Housekeeping has been the focus this week, particularly the sorting and categorising of book and resource donations.
Over the last few months we have had a lot of schools give us donations of text books. As the donations have come in piecemeal we have not previously been able to lay them all out and identify total numbers and condition of the different series of text books. This was not a problem while we were working in France, as we had already identified our key resources for France and had them out in the field with us. In France we were also doing more tutorial and small group teaching. The transitory nature of the situation, and the fact that the children would be spending significant amounts of the night hours trying to get on buses and lorries, meant that we were inevitably working with small groups rather than full classes. In France we were therefore able to work effectively with sets of 10 books at a time.
Now that we are preparing for Greece we are hoping to be able to set up more formal classroom teaching. So we need class sets of 30 books. Where there are desks and chairs we can probably share books, but some of the locations lack these resources so it will be children sitting on the floor and huddling over make shift work spaces. In those situations we may not always be able to get two children to be able to share a book very well. We are therefore trying to plan for one text book each.
To help us sort out our resources into suitable class sets we have been looking for a large space in the Cambridge area where we could literally sort and lay it out on the ground. With this in mind we have been very pleased that the C3 Community Church in Cambridge has come forward and offered us the use of a large space for a couple of months.
Over the last week we have transported everything from its temporary holding facilities to this central location. We now have it all laid out and can see exactly what we have. We are still a long way from having everything categorised and organised properly as we have such a wide range of materials.
Donations from schools have included everything from 40 year old text books to text books from different editions of the series. It has proved quite a complicated task as even where we have a number of books that look the same, we find subtle differences between editions which mean that pagination or page content varies.
Our vision is to try and break the materials down into class sets for teaching from, and then series of one-off books which we can use for common library spaces or lending sets. Often children will ask to take stuff away with them. Where we can we prefer to say yes. The children often have nothing to do in their shelters so allowing them to use their time to read and study is a double win. It increases learning time and gives them something useful to do. However a proportion of loaned materials come back damaged, if they come back at all, because shelters are sometimes exposed to the weather and occupancy is itself very precarious. It is a constant calculation for us about what we can afford to give out and what we have to hang onto so that we can always keep lessons flowing smoothly.
Having started on the task of going through our materials we can see that we have a predominance of Maths books. We have many fewer English teaching books, although we do have a good number of ‘learning to read’ resources in English. What we lack however is ESOL materials for children. Standard English text books which assume that the children are already fluent in English are not suitable for use with children who are still learning the basics of the English language. We are extremely short of ESOL materials and this is a high priority for us in seeking donations.
A similar dearth is evident in Science materials. However the science materials which we do have are very English Vocabulary heavy. English is our main teaching language so we expect books to be in English. However what we are looking for are resources which have many fewer words on a page so that they are less intimidating to children who are learning and building up their English vocabulary as they go along. We haven’t yet identified ideal resources in this respect. Doing so and seeking such as donations is a very high priority to us. At the moment Science teaching is very heavily teacher led and is very time consuming for teachers preparing resources from scratch.