Thursday, October 11, 2012

Report Card

Hey, I’m back!
Sorry for the time off. Our power in the house was shut off two days ago because apparently the electric bill hasn’t been paid since the Glorious family moved in to the house (to which we said to the electric company, “true, but you have not mailed us the electric bill since we moved in either.”) This morning the water went off too. I’m waiting for Princely and Zoe to wake up so we can go to work where I plan to brush my teeth and wash my face this morning.
Last night I treated the family to an “Italian” dinner. There is this place in Moshi Town that calls itself Italian food. I beg to differ. Anyway, the place had a power outlet and we brought a splitter and charged up all of our electronic devices. It was quite a sight. Now I’m Internet ready for the next five or so hours, so I’m going to bang out a post and then write a quick college essay before work.
Family 3 Macbooks, a kindle, an ipad, and a phone
We stayed past midnight and found Charity passed out under the table when it was time to go

Teaching on Monday went well. Each class was better than the last. I began with second grade. I taught them about communications technology. For the first thirty minutes of class, I was writing things on the board, explaining, just going along teaching my lesson, and they weren’t writing any of it down. I was confused because I kept asking them to write it down, and I knew they were able writers because I saw them writing the science notes from the board when I entered the room. I kept asking them, but no one answered until by luck, I finally guessed, “do you have a separate notebook for ICT?” One kid bravely nodded yes, and I dug up the notebooks.
Even after this confusion was cleared up, it was really difficult to get the kids to write or respond at all. To make them more comfortable, I interrupted the lesson with an active game whereby I could learn their names and something about them. This helped a little with the participation issue, but not with the writing. Finally, I started walking around the room asking each student if I could see his or her work, at which point they would flip to a blank page and begin writing with a purpose.
The students were good kids – they’d run to fetch me the eraser or new chalk whenever I needed it, but when it came to paying attention, I think I just haven’t earned their respect yet.

Grade 1 communications was better. The kids were a little rowdy, but I prefer rowdy to silently spacing out anyway. Whenever they would finish a line they would all run up to me and say “teacher, teacher!” and show me what they had written. There came a point when they didn’t understand what I was teaching, and I was trying to make them understand but I didn’t get the feeling they were listening. Their regular teacher must have heard them from the other room. She entered and they instantly sat down and were silent and attentive. They understood my lesson in a matter of minutes.
These morning sessions were good, relatively enjoyable, but not my favorite. The main reason I feel this way is because I was under the impression that my presence in this instance was not highly effective. I came with materials in communication and public health to teach the students at New Life. When I said that I can teach communications, the primary school teacher put me in charge of the ICT class, which is taught from a Tanzanian text book and covers communications technology, not interpersonal communications. I am happy to give the teachers a break, because I know they teach all day every day, however at the same time I get the feeling that my skills could be used more effectively.
For this reason, I have opted out of teaching these students vocational skills on Fridays and instead have decided to work with Uzima and pick up another outreach training.

Sorry this is a long post, but here’s the really good part: teaching Form 3 went really, really well. It was fantastic. I went with Princely and the students wanted us to come back as soon as possible. The most rewarding part, besides the fact that they sincerely had fun while learning, was that there was a clear difference between their confidence at the beginning and the end of the lesson. At the beginning of the lesson, we could not get a single volunteer even to answer a simple question. By the end, the entire class was up in the front of the room acting and while some of them were still shy, many were really putting some gusto behind the roles.
I think this class worked so well for a few reasons. The first, and maybe most important, was that we earned the respect of the kids the second we walked it. Princely and I embraced our youth and came off as cool young teachers instead of poser adults. It helped that he speaks Swahili because when something was unclear in my accent he would repeat it in a Tanzanian accent or straight Swahili and follow it with, “poa?” which means, “cool?” Finally, the class was far smaller than my class at Msufini (it was one class of about 30 kids instead of the whole secondary school of about 200) and the students were fluent in English and eager to learn. They took notes without us asking.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I kept my Friday lesson with the secondary school on Friday. I know I’ll be teaching material that no one else at New Life has the background to teach, and to top it off, I am confident that they will enjoy it. 

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