OUR PARTNERSHIP BEGAN IN OCTOBER 2016 WITH A ‘RIVERS OF THE WORLD’ PROJECT.
Teachers from around the world united in the British Council building in London to discuss this project and how we could connect the classroom work of schools from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Nepal and many other ‘underprivileged’ schools across the globe. Inspired and enthused, we all shared ideas and engaged in collaborative planning to ensure all our students could begin their own enquiries across connected topics which all fed into the theme of rivers.
Soon after, Kathleen Guthrie (the Global Schools Coordinator) put us all in contact with our partner school teachers in the hope that we would further develop ideas and maintain contact, across classrooms, working towards agreed common aims. As a result, students at Winifred Holtby and Albert Academy achieved their most successful collaborative piece to date: Rivers of the World. This piece was exhibited across classrooms in Sierra Leone and Hull; all students involved achieved phenomenal outcomes which are testament to their engagement and commitment throughout the collaborative global project. Not only were the students involved already over the moon with the fact their work had been exhibited around the world – but that they were part of a team chosen by myself to take part in the most prestigious group of artists at the academy. Showing students photographs of the schools in Sierra Leone completing similar lessons with huge smiles on their faces, despite being in a lot less-privileged setting, really made them think and embrace the culture.
Astounded, inspired and motivated by the phenomenal outcomes of the Rivers of the World Project, several teachers were invited to take part in a project which would enable them to take the partnerships formed to the next level and truly connect global classrooms.
In May 2017, the British Council launched their next project: Connecting Classrooms. Teachers engaged in a series of planning workshops which continually pushed our creativity and imagination to ensure we were able to offer our students additional outstanding learning experiences. We set targets and goals to become more experimental with the way in which we approach learning.
Upon completion, the British Council explained a unique and incredibly exciting opportunity: Global Team Teaching. Teachers across Hull were given the chance to apply to travel to Sierra Leone and teach with colleagues across the globe with our partner schools. Once confirmed, the excitement continued to build alongside our ongoing collaboration of ideas.
In February 2018 the wait was over. A group of teachers from Hull travelled over to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Our main objective was to share ideas, experience and planning with our partnering schools. Throughout the time there we were warmly immersed in their culture and society. The hospitality was incredible; the staff at many schools that we visited joined us outside of the school time to show us not only how they plan and teach – but how they live and socialise.
Travelling to Sierra Leone required a little more than just jumping on an aeroplane. With no direct flights and the actual airport itself not being in Freetown (it is just outside in a town called Lungi), we knew this was going to be a trip to remember. Roughly twenty hours, three coaches, two flights and one very rocky boat trip later, we arrived at the hotel in thirty-three-degree heat.
After catching up on sleep, we were greeted by a group of extremely welcoming Sierra Leoneans who had planned a jam-packed welcome weekend to immerse us in their culture. Locals gave up their weekend and together we explored local museums, parks, churches and restaurants. We soon learnt that Freetown is one of the most exciting and energizing cities in the world. The atmosphere was electric: happy faces greeted us around every bustling corner. It is incomparable in the sense that we have nothing like it in England or Europe as every corner you turn feels like a new story or photo opportunity. The things we saw on a day to day basis was like watching a two-week long movie. The hospitality was tremendous.
You could tell that all they wanted was for us to return with a great experience of their city. The stories they told us about their city and the way in which they were just constantly happy to relive experiences about the good times and quite upsettingly the bad times, was amazing. Just after spending two days with this very warm and welcoming group of people, we knew this was going to be a fantastic trip.
After an amazing opening weekend, teachers from Hull all split up and travelled to various schools around the city of Freetown. I headed to Albert Academy: Winifred Holtby Academy’s partner and this is where I spent most of my week.
Albert Academy is an all-boys school at the base of Oriol mountain in the east of Freetown, with roughly 1200 students attending each day. The first couple of hours we walked around the Academy observing the way in which the Sierra Leoneans learn. It was very old school: chalk boards and crammed classrooms in all rooms. However, the passion and drive were infectious; an unbelievably unanimous desire to learn.
Students hung on to every word each teacher said. When a teacher explained something, you could hear a pin drop. When the students were writing down answers their hands would fly in the air when complete to show they were ready to move on. The atmosphere around the school was tangible as all students really were just trying 110%.