This is my birthday e-card from Monkeyboy:
dude_with_a_pearl_earring (40k image)
I’m still laughing, thank you so much! 😛

I just wrote the following in an email to one of the volunteers (in Malawi) who I met at Harborne Hall in my pre-departyre training. In the spirit of blogging I have cut-and-pasted it here.

As you know, I have been doing it for most of my working life. And I am teaching young adults, not really children. The teaching style here is so different from back home. I spoke last night to a volunteer from Uganda who has just arrived in the next village. He was a georgraphy (and fine art) teacher for a few years. I asked him why he volunteered. This is an interesting story in its own right since, for someone in Uganda, VSO is a good career move and pays quite well! But he also said that he didn’t like teacing, for him it was a last resort.
“You shout from 8 till 5”, he said.
And this pretty much sums up my observations of Kenyan teaching too. I don’t mind the chalk-and-talk
(without much chalk) but there seems to be no story, just facts. I want teaching to be story-telling.

I taught a couple of PC-maintenance classes, as a kind of guest lecturer. I tried to make a story: where does the electricity come from, why are there problems with the power supply, what damage might it do, how can we prepare ourselves and our computers, what happens when the power goes off, what happens when it comes back on again, and so on. For me there has to be a story or else I can’t remember stuff. I think its the same for the young ladies here. They have to swat for exams because they have to remember a lot of facts but there seems to be no cohesive story into which these facts fit.


  1. Chris Says:

    Pearl earring: heh, I’ve been thinking the same thing ever since the movie came out. 🙂

  2. Prof Mungbean Says:

    Teaching as shouting, hmmm…

    Mark, I’m proud that you have such strong opinions about your teaching.

    Mine is really different these days, too. We use (pretty much) the art school model, in which we aim not to "teach" the students so much as guide them, giving demos, workshops and the odd 45 minute chalk-and-talk session (actually powerpoint and projector).

    I have to say that I find all of that very liberating: the admission that being a teacher is not about barking things at the students to be memorised, but to advise, guide, and inspire.

    I also feel now that I’m learning much more from my students than I ever did before. Maybe this is due to having better students, but my gut feeling is that it’s mostly the attitude that changes things.

  3. Mark Says:

    Well I do my best. At the weekend I did my exam preparation game, where teams of students write an exam question and model answer on a topif from the sylabus (about 45 min) then they answer each others questions (abiout 15 min each) — still workin in teams, then they mark them (15 min) and "discuss" the allocation of marks.

    I think this helps because they see, when they are marking, the supprising things they get as answers to the questions they thought were clear. This, I hope, helps them know what their part of the game should be when they are in the exam hall.

    Its all hope though. I dont know. It was a fun 3 hours for me.

    Then this morning I am talking about objects in the Javascript DOM. It turns out that most of them cannot (or possibly will not) answer a simple question about how the web works. I dont know the reason for this.

    It makes me want to do more games in calss though. Any suggestions?

  4. Lydia Says:

    Games in class – pass the buck works well with my kids – ask a question or open a topic to one girl, if she doesnt know the answer/have a response she passes it on to a person of her choice – I get them to throw a squashy brain around – it gets the whole group woken up and thinking (hopefully) – once you have been passed to noone can pass to you again. 🙂

  5. Anonymouse Says:

    Never try the above game with a class of boys – the game swiftly degenerates into the blood-sports version of cricket. Alternatively the teacher gets hit!

  6. Mark Says:

    Yes! I like that one!

  7. Mark Says:

    Yes! I like that one!

    I used to have a spongy brain too!

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