Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bright Spots

I love to stop by the various classrooms so I can listen and see what is happening.  This wall poster really made me smile today. Why does something as simple as "Ask Questions" make me smile? Well, in general, asking questions in school is frowned upon--but not in our school. In fact, we even encourage children to ask questions. 

Our teachers have learned that it's ok to say, "I don't know"  when they can't answer a child's question. Or they might say, "I don't know, but let's find out!"

The other sign says, "Be Creative in a Positive Way." I like this too because it encourages creative thinking and originality. 

Here is Mr. Albert teaching in the Foundations class. He is working with some of our older students who have not yet mastered basic reading and basic math. Once they become proficient in these two areas, they will be placed in a regular class. 

What factors caused these students to be in Foundations class? Well, there are many possibilities. Some of the children have been in school most of their lives, but they may have been in an overcrowded school that couldn't give them the attention they needed. Others have missed some years of school due to family crises, etc. The important thing is to give them the foundational instruction that they have been missing so they can move on with their education. 

The 4-year-olds were in the Library when I stopped by their classroom. To my great delight, I saw some beautiful pictures on the wall. What made them so beautiful? Well, about a month ago during staff training, we had a discussion about *not* prescribing the exact colors that children should use when coloring a picture. Many teachers felt it was best to always tell children exactly which colors to put in certain places. The end result would be that all of the pictures look exactly the same. This method greatly stifles current creativity--and most likely future creativity. I briefly gave some examples of "group think" in Nigeria that I have encountered. This was eye-opening for the staff because when you are inside of "group think" you usually aren't aware of it!

And here is the 6th grade class reading an abridged version of Oliver Twist which is a mainstay of education in Nigeria. I'm pleased with this class for so many reasons.

Number 1: I'm pleased that we actually have a 6th grade! What does that mean? Well, most schools don't have 6th grade any more. Students simply move from 5th grade to JS1 (7th grade equivalent). Schools will justify this by saying that 6th grade work is taught in 5th grade (and so on down the line). However, I really feel that many students go to secondary school unprepared. I'm proud of the parents of these children for allowing their children to attend 6th grade. Every year we lose a lot of our would-be-6th graders because their parents pull them out of our school and take them to JS1 (7th grade) in a different school.

Number 2: I'm pleased that all of the children have a copy of the book!

Number 3: I'm pleased that the teacher is reading outloud along with the class. She is modeling correct pronunciation and expression, and she is gently correcting the students as they stumble over words. She is also taking time to discuss the story with the students as they are reading.

Number 4: The classroom is bright and cheery--and it has maps on the walls! That's a world map on the left and a Nigeria map on the right.

I'm so proud of our teachers for pouring their lives into our students.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I'm just coming off of four days of rest (the weekend plus two public holidays). Wow. That was incredible. I deliberately didn't do any work. I even got to sleep in til 8 a.m. most of the mornings. That was a real treat as the sun usually wakes me up around 6 a.m.

I took time to read to the kids, play a board game, and make fudge. I also cleaned up a few areas around the house. It was so good to de-compress a bit. When did life get so overwhelmingly busy?

I also enjoyed the very definite shift in seasons that I felt today. The dry season has come--and it has made me very happy. The dry season has a lot more sunshine and heat--at least for a month or two before the cold harmattan winds will blow in. I can't say that I enjoy one season more than another; I think it is simply the change that is so important to me.

Rest is good because of the perspective it gives on the work that needs to be done. And so, I now approach tomorrow with a readiness that comes from deliberate rest.