Colin Goulder’s participation in the Connecting Classrooms programme took him on a journey starting with his own personal professional development, all the way to helping students reduce food waste in the UK and Nepal.
At the heart of every educator’s Connecting Classrooms learning journey is a deep-set commitment to helping children and young people develop the skills and global awareness to thrive in the 21st century. Colin Goulder, a teacher at Thelwall Junior School in Warrington, is no different.
‘Throughout my ten-year teaching career, I have tried to make learning as applicable to our students’ everyday lives and the wider world as possible, and help them develop their responses beyond the obvious’, Colin explained.
In 2016, Colin attended core skills training in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving through Connecting Classrooms. “Thanks to the core skills training, I was able to recognise that quality teaching using critical thinking could raise standards across the curriculum, such as by improving students’ inference skills in reading,” he affirmed. “The course also helped me to create more opportunities to engage students’ interest – not only are they now more motivated to learn, they have also acquired an understanding of different viewpoints, which has naturally improved the standard of their work.”
Colin discovered that he could bring global significance to students’ learning by setting up Thelwall’s first ever overseas partnership.
“Through the school search tool on Schools Online, I was able to find a partner school – Paragon Academy in Nepal – that had done project work before, had similar interests, as well as International School Award status. Their experience in international work was a real bonus, especially given that this was my first collaborative project.”
Together, the two schools realised that students could use critical thinking and problem solving to have a real, positive impact on their local communities. As such, they immediately started working together on the Zero Hunger collaborative project.
‘Our project was mainly student-led and they produced a lot of high-quality work off the back of it’, Colin explained. ‘Working for purpose, gaining feedback and support from people in another country, and tackling a global problem of huge significance on a local scale meant that students and staff were motivated and engaged throughout.’
Working remotely on the project also helped to ensure a strong working relationship between the schools prior to Colin and Clair Hallsworth, Assistant Headteacher at Thelwall, travelling out to Nepal on their Connecting Classrooms professional partnership visit.
“We shared students’ work via email and did Skype calls from the classroom,” said Colin. ‘Our regular communication meant that, when we arrived in Nepal, we had already established a solid professional relationship and good understanding of each other’s work and could make good use of the time we had.’
Being able to visit the school in the far south east of Nepal was an invaluable opportunity for Clair and Colin to witness students’ learning first-hand and exchange effective practice with their teachers.
“Our time in the school was very special and being able to work face to face with our partner co-ordinator was also a fantastic experience,” said Colin. “Learning how our schools work and comparing approaches was really insightful, something which simply wouldn’t have been possible without visiting Paragon Academy in their setting.”
Particularly impressive was seeing the impact that the Zero Hunger project was having at community level in Nepal, and comparing this with the changes that were being effected back in Warrington.
“We were amazed to see that students from both schools were making a difference to hunger in their local communities – the students in Nepal actively visited poorer homes with food they had saved, while our students had donated to a food bank, monitored food waste, and made changes that eventually reduced our school's lunchtime food waste by 50 per cent. Our school has since gone on to work with the local council's Development Chef to reduce food waste across the borough.”
A profound impact
Colin and Clair have both been overwhelmed and encouraged by everything they have experienced through the programme.
“Connecting Classrooms has been an incredible experience that has made a profound impact on me, our students, staff, parents, our local community, and those of our partner school,” says Colin.
“Students feel that they have been part of something very special and positive, making links across the globe, working with the local community and gaining a unique insight into the lives of children their age in a contrasting locality.”