First Day of School 22/23 in Abuja, Nigeria

First day of school under very different circumstances has taken on a whole new twist.  

The school I have been supporting in Abuja, Nigeria had to accommodate the Minister of Education’s mandate to either postpone the start of the school or to offer online school due to safety issues and COVID rates.  After further investigation the school leader learned that there was not a specific safety threat, more of the generic quality that they have to secure the school from anyway.  She did not want to cancel the start of school so we came up with an alternative.

She arranged hubs in the community for school to be held off site and off hours.  Students were assigned to their hubs based on their location and not their grade levels.  She assigned teachers to the hubs based off of meeting the different students’ needs and their own capabilities.

The week before first day we had scheduled professional development (This link takes you to the working plan used for the PD.) To prepare for the different schedule we divided the teachers by content to create material for their subject matter and their grade level ban for the first week.  The idea behind this was to reduce the work load and allow them to focus on one subject matter.  A bi-product was also bringing teachers together who don’t normally work together i.e. secondary and primary. Prior to the teachers working in teams to gather their material for the launch week I had delivered a series of teacher training to help them unpack project based learning, backwards planning, and consider the power of student relationships.  Our objective was  to help frame the first week of school to be AMAZING for the learners.  Teachers worked in teams to create the content and I provided them the structure for the school day.  We had four teams: ELA, math, social studies and PBL.

The schedule I gave them included all the key elements:

10-10:20amOpening, fitness, welcome
10:30-11:45amContent Stations
12-1:45pm Mindfulness/PBL Block

By Friday, the week before school started the teachers had material ready for each hub organized by content and grade level.  The last printing occurred by 6:40pm and we were ready to roll, folders organized.

How the hubs would run was left up to their own design with the core mission of making the first week AMAZING and students feeling it.  Each hub team met on Friday as well to review what other materials they needed including hand sanitizer, toilet paper, markers, chart paper, … We also identified the lead facilitator, photographer and google classroom guru.  For students that would not be able to make it plus for families that wanted more work for the students we set up a Google Classroom for each grade level band.  

Teachers gathering materials including a mat for students to sit on

Monday arrived and it was one of the most rainy days I have experienced thus far in my three week stay.  The school had no power which also meant no internet, and of course no copying.  Teachers arrived at school by 8am and were to be driven to their different hubs.  By 8:30am the teams rolled out.  We did have three teams that were stationed at the school- Pre-K, 1-7,  and 9-12.  How teams organized was up to them; they all experienced parts of the schedule as this is what I followed when I was leading professional development.

The first reports started to come in from the two offsite hubs.  The one hub at a family’s large compound started to receive students early and from our sources it sounded that the teachers were a bit slow to engage.  They were waiting for 10am to start yet all of the students had arrived by 9:30am.  So there was the awkward silence for a bit leading to students being a bit more hesitant about the situation than necessary.  (Had the teachers had music playing, some independent opening activities the mood would be easier to lift.)

The three hubs at the school site started twenty minutes early in a whole group opening activity in the common area- it was a bit awkward with teachers mostly on one side of the circle and students on the other.  The explanation was a little unclear and missing the why.  

The last hub located behind the American compound’s gates we heard the least from during the day.

As the day unfolded the school site hubs separated rather quickly by level- Pre-K, K-5, and 6-12 with seven to nine students in each group.  The Pre-K followed a play base model and students chose what they wanted to explore and had fun.  The K-5 group at first separated into K and 1-5 but when there was only one student in K it was suggested to the teacher to join the others.  She did and the kid seemed happier.  For the content stations one of the teachers took lead and directed the students through the different exercises.  Similarly the 6-12 did the same where they brought all the students together and one teacher facilitated the learning changing teachers depending upon the content.

When visiting these different settings at the school site energy level seemed to dip a bit.  In someways being at school served as a dis-service.  They had all the comforts of being in school with access to resources and easier to be a creature of habit a bit more.  There was less of a push to use the space differently compared to the other two groups that had just open rooms.  

At the end of the day when the teachers returned from the hub, we met up to discuss the day.  This was the moment of truth to see which hub truly took the ownership of their learning environment and worked to foster student centered practices.

Teachers from the American compound hub returned on fire with excitement and enthusiasm.  They shared that their students reported that they had an amazing day and were excited to return.  When I questioned a bit more about how they elicited this kind of response it became clear the differences of implementing the plan.  In this hub they had an opening with all the students together in a big circle.  Through some music and play they started to break the ice.  Then the teachers told the students what is expected for the next 1.3 hours and showed the students the work that was set out.   They set up stations by content and on each table they labeled the different levels of material.  i.e. English- 9-12, 6-8, 2-5, K-2 The material was around the same theme but differed in difficulty level.  

They instructed the students to choose what they wanted to work on and where they wanted to work and when the work was finished they should turn it in and sign off on what they completed.  Students loved it.  They embraced the independence and worked together to figure out the material.  The teachers were able to circulate and answer more specific questions.  Some students asked to do the more difficult work because they saw older kids working on it.  In this process teachers really appreciated the kind of support they were able to provide.  

Offering choice, self direction and mixed age groupings allowed the students to excel and have a good timeTeachers were empowered to own the program offer and adjust as they needed based on the formative feedback they gathered from observing their learners.  The time table was only a suggestion and the team owned it for their group.

When the teachers returned in the afternoon for a school wide catch up we asked each group to share their ‘trade secrets.’ After that instead of continuing with the planned agenda we gave the teachers the rest of the afternoon to adjust their plans, learn from the American compound hub’s wins and be prepared to have amazing second days and beyond.  (We too as school leaders/coaches adjusted and seized the moment to quickly shift the momentum and improve the learning experience for all learners.  When it was reported that the first day for the 9-12th grade would be described as ‘meh’ from the kids perspective that was the indicator that something needed to change ASAP.)

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

One thought on “First Day of School 22/23 in Abuja, Nigeria

  1. Outstanding! Takes me back to our adjoined classrooms. These students and teachers are learning so much more than content. Bravo!


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