Things I have learned so far…Posted: May 21, 2013
I have learned many things about Tanzanian culture and teaching styles while spending my time here. I have also learned so much about the people here, as well as myself. Spending time in Tanzania I have noticed how their culture is different and similar to my own, and I have picked up a few words of Swahili. Learning a new language can be extremely difficult, which is why I feel for my students who are trying to speak English just from listening to it in school. I have learned so much from my short time in the schools already I could write a whole book about. But, to shorten things up I will begin with Tanzanian culture and what I have learned.
The culture here is incredibly different than my own in the US, but also shows many similarities. To start, I have learned that the culture here is very relaxed and slower paced. Even going on safari I could see this aspect of their culture present, especially when Maluta would be the last truck in the line just so we could stay an extra 5 minutes to watch the zebra, or when he dropped us off in the middle of the road so we could walk around for a bit while the other trucks just kept going. He, as well as almost every other Tanzanian we have met, are so laidback and have very relaxed personalities. Everywhere we go in Tanzania you hear people saying, “pole pole,” which means “slowly slowly” or just “slow slow.” We see men on the streets just hanging out not appearing to be doing anything productive, which I have learned is a norm here. In the US people are always on the move or have places to be and are constantly in a hurry. Speaking of hurrying, I know we can all agree that meeting someone on the streets and then meeting them while they are driving are two completely different people. Once a Tanzanian gets into a car they change that laidback personality into someone who needs to get to their destination in as little time as possible. So, for me, seeing this way of driving has shown me the similarity between the US and Tanzania, since we are always in a hurry and they drive as though they are. But, I do have to say if I were to drive like them at home I’d end up with tickets everyday.
While teaching in the schools I have learned so much about my own teaching style. I have noticed that the students will be most engaged if they are understanding what I am saying and are not lost in translation (since they have to translate the English to Swahili in their heads). I have noticed that teaching with only chalk and one textbook is very difficult, but it is manageable to create effective lessons in which the students do learn the material. I have learned to become very flexible with my teaching since you never know when you may get sick and have to hand over the chalk and book to someone else. I have learned a lot about the differences between the students here and the students in the US. At home students don’t respect their teachers as they do here and most of them do not take their education too seriously. While in Tanzania students are very serious about school and try their hardest everyday to learn as much as they can so they can hopefully get to a university and become pilots, doctors, etc.
Being in the classroom I have learned now rewarding teaching can be. Just seeing your students learn new material in a language they barely understand makes you feel as though you can teach anything to anyone. It is very difficult for some students to grasp any concept you present them, since they have no idea what you are saying. So, when you see these students actually participate in class and show that their mathematic skills are improving just makes you feel like you are a good teacher. While teaching I have learned that creating lesson plans on the spot can be annoying and stressful, but I have also learned that no matter the situation it always seems to work out. Even ten minutes of planning may show better results than none, and I have noticed this in my own teaching. Also, at the school I am teaching at I have seen different teaching styles that show different results, just as I would in the US. One teacher speaks quietly and reads word for word out of the book, while their students sit quietly and say “yes” when they have to. Another teacher asks questions that require more thought; this teacher has students do their work on the board, has other students clap for each other, and has fun while teaching. In the US, we see these teaching styles and we all can agree a teacher who can create effective questions and has fun with their class will have students conceptually understand their material faster and most likely better than those who have a teacher who is not so interactive. So, overall I have learned many things while teaching here and I cannot wait to see what else I learn about Tanzanian teaching and culture before the month is over.