Millennium Secondary School
By Dagim Melese and Atsede Teshayou
Photos and Video by Atsede Tsehayou and Dagim Melese
Millennium Secondary School is remote and isolated from the town (Korem is the name of the town – see photos below including of Lake Ashenga in Korem). We travelled to the school driving a road twisting now and then (a very high detour) down a very high relief (an extremely rugged terrain along a steep side of a mountain and valley zig-zagging uplands and lowlands. In the end we reached the very isolated and remote school in a very small village (easily counting the number of households).
The total number of teachers working at the school are 22 of whom 11 of them were trained previously. We were told that 3 of the trained teachers were transferred . So the number of teachers who are trained remains 8.
Thinking Schools Ethiopia – Tigray is a collaboration of Tigray Development Association and Thinking Foundation for 37 model schools in 12 Woredas located in all 7 zonal administrations with funding administered by Initiative Africa for a Girl’s Empowerment Whole School Change grant from Sida (Swedish Development Agency) that began as a grass roots project by Robert Seth Price along with lead country trainers Atsede Tsehayou and Dagim Melese. Read the chapter on Ethiopia in the Corwin Press book Pathways to Thinking Schools.
The day began with a mini professional development training including a review of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE) model, thinking maps, research basis of use of visual tools and principles of TSE model.
Collegial Coaching – Demonstration Lesson with Students
We modeled the collegial coaching model, where teachers observe a teacher doing a demonstration lesson. For the modeling the TSE trainers did a demonstration lesson. It begins with a briefing of the lesson, then doing the demonstration lesson, followed by a debriefing with the teachers.
Collegial Coaching: Briefing
At the briefing we shared a lesson about microorganisms (Biology for Grade 9 lesson in the week), shared how to introduce the Circle Map, Double Bubble Maps with the content and how I would model think-pair-share (teacher-student; student-student; whole class), brief sharing of two examples of group works, proceeded with modeling using a Double Bubble Map to compare and contrast (useful verses harmful micro organisms).
Collegial Coaching: Demonstration Lesson
We then did a demonstration lesson with the students with the teachers observing. The teachers take notes on positive observations and questions they have from their observations of the demonstration lesson.
Collegial Coaching: Debriefing
After the lesson everyone observing and participating was part of the the debriefing. At the debriefing:
- It was agreed about the need to introduce the Thinking Maps to students .
- Teachers were ready to start using Thinking Maps flexibly first then more regularly.
- Questions: How do we manage time?
“once thinking maps become language among all the students. The degree of automaticity with which they construct maps gets higher lessening the time it takes to facilitate group work.”We asked what time does it take you to tie your shoelaces? how difficult is driving for an experienced driver? Once we learn how to use them, we do it fast.So the key is to experiment using them in our class room. In time we will develop expertise in using the maps .
Comments from the Millennium Secondary School educators:
- “We will appreciate your on going support. Please come visit us often.”
- “We would welcome more demo lessons.”
- What did we see today? What is something we learned today which we will use to refine site visits to come?
Students of grade 9 enter secondary schools after having spent 8 years of their academic life learning subjects in Tigirigna and English as a subject on which they usefully perform poorly. This is true of other schools in other regions too.
Now, the biology lesson on Microorganisms is written on English and teachers are supposed to teach in English. I started teaching it in English but it prevented students from actively taking part in the discussions and participation. A student writing in a circle maps with me clearly exhibited this problem.
The question is:
How do all the educators understand prior knowledge that the knowledge she/he has about microorganism is still a stock of knowledge – prior knowledge – even when it is communicated in Tigirigna? This is where the Thinking Maps need to be seen as a thinking and language bridge.
Students have the knowledge, but simply because they are not able to share in a different languages or communicate with other languages they fail to precisely respond to exam questions written in English hence, score less on exam, and assessed as low achievers. This needs to be internalized and understood by educators to then best support the students.