Dear Colleagues,

We had a third workshop for our pilot schools on 12 and 13 April 2012. We had two main objectives of the workshop; (i) to follow up from the previous workshop and discuss progress made by each of the schools on whole school mentoring, and (ii) to prepare for 2012 teaching practice. Below is our report of the workshop which includes the progress made by each of the schools in developing a whole school mentoring culture.

 

 

A REPORT ON THE DEVELOPING MORE EFFECTIVE SCHOOL AND UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIP IN INITIAL TEACHER EDUCATION PROJECT WORKSHOPS HELD ON

12 AND 13 APRIL 2012 IN BLANTYRE AND ZOMBA

 

Patrick Kapito and Mercy Kazima

 

 

Two one day workshops involving the three project schools from each of the two districts of Blantyre and Zomba were held at Zingwangwa Secondary School (12th April) and Mulunguzi Secondary School (13th April) respectively. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss progress that the individual schools have made regarding whole school mentoring, and to strategize on how to effectively utilize the Chancellor College Teaching Practice scheduled for September 2012 for the mentoring program. As a guide to the discussions the schools were asked to prepare presentations based on the two questions below;

  1. What progress have you made towards whole school mentoring?
  2. What problems and challenges do you face with Chancellor College teaching practice students?

The first question aimed at finding out the progress made and challenges faced by each of the schools in order to appreciate the progress and as a group assist the schools that are facing challenges. The second question on the other hand was meant to understand the problems that they encounter with our students during TP so that an effort can be made by the Faculty of Education to improve schools’ participation in the mentoring of our students during TP. Below is a summary of the major issues that came out during the workshops.

 

PROGRESS ON WHOLE-SCHOOL MENTORING

 

ZOMBA SCHOOLS

Progress and Nature of Progress

All schools reported having made good progress towards implementing whole school mentoring culture. Masongola reported that mentorship was done at departmental level (Science, Language, and Humanities) based on the relationship between the subjects of the departments. It involved observing each other’s lessons which brought about a good working rapport between and among the teachers involved. Other new members in the form of Student teachersfrom other colleges and student teachers from Norway were also involved in the program.

 

Mulunguzi reported that the school management fully supported the idea of mentorship. All teachers were sensitized regarding issues concerning mentorship mostly on issues that dwelt on misconceptions like thinking that there are financial incentives and equating mentorship with just classroom observation. Mentorship took the form of team teaching and team marking which was reported to have greatly improved, not just personal interrelationships, but most important professional progress in crucial areas of the teaching profession such as assessment. Furthermore, a check list for observation, which was adapted from the one used by school inspectors was developed by the school to guide mentors.

 

Malindi reported that the school management showed interest in mentorship to the extent of organizing an internal training workshop about clinical supervision and how to utilize innovative teaching practices. It was further reported that mentorship was done at two levels; with student teachers who were in the school for teaching practice and among experienced teachers belonging to one department. This was said to have been crucial in the transfer of the strengths of the experienced teachers to the inexperienced teachers and that the practice of observing each others’ lessons has brought confidence in them to the extent that they no longer fear Inspectors’ visits. Furthermore, the school reported an improved work rate among teachers and that performance for both teachers and learners has greatly improved.

 

Challenges and Suggested Solutions

It was reported that some teachers were not willing to take part in mentoring as they viewed it as unnecessary and time consuming. Some teachers felt that taking part in mentorship was not worthwhile as there was no financial reward attached to the efforts made by the mentor. One of the suggested solutions was that there is need for a sensitization workshop that should involve all the teachers in the schools to explain the importance of mentorship to their professional development and the school. It was also suggested that the project should think of other ways, scholarships or promotions, in consultation with Ministry of Education, Science and Technology officials so that teachers should be motivated to take part in this involving and time consuming exercise.

 

Another challenge was what both the mentor and mentee encountered when it came to finding time for lesson observation or post observation conference. This was due to the fact that mentors are not exempted from any responsibility and that in some cases the chosen mentor could be teaching at the same time as the mentee or teach in consecutive periods. It was suggested that in the future mentors should be relieved of some responsibilities or given fewer teaching periods to enable them have enough time to mentor their mentees. As a short term measure it was suggested that those in charge of the time table should take into consideration the mentorship program.

 

Masongola and Malindi said that they had problems with having clear guidelines on issues of what to do when mentoring and asked Mulunguzi to furnish them with their cop of the checklist so that they may use it or adapt it accordingly. Members later agreed that there is need to develop one as a group in order to have uniform guidelines whose items are understood and accepted by all mentors involved.

 

BLANTYRE SCHOOLS

Progress and Nature of Progress

Of the three Blantyre schools two (Zingwangwa and Henry Henderson Institute [HHI]) had made progress in the establishment of whole school mentorship while one (Chichiri) had met with challenges that made establishment of a whole school mentorship culture difficult.

 

Chichiri secondary school reported that establishment of whole school mentoring culture did not work because the ‘administration showed no interest’ in that no assistance in sensitizing teachers or otherwise was made despite the members of the projecting reporting to the administration and stating what was needed. As such mentorship was done at individual level where one member had a student teacher as a mentee. Though the school has a good number of unqualified teachers who needed mentoring, it was reported that these were the toughest group to be mentored as they viewed teaching as a tentative job as they search for other ‘good’ jobs and hence have no motivation to engage in an activity that will promote a skill they feel they wont need in their expected jobs. Thus for Chichiri the members stated that the picture is gloomy unless the administration does something to show its support. The members were advised to approach their administrators again to gain their support. Lucky enough the representative for the Head Teacher was available to convey the message.

 

As for Zingwangwa and HHI the school administrations, especially Zingwangwa, were actively involved in the program and gave all the support and encouragement that was needed. At Zingwangwa whole school mentorship culture is well established in that mentorship is almost mandatory and the head teacher is actively involved in the mentorship process. It was stated that mentorship was already there and that the coming of the project has helped to establish the school mentoring culture. Apart from organizing workshops for all teachers the head teacher had designed an observation form or checklist that was made available and used by all members of the school in the mentorship process. It was reported that the school, through the head teacher welcomes new teachers, both student teachers and beginning teachers, by giving them an orientation of what is expected of them as teachers of the school. It is at this ‘meeting’ that mentorship is emphasized as an integral part of the school culture. Apart from mentoring student teachers, other members of staff are mentored in specific areas which the mentees indicate to have problems handling. This has brought meaningful mentoring where the mentee feels the need and the mentor knows what the mentee requires from him/her.

 

HHI on the other hand has taken a decentralized department-based model of whole school mentoring. The administration provides the support needed through encouragement of mentoring during staff meetings and providing other requirements needed by the mentors. The mentorship program involved both experienced teachers and student teachers as mentees. On experienced teachers it took the form of assistance and cooperation between members of a department. This was reported to have brought a very good working relationship in the school as members are free to approach others for assistance and the others are eager to assist. It was reported that the individual attitude that was there prior to the implementation of the whole school mentorship program has been replaced by a collegial attitude. On student teachers, though the other teachers were free to assist, each student was allocated a mentor according to subject specialization and the members explained that their working with the student teachers was rewarding in that it was really a two way process in which both the mentor and mentee benefited professionally.

 

Challenges and Suggested Solutions

As for Chichiri the major challenge, as stated earlier, is the show of support from the administration. The other challenges that were reported were unwillingness, on the part of student teachers, to be mentored and that experienced teachers were refusing to be exemplary and were instead involved in unprofessional practices like missing classes due to moonlighting. It was suggested that the solution to the challenges they face lies in their making the school administration understand the importance of mentorship and show their support in the establishment of whole school mentorship culture. They were thus advised to learn from how the other two schools implemented whole school mentorship culture.

 

HHI reported that negative attitude towards mentorship (feeling that it is too involving) and inferiority complex by some diploma holding experienced teachers who feel mentoring those who have a Bachelor’s degree would be a challenging feat were the major challenges that were faced. It was suggested that they should not tire with sensitizing their colleagues as change is gradual and thus they should be patient but vigilant with those who have not yet embraced the concept of mentorship and its advantages.

 

As for Zingwangwa the major challenge was time. They indicated that though people are willing and eager to take part in the mentorship process there is less time for effective mentorship because both the mentor and mentees have tight schedules considering that theirs is a double shift school with a shorter period/lesson time (30 min) as compared to the other schools. A suggestion was that mentors can utilize the time when their shift is over for mentorship issues or that as a school which has a well established mentorship culture should discuss and come up with a viable solution that will not burden the members further.

 

CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH CHANCELLOR COLLEGE TP STUDENTS

This section was meant to discuss the major issues that affect effective college and school partnership during teaching practice so that the next cohort of student teachers, especially those that go to the project schools, should have a meaningful mentorship experience. The members were asked to present the challenges that they face with student teachers from Chancellor College and suggest possible solutions. They were advised to explain the challenges associated with the students and the college staff (TP management and supervisors). The workshop facilitators also made a presentation on the challenges they face with the schools. It was noted that almost all issues that the schools raised were similar.

 

The schools raised the following issues regarding Chancellor College student teachers.

  1. Lack of cooperation: some student teachers were said to be a challenge to work with as they viewed ‘mentors’ as fault finders and thus are unwilling to be assisted/supervised. It was agreed that the college in its TP briefing before the students go for TP should orient them on mentorship and emphasize its role in their professional development. Furthermore, it was agreed that the other schools should learn from Zingwangwa’s example where Student teachers are oriented about the culture of the school in general and mentorship in particular. This should involve all other issues of professional conduct like dressing and social distance.
  2. Unable to teach certain topics/little coverage of syllabus: Some students refuse to teach or skip topics that they consider to be difficult and in the end make logical progression of topics for the cooperating teacher difficult when the Student teacher leaves. Furthermore, some Student teachers, due to lack of experience, spend unnecessarily long time per topic that by the end of the term they cover very little amount of the planned work. It was found that most teachers view the coming of student teachers as a time to rest and as a result they do not work with the student teacher. Thus the student teacher can do whatever he/she likes as there is no one to check what he/she is doing. It was agreed that much as the Student teacher should be respected the class teacher should take an active role in the planning of lessons or even letting the student teacher observe the ‘mentor’ teach the difficult topic. This could be a good opportunity and one of the meaningful ways of mentoring.
  3. Poor participation in extracurricular activities: it was reported that most student teachers do not feel to be part of the school but rather just people using the school to get a qualification as a result they do not take part in extracurricular activities. This was noted to be one of the reasons why the relationship between student teachers and the school is not good because it is through extracurricular activities that teachers and students interact at a social level. It was agreed that the school should encourage the student teachers to take part and show them that they are welcome instead of giving them the extracurricular activities as a way of relieving others of extra responsibility. Students should work hand in hand with the experienced teachers.
  4. Regarding themselves as superior to other teachers. It was reported that some student teachers from Chancellor College look down upon teachers qualified to diploma level and even those who have bachelor degrees from other institutions. This poses a challenge as most of the teachers in some of the schools fall in this category and in such cases mentoring is bound to fail. In such cases, it was reported that where a mentoring relationship is ‘arranged’ there is animosity as instead of assisting each other the mentor and mentee are involved in a contest of who is more knowledgeable than the other, thereby defeating the purpose of mentorship; assisting each other. It was agreed that the college should sensitize its students on courtesy and the role of experienced teachers in their learning experience during TP. Both the experienced teachers and the student teachers should be made aware of the fact that in healthy mentorship relationship both the mentor and mentee benefit as it is a symbiotic relationship. The schools should also help in facilitating this type of relationship during their orientation of the student teachers.
  5. Student teachers do not easily mingle/interact with other teachers. It was reported that often student teachers exclude themselves and rarely interact with the serving teachers in the staff room. However, it was noted that in some schools this behavior is compounded by the fact that student teachers are given their own staff room away from the ‘main’ staff room. Furthermore, some schools treat the student teachers just as their learners not as colleagues who are there to be trained. It was therefore agreed that student teachers should be treated the same way as the experienced teachers except where college rules specify otherwise in which case the schools will be notified.   

 

The schools also presented the challenges they felt were coming from the college TP administrators and Supervisors as listed below;

  1. Poor communication. Schools reported that there has been poor communication between the college and schools in that in some cases students arrive in the schools without the college informing the schools which students they will be receiving, the duration of the TP, and what the college expects the school to do in assisting the students get the required skills. They stated that this is the major cause of most of the problems that schools face with TP in general. The facilitators acknowledged it as a major problem and assured the participants that the college TP team, to which one of the facilitators belongs to as TP Coordinator will try its best to improve on communication.
  2. Supervisors do not interact with school authorities or teachers. It was reported that in most cases the college supervisors do not have any meaningful interaction or do not interact at all with their students’ cooperating teachers. This was said to be one of the reasons why the students do not respect the school teachers as they see that even their supervisors do not show any regard for the teachers. It was noted to be a real problem as a having discussions with the cooperating teachers will not only show the student teacher that the supervisors value the cooperating teachers but also make the cooperating teachers feel that their work is being appreciated. It was explained that sometimes due to transport logistics supervisors have to rush from one school to another and in the end fail to meet cooperating teachers. However, the supervisors will be encouraged to try as much as possible to have a discussion with at least one of the cooperating teacher.

 

The following were the issues raised by the facilitators as regards the challenges the college or supervisors encounter during TP

  1. Making students teach a subject which is not his/her teaching subject and observing recommended teaching load. It was stated that some schools allocate to students other subjects other than their teaching subjects. This is not in order as it against college rules and disadvantages the student in case of assessment. Coupled with this challenge is the allocation of less or more teaching periods than the recommended ones. Schools were asked to observe the minimum and maximum load when allocating classes to student teachers. It was noted that some students offer to teach subjects that they know are not their teaching subjects just to remain in the school and that some of the schools did not know the exact numbers of periods required. It was agreed that the schools should not allow student teachers to teach any other subject other than their two teaching subjects, that the minimum and maximum numbers of periods should be observed and that the project schools and if possible all schools involved in TP should be given a TP guide for reference.
  2. Reporting of discipline cases. It was reported that some schools do not report to the college cases of indiscipline (such as absenteeism, not return of school books, or inappropriate relationships with learners) or report late (after the student has graduated). It was noted that some schools, due to poor communication between the schools and college, do not know the proper channels of communication. It was agreed that any case of indiscipline should be handled first internally as the school would treat the other teachers. If there is no change then the matter should be reported to the college at the earliest opportunity so that the matter is handled expeditiously.

 

The participants commended the facilitators for organizing the workshop which they said was timely and reinvigorating in the quest to achieving a whole school mentoring culture in their schools and that it was an excellent preparation for the coming TP where they look forward to having a meaningful mentorship experience with Chancellor College student teachers. Furthermore, they requested whole school workshops on mentorship which they feel will go a long way in promoting mentorship in the schools by way of making those who are not enthusiastic about mentorship appreciate its importance/relevance.

 

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