From 15th to 22nd of May 2016, APIE gave me (Jean de Dieu Dusingize, Head Teacher of Umubano Primary School) the opportunity to go on an academic visit to England during which I visited different schools including The Wroxham School, Brunswick Primary School and Hove Park School. This report includes lessons learned from all these schools, though mainly from Wroxham where I spent the most time. Together with all UPS staff, I will decide some good practices we think will fit well within our school context and start implementing them.
Good practices I learned as lessons in UK schools I visited:
1. Students’ attention. In classrooms and circle meetings, students listen carefully and wait to be given time to ask questions or to comment.
Every student listens quietly and waits for a time to be given an occasion to react by doing, saying or asking.
To achieve this, teachers do not talk much in lessons. (Teacher talk time is really limited). This helps students to focus during the talk time. After a short introduction, the teacher immediately goes to student activities.In these activities, every child has something to do to keep him/her active and busy in the lesson. Another strategy they have is that teachers are firm with behaviour. Their eyes control the whole class, and they react immediately to any behaviour that is against school policies. Bad behaviour cases are almost non-existent, which shows that the students know the school’s expectations. Teachers are friendly but firm, which makes the students respect and follow their instructions.
2. Resourced classrooms. Classrooms are full of locally made displays.
Beautiful material made from paper hung in classroom.
All materials displayed in classrooms were made locally by teachers. They also download some materials from the internet. They use their free time to plan and prepare teaching materials. We also have the good practice of making materials locally at Umubano, but I think we can keep improving how we make them.
3. Use of ICT. In reading activities some students are given books, journals and texts or articles from internet. This helps students to have the same text to read if they are in the same small group. I saw that this is also possible at our school as students can read texts on tablets.
4. I have learned a new, strong teaching methodology in supporting students who need extra support and/or explanation.
A teacher giving extra support to only two students.
After teachers explain something to the whole class, they give activities to the students. They sit apart with the small group of students who have not understood in order to give extra explanation. They use a small whiteboard to explain new concepts and help them in their activities. This is done to support less able students in the lesson without having to wait for extra support.I saw this as the most important technique of differentiation. Through training, meetings and support, this has to start at Umubano.
5. At Wroxham, Magic Ten has become a part of school culture, with all students giving testimonies that they have improved in maths due to this activity. Every week they have one multiplication table to deal with. They always start with a song, after which the students recite the table and do some more activities and challenges around the table they have for that week.
Magic Ten has become a routine at Wroxham.
I have loved how students can self-assess and know what they can do themselves in relation to the Magic Ten information they have already. They always ask the question, ‘If I know this, what else do I know?’ Magic Ten has started at Umubano, though still we need improve how we do it.
6. At Wroxham, I saw very good student behaviour and I do not doubt that the circle meetings played a big role in this. Circle meetings are where students from all classes meet together and discuss and solve some school issues. Circle meetings are led by Year Six students. In terms of structure, the circle meetings always start with a warm up, go to some news and end with a point of discussion. All this is done very quickly and ends in 15 minutes. Students’ discipline in these meetings is really appreciated, and teachers also participate at the same level with the students.
7. To train learners to become leaders, Year Six students have play leading roles. They do this to support other students and staff. Doing these roles does not stop them from learning as they perform them voluntarily. It’s up to them to decide where to be and what to do at break time. Where they are is where they perform their roles.
For example, they can choose to play football or to read a book, knowing that where they choose to be is where they will be modelling good behaviour and supporting other students.
Their roles include:
Taking sports equipment out;
Checking if students have left their things in the playground;
Deciding which students to be given stickers/certificates;
Running the school radio;
Organising libraries (both main and bus libraries);
Modelling good behavior in clubs;
Managing the recycling bins.
8. At Hove park school I saw how a school can have students from very different historical backgrounds and nationalities, and that this multicultural situation does not prevent them from staying together as students and learning well. This is good as students can share new experiences and learn from each other.
Multicultural learning environment.
In this situation, students can easily understand the concept of humanity. Despite having different people from different cultures, I also saw that this school has its own culture (policies) that make students all feel equal and valued.
9. In all schools I visited, I noticed that students have confidence to talk to people like visitors. This is a big sign of how students are given a voice. For instance at Wroxham, a number of students were invited to come and share with a big audience (teachers in training from all over the country) what they have learned and how they feel about the school. The students did this very well and with confidence. To build this confidence, classroom group activities and student presentations played a big role. This can be one of the points to discuss in student circle meetings at Umubano.
Brunswick students have confidence to talk to visitors.
Students are open to talk and interact with new people. Showing students that they are also able makes them feel confident and start doing more and more great things.
10. To promote students’ moral values and to teach them to be more humane , Brunswick Primary School has the good practice of taking their students out to visit the elderly. Once they are there, they read books to them, tell them stories and play with them. This is a good lesson because I believe that old people need the young in the same way that young people need the old. In French they say: ‘Si la vieillesse savait et si la jeunesse pouvait’. As old people have a vast experience and young people have their physical strength, we all need each other.
11. At Brunswick school, I loved how they reward students. At the assembly, outstanding students are given certificates containing a long text describing the reasons why they have been awarded. All this text about the rewarded student is read during the assembly as a way of reminding other students how to be good learners. This can be easily done at Umubano as we normally give certificates to our students. What we can add is the long text explaining all the reasons why a child is given the certificate.
12. Students in Nursery choose if they want to do outside or classroom activities, and all their learning is play-based. I saw how numeracy can be taught through play, where children throw a ball to bottles and they count the bottles that fall down. This is a point to discuss with our Nursery teachers.
Wroxham Nursery students learning numeracy whilst outside playing.
13. In our meeting with Dame Alison, we shared how advantageous our partnership is and agreed that even if Martyn is going to another school, we will keep working together by sharing ideas and resources, skype calling, and including further teachers in our interschool relationship. Alison advised me to start our project to offer training to teachers from different schools as we can now model good practice. Alison explained that Wroxham earns money from offering such training. However, she said that we should not begin this thinking about financial gain, instead focusing on how to interest people to come to us.
With Martyn, we are happy with the things we have done so far since we started our partnership. We see Martyn moving from Wroxham as a way of expanding our partnership to another school. We will continue our partnership and some days after my visit we planned to have a skype call.
With Sally we shared many points, mainly about Magic Ten and Maths teaching techniques. These are some lessons I learned from her:
When students are given personal activity to do in Maths lessons, students share answers in pairs before presenting to the whole class. This helps students to share and learn from each other, as well as boosting their confidence in the subject.
It is very important to ask students to explain how they reached their answers in maths. By explaining why, they prove they understand the process, and understand what they are doing and how to do it. This also develops their knowledge and their confidence.
The workshop I attended at Wroxham allowed me to hear from Prof Barry Hymer (who knows Kigali) and listen to Dame Alison Peacock’s experiences. Wroxham organises regular training attended by many teachers from different corners of the UK. For this, Wroxham is named a Teaching School. From this training, Wroxham makes money.
The training on 17th May was about mindset, where we saw some characteristics of an enquiring learning community and about learning without limits. This training was conducted by Wroxham teachers, Wroxham administrative staff and other educational specialists from different high educational institutions.
Dame Alison, the School Executive Director giving a presentation.
Apart from these pedagogic lessons I learned, I loved very much how England is green with different biodiversity, and how people are welcoming.
Green land with different biodiversity.
Jill and her daughter: I made new friends on my way.
To conclude this report, I would like to thank everyone who made this visit possible and all the people in the UK who gave me their time and all kinds of services whilst I was there. My appreciation goes especially to APIE for this opportunity to go and learn from UK schools. I believe in the power of this type of training to improve the quality of education at both Umubano Primary School and Rwandan schools in general, as our vision goes beyond our school.
Jean de Dieu DUSINGIZE
Head teacher of UMUBANO Primary School