First Day of School! First Day of School!Posted: May 9, 2013
My first day at Lutheran Tetra Secondary School was, in two words, interesting and slow. There is a phrase in Tanzania, pole pole, which means, “slowly, slowly,” and it could not apply more than in this setting. On our first day, we were introduced to the students in the classes we would (most likely) be teaching, and we sat in the back and observed our … ehm … cooperating teachers I suppose is the best word to define them … and watched how class was done in an African setting. For the first class, it was fairly similar to the first scene in Indiana Jones (without the girls fawning over the teacher), where the teacher simply lectured for the entirety of the hour, explaining the concepts to be understood and hardly stopping for formative assessments. This was interesting, and – to me personally – a little saddening, because no matter what country I’m in, I would always like to see checking for understanding or formative assessments in some form or another.
The second class that I sat in on was a far cry from this first one. This teacher was much more interactive and social with the students, having them walk him through examples and instruction while he wrote answers and formulas on the board. He would also praise students for answering correctly, telling his students to “clap the hands for him [or her]!” And they would! They loved this, and they would actively participate in finding the correct answers to find the formulas that were to be used and taught in the lesson. Their enthusiasm and engagement was high in this lesson, and their socialization did not appear to detract from the instruction or the learning. It was wonderful, and it was the realization of all of the aspects of education that I encourage in my (theoretical) pedagogy, and it was nice to see that – whether it be ideal or not – it is an effective method of instruction which provides the students an engaging environment and many opportunities to learn individually and cooperatively.
The second day of teaching was awesome! I got to teach a physics lesson (telescopes!) and I got to talk with my students. They seemed very unused to me. I say this because they seemed shy, un-talkative (uncharacteristic of the Form III students) and unresponsive in the classroom. This, I decided, was due to the fact that I was a mzungu (white person, literally “one who walks in circles”), and also that I was new. But by the end of the class period, the students were asking me all kinds of questions and talking to me, even asking me to sing for them (first they asked if I spoke French, and I said “no, but I can sing in French,” so they demanded that I do so), asking me to demonstrate the martial art that I do (Capoeira, Afro-Brasilian), and asking me if I had a wife or fiancée (I don’t have either, but told them that I do have a girlfriend back in the United States).
Overall, I feel like I will have no trouble fitting in and becoming a familiar figure in the classroom for these students, and I look forward to each day the students grow more comfortable with me in their classroom.