The last month has been an exciting one at our school. I have been working directly with the preschool teachers to make some BIG changes in their classrooms.
The Kenyan schools are on a year round school system. The school year is January-December. There are 3 one month breaks. Each break is about 3-4 weeks long. We had our first break in April.
The first week after the closing of school the teachers have scheming week. They come and do their planning for the next term. Andrew and I met with the teachers that week and did a lot of training with them for our big changes. We came up with an overall theme with all the points we are wanting to address in the next year. Here is the outline of the things we want to cover.
Changing the Fundamental Dynamics of the Classroom
1. Classroom Structure (Layout and Schedule)
2. Behavior Management
3. Teaching Methods
We actually only made it through point 2 in our outline, but the rest of the things will come with time.
We spent the first two days of scheming week doing training on numbers 1 and 2 from above. How to create a system in the classroom with discipline and positive reinforcement, and how that affects every moment the teacher has with the students. We talked about setting high expectations for the students, and how the students can meet those expectations. How to set up a classroom that is appealing for the students and having a schedule that is age appropriate for the kids from morning until afternoon.
We introduced sticker charts. We put up classroom rules and consequences in each room. We completely changed their daily schedule. The lessons used to be an hour long and we shortened them to no longer than 30 minutes. There are labels on everything in the classrooms now. The desks have been rearranged into groups instead of facing forward. We introduced circle time each morning. And the most exciting is that we started centers each day. We bought a lot of toys for the classes and the kids get 45 minutes each day to play. Puzzles, play-doh, crayons, cars, manipulatives, blocks, building materials, books, and even more. The kids are LOVING it!
The whole scheming week was spent preparing the teachers for how to make these changes. They worked hard completely clearing their classes to make room for the new materials. We put nametags on each students desk. We made backpack hangers for more organization. The teachers organized for the outside wall to be painted. I cannot tell you how impressed and proud of these teachers I am. They have never had any training before on how to teach this way. I know that they are stepping WAY out of their comfort zones by making these changes.
The way these preschool classes were before we did this training was much different. The students were all in their desks while listening to the standard lecture teaching method. I’m not saying this is wrong; it’s the way most Kenyan schools are running. And these are 3-5 year olds. We are not trying to Americanize these classes, but just make changes to better suit their ages. It is extremely hard for a 3 year old to sit in a desk for even 5 minutes, much less 8 hours!
School started on Tuesday this past week. We have been using our new schedule and materials for 4 days now. I could not be happier. There are definitely some challenges we are facing that will take some time, but overall things are going awesome! The teachers are happy and the kids are beside themselves with excitement.