When asked about the highlight of her time in Tuvalu, volunteer Denise Eddowes had no hesitation replying, “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata - the highlight for us has been the Tuvaluan people. They have taught us so much. Their kindness, warmth, generosity and humour shared with us we will never forget. We have forged life long friendships and learnt so much from them.”

Denise went to Tuvalu thinking she would be supporting the Department of Education to implement the PB4L school-wide framework (a “positive behaviour for learning” initiative*). However, after a few weeks of settling in, visiting classrooms and listening to needs it became apparent to Denise that implementing PB4L ‘School-Wide’ would be too much, too fast and not possible if the programme was to be set up as designed.

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The Department of Education in Tuvalu. Photo credit: Denise Eddowes

“There are many challenges facing schools and teachers in Tuvalu,” says Denise. “Teachers haven't been trained in positive management strategies so it became apparent that my support should be focussed on providing training with classroom positive behaviour management techniques taking into consideration the environmental conditions and Tuvaluan culture.”

Using PB4L strategies, Denise wrote four workshops and named the programme Positive Behaviour Support in School, Tuvalu (PBSiS). It was agreed that the programme would be delivered in two Funafuti Schools - the largest, Nauti (Year 1-Year 9, role of over 800 students) and the Seventh Day Adventist School (SDA, Year 1-Year 8, with a roll of 180 students).

Denise had written the first workshop and delivered it, with her assigned local counterpart, to teachers of both schools when dengue fever struck her husband Mark and flatmate Hilary, the other VSA volunteer.

After evacuation to Fiji, and then New Zealand, there was then a two month recuperation period and Denise made best use of that time by developing the remaining three workshops.

Denise returned to Tuvalu in August 2019 and the second, third and fourth workshops were delivered by the end of October 2019, just before exams began and school ended in November.

“My hope is that the teachers who are using the positive behaviour strategies I have shared and modelled influence others and the strategies grow in classrooms, lifting student engagement and grades, decreasing teacher stress and raising teacher satisfaction,” says Denise.

“It’s been so rewarding entering a classroom and observing a teacher using a positive behaviour strategy or two learned during the workshops then giving me a huge smile and a high five!”

*PB4L is a “Positive Behaviour for Learning” initiative which helps teachers and schools address problem behaviour, improve children's well-being, and increase educational achievement. PB4L is a long-term, systematic approach involving ten initiatives, including whole-school change initiatives, targeted group programmes, and individual student support services.