Teaching is a strange profession.
In 2008, I completed my teacher training at Durham University. Like many teachers, if they’re honest, my motivation for doing so was driven largely by the prospect of never-ending holidays, 3pm exits and a guaranteed pay rise every September. However, as I began my career, I was not prepared for the sense of purpose and responsibility which weighs upon all good teachers.
In England, I built my career in schools located in areas of the North East which suffer economically and socially. I have worked with kids who suffer at home, with kids who can’t afford the right shoes, with kids who holiday in caravans and not in hotels.
However, in spite of these challenges, many of ‘those’ kids excelled. Over the years, watching my students develop belief in themselves, watching as they moved into university or work, watching as they developed a sense of their own ability and place in the world has filled me with a sense of pride, which I have come to recognise as more valuable than all the holidays, early finishes and pay rises that the profession can offer.
Many of my former students, who succeeded in progressing into some of the most prestigious universities in the UK, now work with The Beach School Project. The fact that they do is testament to both the power of education, as well as the trust and respect which should typify teacher and student relationships… when they’re done right.
Disadvantage is universal. One of the things that shocked me when I began to build The Beach School Project was the reaction of some in the UK who were eager to remind me that, ‘people need help in England as well you know.’ My response was typically, “well… go and help them then.”
Here in Sal, we have now spent two weeks in schools and associations teaching English. When we first walked into Escolar Secundaria Olavo Moniz in Espargos, we were shocked; not by the building, or by the disparity between the resources on offer in comparison to UK schools; we had anticipated difference.
No, we were shocked by the similarities. The same rushed expressions on the faces of teachers dashing between lessons; the same packs of students stalking through the yard at break time; hyperactive underachieving boys, shy self-conscious girls; those desperate to engage in their work and those desperate to avoid it. Most of all, we were overwhelmed by the ability and intelligence of so many of the kids here in Sal, by their desire to learn and by the joy with which they have engaged in our sessions. The same is equally true of the students we have worked with in Terra Boa and Castellos Do Sal in Santa Maria.
Over the past 14 days, we have grown in confidence, both in our own ability to deliver highly engaging and fun teaching, but also in the ability of the students we are working with to engage and contribute in lessons. Everyone involved in The Beach School Project believes teaching should be fun and learning should be made real whenever possible.
So… thus far this month in Sal… we have explored the language of food with kids, by gorging on Marmite and HP sauce; we have watched students develop the ability to introduce themselves and their families in English, by recording each other on tablets and Skyping with undergraduates in the UK; we have supported students’ understanding of basic grammar by undertaking Art sessions working with short stories produced specifically by UK primary school students for the project. The joy with which our activities have been met has been truly humbling and we are hopeful that, as we move forward, we will offer students here in Sal an even more exciting and memorable experience as the month continues.
The Resort Group PLC and The Cape Verde Foundation have supported us throughout our stay in Sal. They have not only accommodated our teachers but also allowed us insight into the needs of learners here and the contacts necessary to allow us to develop our work in Sal. In England support for the project continues to grow and in Sal the same is true. We have been inundated with offers of resources and partnerships from UK schools and kind words from individuals who believe in what we are trying to achieve in Cape Verde.
However, without the support of The Resort Group and The Cape Verde Foundation, our work here would not have had the same impact or scope. For this, we are eternally grateful.
As I write this, I sit in Bom Dia café in Espargos, awaiting the start of our evening session for adults in Escolar Nova. The sun dipping slowly on the horizon, the sound of taxis and buses filling the air. Over the next few weeks, we will be using football and music to shape our teaching and we expect the students involved in the project to approach the work we will complete with the same enthusiasm and eagerness which has inspired us over the past 14 days.
Project Leader – The Beach School Project.