9 February 2012

Fail to plan, plan to fail?

An excellent start: The Daily Ptefldactyl is already a bit un-daily. The thing (excuse) is, most days I finish with the schools at 13:00 but yesterday I gave my fortnightly afternoon workshop and was then pathetically tired. It’s hot and everything. Mehmehmeh.

Resource making at a cluster workshop, 2011
Anyway, had quite a remarkable morning today. This ought not to be a remarkable thing after a year in the job, but it is – I planned two classes with teachers from one of my Bidayuh schools and for the first time it wasn’t a massive struggle. Last year whenever I suggested joint lesson planning they suddenly remembered they were supposed to be at basketball club or needed to empty all the bins, and the occasions when we actually sat down together invariably ended in frustration since they’d never been taught how to stage a class and couldn’t really respond to my prompting (‘How about one of these as a warmer?’ ‘What’s a warmer?’ etc).

But lately, something has definitely clicked. They’ve been approaching me with ideas, and good ones.

I’ve been wondering whether this is partly down to having more structure this year. Last year everything felt quite woolly – the project was new, nobody knew what it was going to be like in reality and we were very much left to our own devices. I was hesitant to impose too much order on my mentees, wrongly presuming they’d resent some random foreigner coming in and interfering with their schedules, but from their feedback (and improved engagement) it appears that more order, not less, is what was needed. Compliance with ‘authority’ – not that I have a great deal – is important here and the key to making things happen, and I took too long to recognise that.

So this year we’ve started running a two-week timetable. In ‘B’ week, each teacher has their own slot when I will always join them in their class either to team-teach or to observe, then discuss the lesson. In ‘A’ week I give a two-hour workshop on an area they’ve suggested or I’ve noticed they need support with, and I’m generally around in the schools for lesson planning, resource development, a chat and a curry puff, etc.

The finished product - laminated common classroom words
On reflection, I suspect there were three reasons why teachers were loath to approach me last year for help with lesson planning: (1) they didn’t have fixed slots with fixed purposes, as they do now; (2) they were nervous; and (3) we had wildly different ideas about what constitutes a lesson plan. It’s a government requirement in Malaysia that teachers write a ‘lesson plan’ for each class in a blue book the size and weight of an occasional table, but this generally involves copying out a series of baffling aims, objectives and learning standards from the syllabus document after the event. Trying to convince them that their real lesson plan was the notes they made on a scrap of paper before the class was seriously hard work.

Anyway, I’m feeling nothing less than joyous that things are changing. Last year I gave myself a pretty hard time, and my teachers too (though I gave them a hard time inside my head. They’re all so lovely, and I felt/feel like some kind of neo-imperialistic arse asking them to do things which were culturally alien, but the training they’d be given before was so hopelessly inadequate I just wanted to bang my head on the desk, hourly).

Is it going to last, or is it a burst of new year energy? Ask me again in June…

No comments:

Post a Comment