I graduated from TTC Mururu in 2016 and started working as an Early Childhood Educator in GS St. Paul Tyazo, eight months ago. Being one of the few trained teachers, I was confident that I was ready to do my work well in this institution where nursery children pay school fees of Rwf15,000 every term to be admitted.
To my best knowledge, I knew I can deliver the daily routine activities with the 3-6 year old children. Day in day out I was used to my routine and thought that I have delivered my lessons well. I had a few teaching and learning materials to use but the ‘circle-time’ with the children was a bit tough for me to organize.
The stressful time was corner play. I had only one big mat and children could play with materials that I provided and of course the blocks and containers from the UNICEF kit.
Little did I know that it was not only boring but denying children to choose their activities and play with materials on one mat. Display of teaching and learning materials and classroom organization was limiting because they were few and displayed high above children’s height.
The little things (making local materials) that I ignored became the trigger to my potential in creativity, innovation to make my daily activities enjoyable and satisfying. I was a slave to my lesson plan and not an observer to my children’s individual attention span, interests and abilities each day.
VSO Rwanda (with funds from Dubai Cares) has taken me through two trainings. These include Teaching and Learning Materials (TLMs) development and developing thematic plan. After the trainings, there was a follow up by the VSO Rwanda ECE advisors which included mentoring and coaching.
In fact the individual coaching and mentoring is what really made me appreciate my strength and weakness in the classroom. It’s not the ‘dos and don’ts’ but rather how one can improve as a facilitator.
We went through questions such are, ‘Do I need to change my strategies on daily routine? And if so, why? How can it be done? ’These self-made questions was my guidance to do my work.
During the VSO Rwanda trainings, a better understanding of a competence based curriculum made me gain confidence in my work before the children, school administrators and the visitors and volunteers who visited my classroom.
Classroom organization became more sensitive to children’s needs and abilities. Right now the classroom is friendlier than before. Children furniture is arranged in almost a complete circle where they have a clear view of any display on the four walls in the classroom.
Each corner play has materials available and it is easier for me to change or add on weekly basis so that children have access to a variety of materials over time. The materials are always changed to reflect the current theme being used in the classroom.
My classroom is quite attractive for once I know how to display the TLMs. I do this bearing in mind that the teaching and learning materials can be displayed on the floor, walls and hanging from ceiling. Children are actively involved in their learning.
I make a weekly plan on different activities using the thematic plan. This has helped me to prepare learning materials in advance in each activity area.
Sometimes I spare my free time to get a few demonstrations on developing learning materials using low cost materials. The skills I have acquired cannot be taken away from me wherever I will be working for children.
When I sit down to tell the children a story, I sit at the same level and admire the way they look at me waiting to hear the story. I use pictures or real objects as I narrate the story. The excitement I see and sometimes I ask myself, “what if these children had not had such an experience, what next for them?”
Teachers from two neighbouring schools (not the VSO neighbouring schools) usually visit my classroom to learn from me and I usually have some time to share a bit of my knowledge with them. This was an achievement for others to learn from me the good practices. Today I have facilitated at sector level training of ECE teachers on thematic plan. And I am proud that my classroom was used for demonstration on how learning takes place in an ECE classroom.