Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thank God for Thunder!

Thank God for thunder and slate grey skies! I’m sure he sent it on purpose to rescue 90 headteachers and me from the frightfully poor experience of today’s “workshop”! This is a repeat of the training for headteachers on organising and delivering INSET in their schools that was previously endured in my first week in Nadowli. I offered many times to help with this or even run the whole thing myself. Finally, I was given a 30 minute slot on Day 2 of 3.

I know I have written about these occasions negatively before but today surpassed all previous horrors to the point of being humorous, hence my decision to write this. For those of you who have ever organised training, this is the nightmare you experience the night before and then wake with relief that this couldn’t be real.

The programme stated an 8.30 – 9.00am registration period. At 9.00 the padlock still held firmly on the Teachers Resource Centre Door. A few phone calls were made and the facilitation team were discovered in a church hall not far away. By 10am we had all got the message and were gathered inside the long dark room. It wasn’t until after the welcome that I was aware of raised voices at the back. These continued undeterred by the voice of the first facilitator, so I turned around to see what was going on. The back of the hall was partitioned but only to about 8 feet high, providing an integral room. Clearly, there was a gathering of cleaners or suchlike who had no idea their every word could be heard. An officer was despatched to ask them to “keep it down”. I don’t know what he said but it made absolutely no difference and they continued with occasional peals of laughter. Later on they took delivery of a large consignment of heavy cardboard boxes which took some organising. I sat at the front and struggled to make sense of the trainer. I can’t imagine they heard a thing of any use at the back.

I was distracted, as were the other participants at the front, by a beautiful toddler in a pink flowery dress who was extremely busy, quietly disrupting procedures whilst her mother watched. She helped herself to an exercise book and a box of pens from the top table and signed in before swinging on the flip chart frame, lying underneath it and at one point pulling on the District Head of Supervision’s trouser leg. Later we were entertained with dancing and the unpacking of our mid-morning snack biscuits. Bless her, she did far more “work” than anyone else in the room and probably learned more too! What a bright, inquisitive and imaginative little poppet. It won’t be long before all that is extinguished through her school education.

Anyway, facilitators continued unmoved by the comings and goings in front of them, people jumping up to answer phones with increasingly bizarre ring tones, other facilitators interrupting them, latecomers appearing and needing to sign in, a teacher coming to collect a key from a participant but not knowing who and a line of mothers breast feeding in the front row………. oh yes, and the chicken and goat made appearances. Finally, to cap it all, the office driver and a cleaner were distributing crates of minerals and cream crackers all around the hall. There were choices to be made re. flavour of drink and then bottle openers were found and circulated.

Now, bearing in mind this was a complex programme of training for these headteachers, whose concentration, I have discovered can be short lived, nothing of the first session could have reached anyone’s consciousness!

Much later I heard someone mention “CPD”, a new acronym for Ghana Education Service. Nobody explained it which was a mistake as “Professional” is a word I have not heard used here. Good professional development is rarer than gold dust, never mind Continuing Professional Development.
I lost the will to live at the bottom of my coke bottle as there was no reference to any values of INSET in school. The importance was placed firmly on completing an action plan, ensuring a suitably experienced Curriculum Leader was appointed to deliver it and the correct form was completed at the end. If only I had been allowed to say something.

The brightest of the Circuit Supervisors eventually suggested the heat was getting to us and we should all take our chairs outside under a tree. A flurry of conversation took place between the more than sufficient facilitators and one than came across towards me. “We are waiting for lunch and wondered if you would like to share something small with us all?” Hooray, my chance to bring children into the proceedings and to suggest that headteachers prioritise open and honest dialogue within their staff teams. How INSET without funding can be valuable if teachers are willing to open up and share their skills and experience with each other. As usual, I’m not convinced they understood but there were a few nodding heads amongst them. Huge balls of banku in palm nut soup arrived, and was served, from the open back of the office car. All anyone wanted to do following that was sleep………… and then thunder rolled in the distance. Closer and closer it came whilst the sky darkened and the wind whipped through the trees overhead. Within minutes the chairs were stacked back in the hall and speeding motos were heading off in every direction.
Tomorrow I get my 30 minutes………………

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