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mandag den 29. august 2011

Teaching at Woolhope

The following is our plan for teaching in 8th grade, which took place last thursday. 
Literature was the theme for the day, and based on the observations we have made the last weeks, we wanted to make the teaching different and stimulate the learners in different ways. As mentioned earlier, the common way to teach, both in the Township school and at Woolhope, is a very deductive form of teaching where the teacher "fills" the learners with knowledge.

We named the day 'About stories', and started the day with an activity, where some of the learners had to  improvise. We called it 'story-in-a-hat', because the learners had to pick a word from a hat and then make a small story with the word included. The next learner continued the story with the next word and so on.

About stories

Educational goals

By the end of the lectures the learners should be able to:
  •  practise telling stories including getting a feeling of how bodylanguage and appearence affect the story.
  •   spot structure and characteristics in the fairy tail genre
  •   relate acient stories to contemporary literature
  •   derive important places in the story and relate it to the sociaty today

Didactic reflections

  •  try out different and alternative teaching methods whilst working with literature. E.g. Coorperative Learning and workshops, with focus on the individual learners prerequisite and learning styles.

Program of the day

1)   8.30 – 8.40 Introduction
2)   8.40 – 8.55 ’Story-in-a-hat’
3)   8.55 – 9.00 5 min break
4)   9.00 – 9.15 Teacher reads out the fairy tail ’The ugly duckling’
5)   9.15 – 10.10 Split the class in 8 groups (CL):

Analysis groups:

            The themegroup – Find the themes and the message of the story. Give examples from the text to substantiate your statements. Write it on a piece of paper and hand it in.

The languagegroup – Explore the language – look at the verbs, nouns and adjectives. How does the use of the different words affect the story? Give examples from the text. Write it on a piece of paper and hand it in.

The ugly-ducklinggroup – Personal characteristics - find out everything about the ugly duckling’s feelings. How does he feel in this part of the story? Write it on a piece of paper and hand it in.

The perspectivegroup – Can the message of the story be seen in a societal context today? How? Discuss that, write it down and hand it in. You can look at the sentence

Creative groups:
The rapworkshop 1 - Rapworkshop imagine that you are the duck. You are walking alone down to the pond and suddenly you start to rap. Make a rap about your feelings.

The rapworkshop 2 – Rapworkshop imagine that you are the duck in the end of the story. How do you feel now? Make a rap about your feelings.

The cartoon workshop – Cartoon workshop – use the following sequence of the story and make a cartoon out of it. Focus on feelings, colors and speech- and thoughts bubbles.

The dramaworkshop - Dramaworkshop – mime the following sequence of the story. Remember that your body language and your facial expression are very important.

6)   10.10 – 10.45 Lunch break
7)   10.45 – 11.30 The learners present their products

 Each group gets 25 minutes to complete their task, and then the groups swap, so everyone tries to work with the analysis and in a creative group.
Some of the groups worked outside...
... and some worked inside.
Reflections after the teaching

The day was a succes; the learners worked concentrated throughout the whole day. Their presentations emphasized this.

A group presenting their cartoon

Another group ready to perform their rap.

The rest of the class were very enthusiatic and concentrated

But some things came to our attention throughout the day, and there are some changes we are excited to try out at the city school.
Some of it concerns the content, some concerns plain logistict, but most importantly we are very interested in seeing how learners from a different invironment with a different background will welcome this way of teaching ….  We will be back J

- Michael, Dorte and Sabine

tirsdag den 23. august 2011

Impressions of a township school
By Anne Sejer Madsen

During my first internship in South Africa I stayed at Kabana a township in the townships of Port Elizabeth. It was an incredible experience in a personal as in a professional aspect. Especially the interaction and warm welcoming from teachers and learners was overwhelming.

Sabine in front of the township school

The physical state of the school premises

-           Disillusions and decay
When we arrived at the school everything seemed a bit chaotic, we didn’t know exactly where to go and what to do with our self.  However everyone greeted us with smiles and curious looks. Soon a charismatic woman that seemed to have some extent of authority among the teachers and learners (maybe the vice principle?) took us under her wing and started showing us the schools facilities. While we were guided around she told us the recent events that had let to the miserable conditions of the recent school. The high school, that now shared facilities with a primary school, used to be a separate school. However, the former buildings were in serious need for repairs, and the school was, as any other township school, always in lack of fonds. When rough winds was blowing from the sea, bending trees and bushes by its will, the learners and teachers could literally feel the neglected old building sway and moan from the outside pressure. One morning when they arrived, the building had simply collapsed. The government repositioned them at this current school where they would have to share facilities with a primary school. This was only temporary arrangement, but as the years passed the teachers and staff realized that within every golden assurance from the state were nothing more than empty promises. Never have I seen a more disillusioned man as the principle of the school. He was in building a relatively big man, black middle-aged man, squeezed into a tiny little room no bigger than a bathroom. Over his desk there was a huge whole in the ceiling, and papers was lying everywhere. He had no draws or shells, so millions of notes and folders piled up from his small desk in an obscure archiving system.  He was heartbreaking as he sat in his office with hanging shoulders and a disillusioned voice telling us indirectly, that he had no more fight left in him. He didn’t know how to better the current situation of the school. Every time he had tried to seek founds or complaint at the educational sector, his voice got lost in the process, forgotten or ignored. As a result he was now trying to complete a master in economic at the university ass an attempt to better his own opportunities to seek another job.  Depressing.
As we walked around on the premises of the school it was the physical neglect of repairs and investments was obvious. Broken windows in almost every classroom. Perforated ceilings wherefrom the water would drip down on rainy days. Doors without handles and a bathroom that looked and smelled more like a stable than a facility used by humans. There were no curtains, so the learners that were placed next to the windows would when the sun shined brightest shadow their eyes from the side with a book.   Often the temperature inside the classrooms was freezing. Everyone, learners as teachers would be fully dressed in outerwear during class at cold days to keep warm. I went to the extent of wearing woolen skiing underwear, 2 jumpers, 2 jackets a scarf and a hat. How can one learn in such an environment, where you have to spend half of your energy just keeping warm or blocking out the sun? Often the children came to school without haven eaten breakfast, because they neither had the time nor the money. Many of the children had to walk far from the outskirts of the townships to get to the school, which meant that there were only half full classes on rainy days. As an addition there were a lot of problems with abuse, drugs, violence etc. in the area. Knowing all this it seemed as a miracle that the children did manage to function in the school at all.

A view over the township

Teachers and learners

-          A heartwarming welcome
However the learners and teachers didn’t seem to be that affected by the physical state of the school. They were positive and curious (at least in their interaction with us). While we were guided around the first day on the school premises the vice principle would introduce us to every class at the high school.  When we entered the room all the students would get up in standing position to greet the teacher. Afterwards she would introduce us and make a small cheer to make them shout greetings to welcome “Miss Anne” and “Miss Sabine” as loud as they could.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, laughing, joking and welcoming us.

Sabine, the vice principle and me

We were offered to get our own office, but we asked if it was possible if we could join the teachers at the staffroom instead.  The staffroom was big, bright room with nine tables organized in a horseshoe-formation.  At each table was placed to teachers, and as at the principal’s office the general archiving system seemed to be random piling of papers all over the place. The teachers were separated by choice in a man section and a female section. As one of the female teachers said with teaching eyes; “the men had grown tired of all their talking and joking”. And talk and joke they did! Never have I experienced a more festive staffroom. Dancing, singing, talking loudly at once, joking and more spontaneous singing and dancing. We were placed at different tables sharing the space with different teachers.  I sat next to Thelma, a middle-aged small black woman with a winning humor and a warm heart. We became quite good friends with all of the teachers. In every break they would learn us a little Xhosa (the native language), a song or introduce us to some traditional food that they had brought for us to taste. It was a quite overwhelming and heartwarming experience. 

Tembi, Thelma and 2 other teachers from the high scool

The staffroom

General didactic reflections and observations

-          A school system reproducing a society no longer existing?

 The first couple of days we spent observing different classes in different subjects. Everyone was eager to kidnap us into their specific class to show how their way of teaching. Our overall impression of the township school were that the school system in general seemed to be characterized by a one way communicating learning style based on a deductive view upon learning. The teachers were considered the only source of knowledge and the students were forced to be passive receivers. There were very few cases of authentic oral interaction between students and teachers.   There seem to be no general structure of the lessons and the content seemed random. A lesson would start when the teacher arrived at the class, often 10-15 min late. The class would then get to their feet and greet the teacher until he asked them to sit. Without any further introduction or explanation the teacher would start teaching a given subject. As an example we experienced a “life science” lesson (biology), where the teacher after she had arrived simply just starting writing formulas at the blackboard, educating the learners by monolog. It took me several minutes to figure out, even as a biology teacher, what the lesson was about. The teacher kept using biological terminology, never explaining in everyday language what it meant. She used words as “saccharides”,   “glucose”, “lactose” etc. and did only explain that she was talking about forms of sugar fifteen minutes into the class. The only interaction between the teacher and the class was when she asked rhetorical questions which the learners would answer “yes” or “no” with one voice. A general pattern of interaction was also that the teachers would make a small pause in the middle of a word wating for the class to complete the word with her. Sometimes it was due to repeat a specific terminology, other times it just seemed random. The teacher could for instance say ; “the mitochondria produces ener - (pause)- gy” or in more random cases “the body is fanta – (pause) - stic”. The learners were then supposed to complete the word “fantastic” by saying “stic”. This seemed very odd to me. What was the purpose of that kind of interaction? I can maybe understand it when it is a matter of terminology. One must remember that this was a school which manly hosted Xhosa speaking learners. This meant that the challenge of learning terminology must be twice as difficult to the learners because they were educated in their second language – English. This thesis is supported by the fact that the teachers occasionally broke into Xhosa to explain or repeat difficult passages. Seen in this perspective it makes senesce to let the learners say the words aloud to make them get use to the sounds and feeling of the word.  However, if that was the main object of the concept wouldn’t it be more effective to let the learners repeat the whole word instead of just finishing a half of it? Most of the time was what the repeated just random as in the example with “fantastic”. A lot of the time the teacher would ask genuine questions, but instead of waiting for an answer she would just be answering the question herself.

Tilføj billedtekst
One was left to wonder how much the learners actually remembered or understood after such a lesson.  Would they be able to answer if one asked them to explain the basic functions of the different organs of a cell?  Would they be able to make the connection to what consequences the theory had for their everyday life? I couldn’t help but wonder; were these young people being educated for? It seems to me as if the education system is based upon a hierarchy where students should learn not to question authorities and simply accept the given order of life, reproducing knowledge without critical reflection. Does the school reproduce skills from a system no longer existing? - Skills that seems to be outdated in a society that has changed both in way of govern and social conscience? The way of educating that I meet at the township school teaches the young generation neither to be a part of a modern work market where teamwork and communication are essential nor to prepare them for participating in a democratic society where democratic dialog and independent thinking is required. South Africa is a new democracy, but does the school reproduce an old hierarchic system? If one wants to educate the youngsters for a democratic active life I see some serious challenges and need for reforms in the given school systems way of thinking or defining education.



Sabine is showing pictures from Denmark

fredag den 19. august 2011

Impressions from a Northern area school

The way Woolhope Highschool makes sure that no learners leave school property ...

But they were expecting us (even though they thought that only 3 students were coming, it was no problem), and we were warmly welcomed!! They give us lunch and coffee every day ...


torsdag den 18. august 2011

A story about culture

- a true story from my history professor

Once during fall, during a heavy rain a farmers road risked being flooded. There were branches blocking the drainage pipes and he had to get them out. He needed help from his Xhosa worker, but the worker hesitated – he wasn’t willing to help. The farm owner insisted. The worker still didn’t want to. At the end the farmer forcibly helped him into the water to help him get the branches out. The farmer could tell that he wasn’t happy about it, but he needed his help, otherwise the roads would flood.  He didn’t understand why the servant was being so stubborn.
The next morning when the farmer woke up, the worker was gone. Due to the flood, this was the time when the farmer needed his worker more than ever before.
The worker was gone for five days, and when he came back he had an assortment of beads wrapped around his wrists, neck, legs and stomach. The was bewildered, and yelled at the worker. The worker told him that because the farmer had forced him to go into the water he had become sick. ”I was in that water too, i im perfectly fine, so get your act together” the farmer said. A couple of weeks later the farmer talked with some antrophology professers, and he told them the story.  The professesers told the the farmer that according to the worker’s Xhoxa religion, the ancesters live in the water. If you weren’t on good terms with your ancesters you would have to make certain sacrifices and follow rituals. The farmer immidiately felt bad. ”This is a matter of different cultures” the professor told the farmer! After years of growing up in South Africa, even the farmer can be  humbled by the complexity of different cultures.

- Sabine

mandag den 15. august 2011

Impressions from a township school

To me it seems like most of the teaching is about getting the learners to learn and remember specific facts. To reflect and to think yourself as a learner happens rarely. The teacher is speaking; the learners are listening and trying to find the right answer to the teacher’s questions. It is facts based on facts. At this point the teaching is very different from how it is in the Danish school system. At VIA University College in Aarhus we learn how important it is to teach each learner differently, because each learner has his own learning style. Some learn best by listening, some by talking, and some by discussing in groups and so on. Cooperative learning is a keyword in Danish teaching.
Here it seems like every learner learns in the same way and they don’t see the learners indviidually. I am left to wonder which kind of teaching is the best. And there is neither any right answer for that. I think sometimes you have to sit on your chair and listen, you have to learn to listen, to understand and remember. From that point of view the Danish way to teach seems like a modern, new idea which is more based on having fun in school and listening to the learners than for the teacher to be in charge and actually teach. From that point of view I see the traditional teaching with tests as necessary. But in reverse I think different kinds of teaching and varied methods can be a very motivating factor. To Danish students in these days this teaching in the township schools would be seen as old, traditional teaching, which is similar to how it was in Denmark 50 years ago. And what about individual student conversations and cooperation between parents and teachers, which is very important in the Danish school system?
I also noticed how different the faculties in South Africa are compared to the Danish’. They’ve got the faculty Life Orientation, where they learn about life, relationships, how to behave, career possibilities, alcohol, drugs etc. The last mentioned are warnings. In the Danish School system we have a law about the school’s responsibility to teach the learners. It is like the mission of the school. For instance it says that the learners have to learn how to behave in life and in our society. But the different is that we don’t have a specific faculty about that. Why do they have it here? In that context I asked some of the learners, what the school means to them, what they learn and if they like to go to school. These questions resulted in a very interesting conversation about the importance of going to school. “We have to educate or else we haven’t got a chance in life. “I love to go to school – It is my second home.” “We learn how to behave.” If I asked the same questions in a Danish school, how would the answers be? Without prejudices I think most of the learners in 7th, 8th or 9th grade in Denmark would give me the opposite answers than the South African learners did. Interesting and thoughtful.
From this teaching practice I got many questions, thoughts and experiences to bring home. The learners are so polite and disciplined, and I think we, in Denmark, can learn a lot from that mentality.

torsdag den 11. august 2011

A whole new world

We are driving from the area, Humewood, where mansions with beautiful gardens, swimming pools and sea view adorn the streets. We are driving west along the coastal road, passing the marina and the industrial, passing the ghetto in the center. We are driving away from the city. We now sense, how the nature, the buildings, even the races are changing, the longer we distance from the city.
15 minutes later we make a turn to the right where a totally different sight is coming towards us. Little boys are walking around on the road, begging for money, others have bags of oranges thrown on their shoulders trying to make a sale, but nobody seems to pay them any attention, besides us – the new inhabitants. All that meets the eye is old ramshackle sheds and garbage in the street corners. White people have become a rare sight. It’s easy to sense that apartheid has left its marks, even though it has been seventeen years since it was abolished. We are far from the city, in the land of the black man, away from the white area, from the rich. We have entered the township.
Stine and Dorte