the week was a whirlwind of activity. Rather than write about it again click here to read about it in the partnership's wiki.
Let me add however that I am rather pleased with my use of varied applications to spice up the pages.
Disappointed as I am not to be at SLF ("Suspect Device" great song) I am actually quite glad that I haven't been able to attend. I've been catching up on some stuff via the ace Connected Live Blog BUT I have so many things to do here.
Our visitors from Namibia and Ethiopia arrive on Sunday so there is some serious organisation going on.
In preparation for this event, and in celebration of the Ethiopian Millenium last week I have lead the assemblies all this week, just simply talking about Ethiopia. And I made a slidecast of the presentation. (Its a really simple but effective way of sharing presentations)
I thought that on my return from Addis things would get back to some kind of normalcy. No chance. I thought I'd at least be able to do some room tidying during my now free S4 periods. No chance.
So much stuff to try to organise and do.
multi cultural day
P7 Languages Work to film
INSET presentation in front of all MFL teachers from Grampian
Blogging workshop in Graz to prepare for
Blogging/Podcasting workshops in school for teachers
Thats what I can think of at the moment...oh I forgot another one TEACH. Often have to remind myself that's what I'm actually paid to do, compared to most of this other stuff, which I'm not.
At the moment my S1's are trying an experiment wherein they are learning their school unit stuff by doing. Instead of teaching them the vocab they are preparing films and radio shows about the school. As ever in their eagerness to produce something interesting they keep forgetting to use their vocab guides which leads to all kinds of internet translator-ease. I have given them til the end of the month. I'm quite prepared for failure in this venture as I'm not convinced that we've gone about it in the right way. I think a certain level of direct teaching will be necessary if there is to be a next time for such a project.
Anyhow. I've been putting together some more of my Addis footage so here's a video trip through Addis Abeba starting at Mount Entoto.
I am pleased as punch this week. I have had first communications with both our African cluster partners and we had a very positive cluster meeting. I now have to go and face up to hordes of primary kids as I give presentations in their assemblies over the next couple of weeks.
Here are slideshows I have made of my trip to Addis Ababa. You will need quicktime to view them. (Click the link to download it if need be.) This first one is entitled "At Play" - because we didn't work all the time.
If you have read my blog recently you will realise I attended a British Council-run seminar in Addis Ababa. What was a teacher doing being sent all the way to Ethiopia? is an authority wide INSET not enough? Not if you want to link with an African school.
Along with 15 other teachers from the UK we met up with another 32 like-minded teachers from all over sub-saharan Africa: Sierra Leone, Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. (Apologies if I have left anyone out.)
Put simply the aim of the seminar was for each participant to form a tripartite partnership made up of one UK cluster and 2 clusters from 2 different African countries. We were taking part in the 2nd such seminar of 3 which will make up the 2nd Connecting Classrooms cohort. In a more in depth way we had to challenge our assumptions and perceptions of each other all the way. How many UK colleagues went to Ethiopia with an image of abject poverty and famine in mind I don't know, our African colleagues also had that same idea.
We were asked to examine our perceptions of each other and any assumptions we may have made on the way. At the same time we looked at how any organisation must base its operating principles on assumptions: these being the 8 Assumptions of Appreciative Enquiry.
Based on this concept we were asked to build a wall of greatness by identifying something about our countries about which we were proud, and something about our education systems which we liked. By doing this we were trying to ensure that in building a partnership we focussed on the positive aspects of what each partner had to offer.
Following this was the market place. This was really the exercise which everyone had come for. Everyone had a display highlighting their clusters' priorities all that was left to do was to sell ourselves and listen to others. talk about nerve wracking and stressful. It took a day and a half before our partnership was settled with one or idea changes along the way. So finally it was done. Our cluster (The Gordon Schools, Gordon Primary and Rhynie Primary) are now in partnership with a cluster in Windhoek, Namibia and a cluster of schools in the world heritage site of Lalibela, Ethiopia. I am so excited...even if I don't get to go to all of the places.
So what now?
I'm partnership co-ordinator for the 1st year and the aim is to establish regular reliable communication links, set out the nitty gritty details of what projects we want to carry out and of course organise a visit. My African colleagues will therefore be visiting us in september of this year.
For me this was a fantastic experience. I got to return to Africa, however briefly, I saw a small part of another country and I got to shoot the breeze with my African brothers and sisters again. we worked hard but we also had some fantastic evenings' entertainment both set up for us and on the spur of the moment. Highlights for me were the visit to the
Yod Abbyssinia Restaurant where I had my first taste of the Ethiopian national dish Injera with Wat.,and see some amazling traditional dances. second highlight was the informal party organised by thE British Council staff. Hilarious. But not as hilarious as the attempt to usurp the Igwe's power on the final evening. Thank you Victor. (Unfortunately this must remain under lock and key but I have the evidence)
However the most wonderful thing about the whole event was the enthusiasm, the excitement and the willingness of ALL the participants. We all felt that we were taking part in something that could turn out to be very important. The programme as a whole will directly touch 1.2 million children worldwide. Imagine this, each child involved goes home and talks to a parent. This parent talks to a neighbour, the neighbour talks to a friend. All the time assumptions and perceptions are being challenged head on. Could something like this have an influence on the future of our world. Why not? The song says, "I believe the children are our future..."
i spent an afternoon wandering the campus of the University of Addis Ababa speaking to students. I was in the company of a wonderful 14 year old pupil of Bole High School who had opinions about the world she lives in and who wanted to share them with a complete stranger. This 14 year old (whose name means "politeness") could be a role model for every 14 year old in this country. She is politically aware, culturally aware, spoke almost perfect English (not her native tongue) and was motivated and ambitious about her studies. I hope my own daughter will develop such awareness. A day later we visited their school. A secondary school with 6000 students, where IT facilities amounted to 90 PC,s, but a school whose community had banded together to build a brand new 3 storey block to house the senior students' classrooms. those with "shallow pockets" contributed their own hands and muscles to build it. It was a heart warming visit to a school where the education of the students really was a high priority and things were being done without waiting for governments to do it. BRAVO BOLE HIGH SCHOOL.
BANG. Yesterday I returned to my own school..."can I borrow a pencil, I forgot my bag." AAAAARRRRRGGGHHH!. Many of the Ethiopian students i spoke to think that they have a lot to learn from their western counterparts. I have seen both sides of the coin and I know that our cossetted pupils have far more to gain from their peers in Africa than they can even imagine...love, respect, ambition and awareness etc etc.
Our partnership is called WELWITSCHIA. it is taken from the Namibian national plant the Welwitschia Mirablilis. this plant lives in the desert and yet is recorded as living for 1000 years. We intend that our partnership will last as long. Here's hoping, but according to the 8 Assumptions of AI:
As I intimated in a previous post I have been chosen (I did also put myself forward for the honour) to attend a seminar run by the British Council enabling clusters of schools in the UK to forge links with 2 other clusters from 2 sub-saharan countries. Obviously I am more than a tad excited about the prospect of travelling to Africa to see a country I have not yet visited but I thoroughly excited by the whole Connecting Classrooms project. I'm not going to go into it in depth now but I am hoping that we can work at establishing a really equitable, mutually beneficial project which will go a long way to meeting the goals of all partners concerned.
I am going out to represent the cluster of The Gordon Schools, Gordon Primary and Rhynie Primary and the aim is for me to find partner clusters from 2 different countries. To help me to do so I am allowed to take 1 A3 sized poster as a display. But I've also cadged a case of shortbread from Deans to help with the task.
So this time next week I shall be ensconced in the Ghion Hotel Addis Ababa and although I hope to have fun I am sure it will be hard work as there's a whole heap of cash being spent on this.
More importantly blog fans I will try to post in situ and I apologise for all the vodafone crap that will appear if i post by phone. I don't know how to get rid of it.