The two Grade Six Classes have been involved in an outreach programme with Mountain Home for three years. Each Grade Six class is paired with a Mountain Home (MH) class. There are 38 pupils from Cowan House (CH) involved and approximately 62 Mountain pupils that we work with. One class works with the combined Grade 1/2 class and the other with the combined Grade 3/4 class. Pairs of CH pupils work with groups of two to four MH pupils and they spend the year working in the same groups building a strong relationship with each other.
The focus of these lessons is on literacy and numeracy with an emphasis on vocabulary and English as a spoken language. On a Wednesday, the lesson will be prepared. We follow a set programme, with lessons designed by Sam Walker from iThemba. Sam is fantastic to work with as she is dedicated, enthusiastic and positive! We are also very fortunate to have a headmaster who sees the value of community outreach and is willing to have a programme as part of the timetable. It is not seen as an optional extra for pupils/teachers to be slotted in after school if there is time! The whole school knows that Grade 6 are involved in this programme every Wednesday from 7.40 – 9.10.
Lesson preparation develops a number of important life skills for the children involved. It develops responsibility as they are often required to bring counters, colour in cards, and bring pots and pans or fruit for the following week's lesson. It fosters cooperative learning because the children are working with partners that they may not always get on with, and they are working with children who may not always listen! Learning to get on with others is a vital life skill.
Every other Wednesday we present the lesson and if you had to observe these you would see: a huge number of focused and involved children; as they colour in, draw, count; hear a lot of noise as talking, discussing and explaining happens and you would see children having a lot of fun!
The purpose and aim of the programme is:
- To make a difference and to be effective in one particular area – not to spread ourselves too thinly.
- To have a social responsibility programme that is effective and vibrant (goals are reassessed at the end of each year)
- To build relationships between teachers and teachers and pupils and pupils.
- and that involves all levels of players in a school.
- To offer pupils at our school a truly holistic education. One that develops children academically and on the sports fields as well as helping to develop morally and socially aware children.
- To offer a balanced school; which is academically excellent and socially just.
The children reflect on their teaching at the end of each session and they are required to asses themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and to ask if learning actually took place. It is this reflecting and a growing of self- knowledge which leads to wisdom! They comment on the successes and visible signs of learning that take place with their pupils and any areas that they have found difficulty with and need assistance with.
According to the CH pupils the purpose of these lessons is (these are quotes from their writing):
- "To teach the MH children and to really get to know them better so that they understand and learn" (understanding and getting to know your pupils is the essence of teaching)
- "To teach underprivileged children and to make friends with them"
- "To give love to the children"
- "To teach them and to have fun and let them enjoy the fun"
According to the CH pupils these are some things that we have gained from teaching others (quotes from their writing):
- "How fortunate we are"
- "I have learnt that we must be grateful for what we have and that teaching is fun"
- "What I've learnt is to help people in need and what I've gained is friendship with them"
- "I have gained happiness by knowing I have done a good deed"
- "Being a teacher is harder than I thought"
- "Teaching these children has been a ton of fun for them and for us. One thing I've gained is definitely learning to communicate with younger children whose home language is different"
- "What I've learnt/gained is helping others make you feel that you are important in their lives and making a small difference can make a big difference. No matter who you are, you can help"
According to the CH pupils these are some things that MH children have gained from us teaching them (quotes from their writing):
- "What they have learnt/gained is that people love them no matter what. They have learnt a second language and Maths. They have learnt to stay with different people and to be taught by different people"
- "They have learnt not only a second language but to learn to ask, to communicate, to be better behaved and also not to be so afraid (shy)"
This partnership is successful because we are fulfilling our aims. It works because logistically we are close enough to drive there regularly. It is successful because we have developed long lasting relationships and because we have willing partners and a dedicated class of Grade Six pupils!