“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” A common saying around Nuru, and one that one of our Field Managers, Sabora Chacha, made sure that our newly hired Education Coordinators knew as we introduced them to our current staff and planned our schedule for the week ahead.
During my first few months on the job, planning has been a common theme. One of the main focuses has been on improving the lesson planning of our team. On Mondays through Wednesdays while school is in session, education staff members conduct English literacy workshops for students in Standards 1-7, the equivalent of first through eighth grade, at nine different schools in Isibania Division. Staff members are expected to be able to tailor their lessons to meet the needs of each class, while documenting learning challenges, helping children with disabilities, and being fun and creative. It’s a big task.
Our staff would tell you that without proper planning, lessons do not flow well and children are not engaged. We’ve been working a lot on applying what we learn in schools from week-to-week through the use of feedback forms. Each staff member fills out a feedback form that describes their lesson, challenges that occurred, and successful facilitation techniques. They share this feedback during breaks in the school day with the other facilitators and compare notes. The next step we’ve recently been asking our staff to take is to really focus on using the feedback from previous lessons to develop new lessons for the next time we’re at that particular school. The end goal is to have each lesson build upon the next and tailor lessons to the developmental levels of the schools and classes we are in, recognizing that learning is contextual and each school and class we work in is a little bit different. Over the course of the past few weeks our staff has showed tremendous growth in lesson planning and the addition of a training manager in early September will only strengthen this aspect of our program.
Speaking of hiring, our team is currently adding 13 new Education Coordinators for the Isibania and Mabera divisions. After a lengthy interview process, we are extremely excited about the skills and experience of these new members of our staff. However, the transition to a larger staff would not have been possible without planning from our current team members. Led by our Program Leader, Vicky Tissian, our staff developed interview questions for new hires, led interviews, and now have planned a weeklong training so that our new hires know what we do and how we do it. I’ve been extremely impressed with our staffs’ ability to brainstorm ideas, form activities, and delegate tasks. One of our Field Managers, George Nyamweya, has taken a lead role in creating charts and schedules in Word and Excel that show daily and weekly schedules of events. Other members of our staff have taken turns leading discussions on what specific aspects of our program should go into each training session. I believe that the transition for our new staff members will be very smooth and I am impressed with all of the leadership skills that our team is showing.
One other major area that our staff has begun planning for is our Mobile Learning Center that will occur in November and December when students are on their longest break from school. Mobile Learning Center is an outreach program that occurs during extended break periods in the school year. We conduct English literacy-focused workshops for students from Pre-Unit through Standard 7 at schools that are part of our normal outreach programs. Workshops include creative sessions where children go on nature walks, draw and model common objects from their community, practice speaking in English, write stories, and read books around selected themes. Lessons and workshops are age appropriate and facilitated by instructors from our program who are skilled in working with children at various developmental levels in primary schools. Children are invited to attend at no cost and centers are located in children’s current schools or at a nearby school within walking distance. While we are still in the planning stages, our staff has taken time to begin forming a schedule and topics for lessons for something that is still three months away. Long-range planning is something that we stress at Nuru and it is exciting to see the education team taking a lead role in this area.
I am grateful to be working with a staff that is so flexible, eager to learn, and thoughtful in their planning. For the education program to have the impact we desire, we must not only be thinking about what is happening today or this week, but next week and even three months down the road. After all, just ask one of our newly hired Education Coordinators what happens when you fail to plan.