This month we are excited to share the experience of a volunteer teacher at Chankhasi School. Thea Guy, from the UK, joined us in September and has just finished a term with us. Whilst visiting Malawi on a school charity trip with Open Arms in July 2016, Thea fell in love with the country and decided to return during her gap year. Thea has always enjoyed working with children and had considered going into teaching as a profession, returning to Chankhasi School was therefore the perfect opportunity. Here’s her account. Enjoy!
"I arrived completely terrified and with absolutely no idea what to expect. However, Andrew soon put me at ease and, after meeting all the other teachers, I felt like I was becoming part of a wonderful community. I was told that I would be teaching English and Life Skills in Standard 7 so that evening was spent trawling through the Teachers’ Guides trying to get to grips with what I was expected to teach the class! With no teaching experience the first couple of weeks were a huge learning curve for me but after struggling through my first few lessons and trying to get to grips with how the school was run, I soon began to find my feet and started to really love going in each day.
I cannot express how grateful I am to the learners in Standard 7 for welcoming this strange English girl into their classroom and for putting me so at ease. We really went through all the challenges of the first couple of weeks together as, while I was getting used to teaching and trying to explain what I wanted them to do, the class was having to get used to me and being given all their instructions in English as I had absolutely no Chichewa when I first arrived. After the first few weeks, however, we started to make progress and I really began to see their English improving. It was lovely to see the class becoming more confident and I soon started developing a bond with many of the learners. Now, by the end of my stay, I feel like I have gained 25 brothers and sisters and I will really miss seeing those kids every day. They have taught me so much and I hope they have learnt something from me too!
Over the past 3 ½ months I have seen the huge benefit of having a native English speaker, and someone with very little Chichewa, spending time with the learners. It has meant that there have been no shortcuts and if there is a problem or something they do not understand, the children have had to try and explain in English. As a result, their understanding and grasp of English as a language, as well as their confidence when speaking, has come on leaps and bounds. Due to the fact that English, along with Chichewa, is a national language of Malawi, being able to speak and understand it is hugely important for the future success of these children. I therefore hope to encourage others like me to come out here and spend time with the learners as I think the benefits to the children are enormous, and I really hope that the short time I have spent here has made a difference for the kids I have interacted with.
It has also been a real blessing that I decided to come to Malawi on my own. It has meant that, not only have I been able to form bonds and get to know members of my own class, I have also got to know lots of the younger children and even those from the other schools in the area. The afternoons I have spent sitting on the beach or at the football ground, chatting to the children and giving them a football to play with are now some of my most treasured memories and I don’t think I would have had these experiences had I not been on my own.
This trip would not have been possible without the help and support of Gordon Opie, Chris Stevens and, of course, Andrew Banda, so to them I extend a huge thank you! I also want to thank all the teachers and learners at Chankhasi School for answering all my questions, supporting me when I had a problem and making me feel so much a part of the community you have created. I will miss everyone at Chankhasi very much but I know I will be back to visit soon!"
A huge congratulations Thea, you are an inspiration! We are as always everso grateful to our supporters and well-wishers who made Thea's visit a huge success.