The last week of the Academic Year 2022/23 at the St. Austin’s Academy could be equated to being at the foothills particularly by the teachers of the English Language.
The morning hours of the 5th of July in its arctic characteristic did not deter the educators from congregating with the singular aim of preparing for the next academic year. Indeed, the school has had its share of glories; however, the instructors of the English Language dared to look beyond the horizon and give a glimpse into what their future holds in their teaching fields. In the desire for continuous learning as the Junior School, Headteacher- Mrs Ogoma, put it right, the meeting constituted the whole school teachers of English in readiness to sharpen their skills in unison. It was agreed that the teachers are the fundamental link between learners and parents and that they should never be the source of any doubt.
The seasoned Mrs Ochieng’ opened the forum with the presentation of ‘How to Manage Examinations’. She introduced her talk with the most prominent matter in both private and professional space: the importance of managing stress; as this allows a teacher to perform at their best. It is notable that students tend to struggle during examinations whether it is internal or national examinations hence the teacher is pivotal in providing support to ensure that the learners are prepared adequately. Mrs. Ochieng’ shared golden nuggets of her experiences over the years and urged the teachers to practice their management of teaching and learning in order to attain consistent and improved academic performance.
Ms. Stella Kenyanya offered an invigorating and interactive view into the ‘Teaching of Creative Writing’.
The teachers had an amazing experience as she navigated the sub-topics seamlessly. It became quite evident that good readers make good writers. It was pleasant to hear the teachers read their own scripts of different genres of writing that were generated promptly during the talk. It was humorous and yet an eye- opening session that left the audience challenged to better their approach in teaching at SAA. Indeed, the teachers realized that it is possible to address the needs of students as they learn diversely.
The In-Set stepped-up when the collaborative and resourceful Ms. Rosemary Okello took the center stage at offering insight tackling ‘Key Issues in the English Language Teaching’. She offered quite an informative discussion on the platform of instructing learners irrespective of challenges that both the learners and teachers face along the path. It evidently was clear that integrating the students into a classroom would improve their understanding of language.
The importance of taking note of: English as a Second Language, English as an Additional Language, English Language Learners and Special Education Needs and Learning Difficulties categories of learners would be pivotal in determining the competence levels. More importantly, it was pointed out that there was need to improve synergy between the Junior and the Senior Schools of SAA because this would help ensure that English Language Performance is improved across all grades. Not only did Ms. Okello bring out the aim of improving academic achievement but also to promote co-Curriculum activities that include: Readers’ Club, Spelling Bees, Debates, Writing Competitions and Elocution.
It is in order to comment that the best had been saved for the last!
The commitment of Mrs. Winnie Francisco who vouched for the In-Set had borne fruit and the yield was blissful. During, the Quality Assurance visits done by Mrs. Francisco, it was revealed that the so far agreed need to synchronize teaching and learning of English in both sections at SAA could not be underrated. In an interesting twist, she introduced her topic ‘Instructional Strategies’ by alluding to a religious excerpt ‘The Beatitudes’ and challenged the teachers to explain the concept of the teaching by giving a critique of the same. She emphasized that teachers should pay attention to the respect that language should be accorded to since there is more to it than just using language as a means of communication. Besides, she insisted that the English Language needs to be taught in its specifications.
She added depth to the insights of the former speakers and insisted that the teachers needed to consider different approaches to teaching in order to reach out and meet the diverse needs of each learner. From her perspective, the audience acknowledged the fundamental need of self-evaluation, preparation and willingness to learn in order to achieve a higher level of understanding of concepts and ease of delivery in the classroom. It was also a key element of learning when Mrs. Francisco reiterated the importance of incorporating the 21st Century 4Cs at SAA in order to raise Global Competitiveness in the learners. The four vital principles are: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. In view of the next academic year’s preparations, it was established that the schemes of work and lesson plans will squarely be influenced by the outlined Strands and Sub- Strands.
Mrs. Francisco wrapped-up the session with Jane Harley’s perspective on: ‘Becoming Invisible in My Class’, a guide to effective teaching and class management.
Eventually, the whole team agreed that the In-Set was worth the while and they anticipated more sessions in future to learn from one another. Indeed, Rabindranath Tagore hit the nail on the head when he said, “A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame “.
Written by: Josephine Barno