Hear from one of our volunteers Mr Anthony Stevenson here:
I have previously had very few opportunities to have a such a central and active role at a teachers’ conference before and certainly never in one south of the equator! It was a great learning experience for me to be involved right from the inception of the idea through to the delivery of the programme. However, it would have been almost impossible to deliver had it not been for the experience, local-knowledge, professionalism and passion of Sion Watkins. His ‘finger on the pulse’ knowledge of what learning was needed and his local knowledge of where to source resources and establish professional links was invaluable.
Volunteers Ceri Morris, Sion Watkins, Anthony Stevenson, Gwawr Morris & British High Commissioner to Lesotho Anne Macro
My head was frequently ‘in a spin’ with the enormity of difference between what we have – and take for granted – in Wales compared to what is accessible in Lesotho. Where to get brown paper rolls? In a shipping container of the main street selling teacher supplies. How to get some worksheets printed? In a tiny room with a young entrepreneur who’d set-up his own business with just a desktop computer and an inkjet printer (It was a real joy to see the delight on his face when I taught him how he could select to print in black only and not colour!).
The courses themselves were a great success. Having a range of participants was key to the likelihood of future change. The class teachers were keen to learn and develop their practice. Nearly all of the other educationalists were also receptive to the key messages although quite clearly some will stick to what they know best and be intransigent. Nonetheless, the future is bright!
Perhaps the key moments were those where delegates were able to see the joy the children had from active participation in their learning: seeing their nervous first steps, their initial whispers and uncertain glances gradually change to enthusiastic discussion, excited laughter and full participation. Despite ‘working out of their comfort zone’ the children were eager to please and made evident progress. To all delegates it was undeniable that active learning and raising opportunities for pupil voice promotes learning. Of course there are so many other associated benefits to: immediate feedback by means of formative assessment being one.
Having an opportunity to share some ideas for supporting the school self-evaluation process was also invaluable and well-received. However, this is a vast area and we were only able to ‘dip our toes’. There is plenty of scope for this area to be developed further. Maybe a combination of further courses, one-to-one mentoring between Welsh and Basotho headteachers and even video conferencing in the future.
By Anthony Stevenson, Head teacher of Penygaer Primary School, Llanelli