The latest blog from our Volunteer Coordinator, Kerry.
Summer school started on Monday 3 August 2015. I joined the volunteers for the first day to ensure everyone was in the right place. As the volunteers and I had had a week to prepare for summer school, they were keen to get started, so there was a pleasant mix of excitement and anticipation on that first day; the volunteers were more than ready to get stuck in.
Of course, I can’t say how the volunteers actually felt on the first day, so, I am handing over to them to tell you how they felt…
Gareth, “Although a little nervous, generally I was looking forward to getting started and meeting the students. By the end of the second week I felt absolutely exhausted, but at the same time, I genuinely felt I had achieved a lot; after suffering several losses, Dynamo had won 3-0 after the second week of my training sessions; the kids in the reading club were continually getting better with their spelling and the students at summer school were enjoying the classes.”
Faith, “I experienced a wonderful warm welcome from the students as soon as I stepped into the first class in Primary; “welcome teacher” the children greeted – it was a pleasant surprise. All the teachers and Headmistress were welcoming and, along with the students, made me feel immediately a part of the school. It was a lovely day and start to the summer; truly exceeded my expectations.”
Although my role is to support the volunteers, I also step in when necessary to assist with the summer school and have the privilege of permanently working with the children at the reading club throughout the summer. As I am start work teaching English as a foreign language in October, it is a great opportunity for me to start building my skills whilst also benefitting the children.
The reading club has around 30 children split into groups of 6-7 per volunteer. Although each volunteer will lead their session individually and with their own personal twist, the aim is to develop each child’s vocabulary, grammar, spelling and understanding of English. On the first day we assessed the children, putting them into general groups based on reading ability; beginners, average and good. Despite being a good starting point, the groups have a wide range of reading abilities and this is made more complex by the fact that some children are dyslexic. This can be frustrating for the individual and the group as a whole. One of the reasons for the wide spectrum of reading is because some children do not get the chance to read at home, particularly those who are helping family members at home or working in a shop or chop bar. That is when it really hits me, the difference an hour of reading can make a day.
I also found that when the children are reading individually to a group of others, the rest of the group will be very quick to help their fellow classmates and provide the word (sometimes pronounced incorrectly!) On the one hand it shows that the children are really keen to assist one another and don’t like to see each other struggling and that in itself is rewarding to see. On the other hand, it can make it difficult to assess how well the child is reading and whether they need help with pronunciation and spelling. One way around this will be to designate time for each child to have one-to-one reading time and to do literary games with the rest of the group. Another issue I have confronted this year, and which was picked up on last year is that some children may have dyslexia. There is definitely a demand for teachers specialised in this area. Additionally, we have noticed this year that a lot of children haven’t been taught the basics, i.e vowels/consonants and -ing/-ed words. Having one-to-one sessions will definitely help with assisting the children, we aren’t here to “save the world” but at least we can provide extra support and make small steps to give children more confidence with, and understanding of, English.
This year Gareth is coaching the men’s team, Dynamo. Currently the team is in the Second Division, with high hopes of breaking into the First Division. They train every evening, with sessions planned and delivered by Gareth, as agreed by the Coach and Manager. I went along to watch a few of the training sessions and meet the team during the second week of summer school. I arrived with Gareth on Monday and despite a fairly low turnout (mainly due to most of the players being tired from the previous day’s match), the session engaged the players whilst being enjoyable and physical challenging. It started with a bleep test (running between cones set at a 15m distance within a set time) and Indian Run (running in a line, but the back person has to sprint to the front). The stamina of the players was impressive. The rest of the session focused on formation work in preparation for Dynamo’s match on Wednesday. Gareth ended with a motivation talk and positive enforcement for the whole team to turn up on time (not Ghana time!) and for the players present to spread the word to the absent members of the team.
The increased turnout in players the next day proved that the session had been effective, whilst the 3-0 win on the Wednesday went a long way to demonstrate how much volunteers and locals can learn from each other. The Coach has been happy to take a backseat and learn from Gareth’s style of coaching in order to learn additional techniques which can be applied once Gareth has left.
Below are a few of the snapshots from training:
THE top moments…
One of the best moments in my reading group this week was a game of hangman; the children really wanted an 11-letter word, which we had learnt previously – I had no idea which word they were thinking of! – so I asked them to be the “executioner” – it was a great way to test the children’s spelling, and their “clue” was spot on – “what if we ask to challenge you, but the word is not challenge”! That stumped me for a little while, especially as the letter “t” only seemed to be in the word once and I was fairly certain it was competition! The kids were unbelievably excited when I got it!
JHS, Class 2’s session on creating their own country gave rise to two new words which have become popular catchphrases, not just at school, but also around the KSG house. One group goes to the front to present their new country, called “Capoooooooooone” (emphasis on lengthening the “o”!) The way of saying this cracked the whole class up. Picture the same reaction from the country; “Antibiostic Argentina”…these have been shouted at random during class and, frequently, in the KSG house. Typically with these kinds of things, they are far funnier in the moment rather than being read a thousand miles away!
Some of the most engaging classes have been those surrounding recycling. The children quickly grasped the concept of the environment and had a strong understanding of littering and the benefits of recycling; a soapbox topic for the children. They are keen to make a change in the local community. The students came up with an array of causes for pollution, from littering to urinating in the street. This illustrated their awareness and passion for creating a change in the community.
In the same vein, another memorable moment was the creation of a huge “We Love Recycling” banner – composed of litter collected by the students from around the school – the level of creativity was impressive, whilst the children were also making an instant positive impact on the school’s environment.
A selection of summer school work
New food and packaging