Thank you to Diane Leedham @DiLeed for pointing me in the direction of so much research for my time in Ghana. As part of the work of WWEP, I will be working with teachers and leaders to improve learning outcomes for the children of Ghana’s schools. I will not be imposing ‘our way’ of doing things but instead, working within their culture and keeping the learning that is right for them at the heart. The below article got me thinking about projects that UK schools could do as part of #nakedteachingday to better understand the communities that they serve.
My thoughts were about what we could do with tutor time, project based learning or PHSE lessons. So much can be taught through what already exists. We often forget about life to concentrate on passing the test, forgetting that the learners lead lives way beyond that final exam. Are we educating all children to be doctors, lawyers and bankers, to move away from their local communities and make their fortune? Or are we educating our children to know that, whatever career choices they make, whatever community they choose to live in, they are a huge part of making it great?
Allow learners to explore their own community and its specific needs. Who and what does their community consist of? What are its cultures or traditions? Is there a need in the community that could be fulfilled by the school while also giving the learners access to practising real literacy and numeracy in context?
Take the learners out into the community armed with questions to find out more. Invite local businesses, politicians, community organisations or people (friends and family) to take part in their research. Increase their confidence in communicating their thoughts and ideas to adults who are serving them in their community. Teach learners about effective communication and the potential consequences of community projects both positive and negative. Have them evaluate their research, learning more about their local community. From their findings, could they plan and execute a project that would lead to positive outcomes specific to their own community? How much of the resources needed to execute their plans could come from the community and be recycled for new purposes?
The only resource required to begin the research would be a skilled teacher as leader of the project. The teacher should understand effective communication, questioning and listening sensitively enough to lead their learners in their investigation without taking it over as their own. They should be able to plan beforehand and recognise opportunities throughout that highlight and improve literacy and numeracy that makes a difference in a project like this.
From the investigation, teachers could get to know their learners’ backgrounds, teach them the skills of communication, questioning, evaluation, team roles, research, planning, causes, consequences and so much more – all without expensive resources. Teachers should confidently breakdown learning so that students can see what life (and test) skills are being learned.
Embedding literacy and numeracy throughout this project would support students in understanding their practical application to the real world. In true Manglish style, find out what is being taught in mathematics and English lessons this term; team up with the mathematics and English teachers and allow learners to practise these test skills by making real links to the project. Make the links for them by referring them to their subject lessons and allowing them to recall their learning in a new context. This will give the test skills purpose and increase their understanding of how to apply them in unfamiliar circumstances, leading them towards mastery of the skill.
Even though education in England is standardised, this does not mean that our learners all lead the same lives. I have worked in schools all over the UK. There are similarities in what each school teaches but the culture and life experiences of their children differs considerably. I am not talking about obvious differences as far apart as London and the North. Communities can be a car ride away from each other and be worlds apart. Often, teachers travel from further away to work and are not always part of the same community as their learners. Within miles of my home, I have worked in a predominantly white British community that value their horses more than money to one where the majority of students did not speak English as their first language at home. In each case, the schools were focused on standardised learning and test results. Results are important but the danger is in losing touch with the people you are striving to gain these results for. Is your school at the heart of the community it serves?
A project such as this could put the school at the heart of the community and allow the learners to know that they play a part in ensuring their community thrives. From something as simple as creating a space for children to play or cleaning up an unused space to developing a community cohesion course for multicultural societies to better understand each other. The only limit would be the school’s fear of stepping too far off the examination train into the unknown.
Want to know more about #nakedteachingday on September 30th 2016? Click here