Wednesday, 28 December 2016

'My Train to Train'
(A VolunTEAr's Story - TEAcher Training in Sri Lanka)
Nicola Walsh - Senior UK School Inspector.

''I arrived in the North very early in the morning after a long journey; i was collected from the station and driven to a local girl's orphanage where i would be staying.
After a brief sleep from 4 am to 6 am I set off to visit the school.
I was met by the Principal; who, much to my surprise, had invited a wide selection of children and parents to see me.
As I entered the room I was greeted by a sea of expectant faces. There were children with varying requirements and abilities including deaf children and children with downs syndrome. Young people with very clear and specific special needs.
Within a 10 minute interview slot I performed an observation with each child to ascertain language skills and clapping rhythms to assess coordination and numeracy.
With the support of a local TEA translator we gave every child and parent a simple task to focus on as a result of the 1:1 interview.
To my amazement we identified a child who could not see. The boy was 7 and had only been in school 3 months. His vision was seriously impaired and the parent had not identified this; only saying he stays on his own, stays in etc. With dialogue and a few basic sight tests we advised to take the child to an optician; basic but true.
We explained to the teacher of a deaf child to concentrate on pictures and communicating in other ways. The child was intelligent and could do things expected of a similar child of the same age but needed the correct medium to be able to express this.
And so the day progressed, offering what seemed to be basic advice; easily understood I thought from my ‘Western’ perspective but which was a whole new world to the teachers and parents in this region.
I presented a document used extensively in the UK to monitor a child’s development from 0-5 years old which can be easily used to measure the stage of the child’s development in every aspect.
I shared this with teachers and they were given a hard copy in English.
Teachers were extremely responsive.
On my second day we looked at language and literacy and I showed them how sounds are represented as graphemes. Getting children to listen to sounds and to be able to represent them as graphemes is crucial in literacy development.
By this time the electricity had cut yet again and the temp was 30+. Time to finish.
All the teachers went away happy and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
I cautioned teachers to be aware of children who are sent to them with special needs. Differentiating tasks to suit the needs of each child is not advocated in the Sri Lankan curriculum. Teachers routinely repeat from the text book with little understanding or desire to know how well the children are appreciating the concepts.
I really enjoyed the experience and look forward to returning again as a volunTEAr''.
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