I was so nervous the first day of school that I wanted to throw up. We didn’t know if we would be observing or teaching and if we were teaching, we didn’t know what we would be teaching. When we opened the gate to our school, Assumption, the kids (all 300 of them) we’re running together around the whole playground in a circle. We then walked to the headmaster’s office to get everything figured out.
After we introduced ourselves to the headmaster, we had a good 45 seconds of awkward silence before someone finally said “we’re here to teach”. Apparently she forgot we were coming. A few minutes later we were taken to our classroom and as soon as we walked in the students said “Good morning teacher, how are you?” We stood there in amazement and I’m not even sure we responded. Luckily, we weren’t asked to teach right away and we went to the back and sat to observe.
Observing was such a cool experience. I’ve observed classrooms in the U.S. so it was really cool to compare and contrast the two. One thing that is obviously different is that they use corporal punishment. It was really hard to see. The kids, however, are really well behaved. We are in a first grade classroom and the kids have so much respect, sit quietly for the most part, and are really smart. The kids are so sweet and love all of the attention we give them. The best part has got to be the look on the kids’ faces when we say “good job”. They are so proud. I’m excited to see how teaching will go in the next couple weeks!
I am teaching Standard 2, grade 2, at Assumption Primary School where school starts at 8:00 and ends at 1:05 🙂 We have the wonderful opportunity of walking to school. The walk to school is about a 20 minute walk down the street, then right on another, than right on a muddy dirt winding road to the school. The route is pretty busy but the locals are starting to recognize our existence and realize that we are going to be staying for awhile! The salesmen, for the majority, keep their distance!
Assumption Primary School is a Catholic school, where the headmaster is Sister Agnus, and she means business. The staff there are very welcoming and always let us know that we are free at the school and are at home. It is a very young staff which is cool because they have many plans and places that they want to take us to around town. The Tanzanian teacher that we are working with, Neema, a 23 year old Tanzanian who is awesome and doing some great things in her class!! She is wonder women! She does some brain gym activities without evening noticing while also doing a lot of whole brain teaching where she is constantly asking the students a question and they have to respond with the answer for at least three times. Due to the lack of resources, a lot of the day is spent with copying work from the blackboard. In class exercises and homework exercises are both copied by the student for every subject. This is very time consuming!! She does use the switch which was interesting to witness, but the kids are very well behaved!
I was so surprised how well behaved and smart these second graders are. They are extremely polite, independent and smart!! They sit so still during class so it is nice that we have a chance to play with them after school to see them be kids. I believe Assumption school is doing some great things regardless of lack of resources.
I was extremely nervous for the first day of school! I was waiting outside for our bus driver to pick us up five minutes early, anxiously awaiting his arrival. For one of the first times ever, I was the first one ready and was wishing everyone else would hurry up and get out there so we could take our first day of school picture. I am attending the Lutheran Primary school. Instead of calling them grades like we do in America, they are called standards. For example, 1st Grade would be called Standard 1.
The classroom I am paired with is called the BABY CLASS (this is how I always see it written). The students are ages three and four. Today in class we learned about the letter ‘i’ in English and the number ‘7’ in math. The babies for the most part can all understand and count to 20 and can say the sounds that each of the alphabet letters make. I am going to have to record the song that they sing about the alphabet because it is the cutest thing I have ever heard.
On the first day of school I also noticed two very big differences from American schools. First of all, they call me, “Teacher Abbi.” When the students really want my attention they say, “Teacha, Teacha.” This is not the usual Miss Sandweiss you would hear in the USA. Second, I had my first ever tea time. The tea tastes like a very sweet and creamy milk and is scalding hot. The Tanzanian teachers were just drinking away and my mouth was literally burning! It must be something that I will need to get used to, but they thought it was very funny. We also got these delicious rolls, like ones Americans would have on Thanksgiving. The teachers kept giving me more and I ended up eating three! I guess that makes up for the whole not having lunch thing… Overall today was a great first day of school here in Tanzania and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this month brings me!
During breakfast all I could think of was Nemo jumping on his dad saying, “First day of school, first day of school!” We had the mandatory first day of school photo in all of our new cloths. As we started the up hill climb to meet our guides, I realize how spoiled I am with the bus that drives me around campus and Grand Rapids. On the walk to school I became acutely aware of my nerves about teaching for the first time. The rain, thankfully, held off till we got to our school. We first met with the headmaster of the primary school, who is strikingly similar to Master Shifu, from Kung Fu Panda, in both personality and physical appearance. After he informed us briefly of our schedule while we are here he took us to the head master of the secondary school. I was very relived that the first day was dedicated to simply observing the teachers and the students!
One thing that is different in the schools between American and Tanzania is what they call each grade level. In secondary they have Form 1 through Form 6, but at Prime Secondary School (where I will be teaching) they only have Form 1-4. Mr. Domenick, who teaches Form 2 math and Form 1/3 physics gave us a quick tour of the school and then let us sit in on his math class. From watching Mr. Domenick I grew very excited to be the one in front of the class.
I am beginning to realize just how many differences there are between American schools and schools in Tanzania. One thing that stood out to me the most was how much the students paid attention to what Mr. Domenick and I had to say. Also, I became aware from watching the students how quickly they grasped the material. It is easy to see they have a great desire to learn and that is something compelling to watch. I am very excited to see what all the month brings!
Going into the first day of school I was very nervous. I was unsure of what was going to come of the day. Was I going to observe my class? Was I going to teach? What am I going to teach? Will I understand them? I had many questions buzzing through my head and I did not have any answers. I am usually one to have everything planned ahead of time, but this was not allowing me to do so and I was very anxious.
We got to the school and the students were running laps around the playground and they seemed to be having a lot of fun. My group went into the office to sign in and meet the head master and all was going well until the head master did not realize what we were there for. She stared at us for a minute or two without saying a word until she asked for the reason we were there. This caused us to feel even more uneasy about the day. We eventually got through everything and made our way to our classes.
The classroom that I am teaching has 45 students and at first I thought teaching them was going to be impossible. How do you make sure 45 Standard 1 students are learning everything? The students did not seem to stop talking once during the day, whether they were asking for a rubber, a pencil, a ruler, or a question. There was always some type of noise happening. I was not used to this and was confused as to why the teacher did not make them be quiet. I realized that all of the movement and such allowed them to stay focused throughout the day with out getting burned out, like so many students in America. They are always engaged and trying to do their best. Seeing all of the excitement and enthusiasm has made me look forward to teaching everyday now.
I am at a school called Lutheran Tetra Primary School. I am in a standard 1 class which is like a 1st-2nd grade level classroom. The first day, we were all so excited to head to our schools and we even took a first day of school picture! 🙂 We pulled up to the school and there was a bright blue gate that two men had to open for us to let us in. We drove in the court yard and parked the van. There is a Secondary School and a Primary School on the same ground. In between the two schools, there is a building that looks like a run down church but they are renovating it. It is a beautiful school that is 6 levels. Each level has classroom and it seems to go by grades. I am on the first floor because I am in standard 1.
There were so many students outside of the school just playing and waiting for school to start. Our kids have uniforms that are a dark green color. The girls wear skirts and the boys wear pants. They all have a white collared shirt underneath a green sweater. All of the children were so excited to see us…they had smiles from ear to ear. They were waving and running towards us. Once they reached us, they hugged us, touched our arms, hair, and hands. They just hugged and hung on to me so tight and kept looking at me. At that moment, I knew why I was in Africa. These children were so passionate about us and just wanted love. I am so excited to come everyday and see those children.
The classroom that I am in has about 37 students. They all have a desk and chair but not all of them have pencils, erasers, or pen sharpeners. The teacher let me teach on the first day! It was a science lesson, but hey, I taught!! I loved seeing how happy those students were to see me teach them. They want to just look at me and admire my skin that sometimes they didn’t follow what I was teaching in science class. The teacher that I have is so helpful; I’m learning a lot from her and she is learning a lot from me. I asked her what some statements were in Swahili so that I could ask them to my students. I had free time after Tea Time, which occurs for about an hour, and I went to play outside with the kids. I asked them to sing me a song so that we can sing it together in a few days.
I did have trouble at first trying to talk to my teacher telling her that I need to teach math in the classroom because of my class that I am taking in America. It did get worked out and now I am teaching math and science lessons almost everyday. I was really surprised how the students learned their material because most of them don’t have text books. They all use notebooks, one for each subject, that is basically their textbook. They learn the material for about 20 minutes and then spend about 30-40 minutes copying down the material that the teacher wrote on the board. They have examples and exercises to copy. When they are done copying the material, they bring up their notebook for the teacher to check right on the spot. The teacher is checking for correct spelling and neat handwriting. If they don’t do it right, my teacher will bring up those students to the front of the classroom and have them stand and copy their work.
I am just beyond myself that I am here in Africa teaching in a school where the students barely speak english. They are having a hard time understanding what I am asking them to do when I am teaching and they are having trouble asking me questions because they ask me in Swahili. It will get better and like I said before, I have a very helpful teacher.
We pulled up to school and it was unlike any building I would have expected for a school. The building to the right was the high school, the building in the middle was abandoned (maybe a church?), and the building to the left was the elementary. The elementary building looked like a hotel converted into a school. There are 4 floors with one hallway that connects you to each classroom on the floor.
We met with the headmaster first and then with the academic headmaster. The academic headmaster asked us our names and grades/subjects we want to teach. Another teacher took the primary teachers (Michelle, Danielle, Abby, Aeriel, and myself) to our classroom teachers. It took some time because some of the teachers were not in the classroom yet! Interesting because American teachers have to be at school 15 minutes before school starts.
I met with my teacher, Joyce. She was older then I expected for a teacher in Arusha. Later I found out that she had been teaching for 14 years, but not all at the same school. In the classroom, the students were sitting in desks. There were a lot of children in my class (class 4-comprable to 4th grade in America). The students had a dress code of green sweaters, white collared shirts, and green pants of skirts. When a teacher entered the room all students stood up and chorally said “Good Morning Teacher. How are you today?” The teacher would respond “fine” which is like our “good.” The students would not sit down until the teacher says so. We checked homework and then had students copy their homework from the board.
After school: We were done with school around 1pm. Our guide that was scheduled to pick us up was not coming until 2pm. So we had time to kill. The elementary students were in and out of classrooms, eating rice, and playing on a mount of dirt. Other students were holding our hands and gathering around us. That was an amazing moment. Students were memorized with us as we were memorized with them. They had joy in their eyes and were very excited to see us. Aereil and Abby had some books so we were able to read them aloud. While we were reading books the children would literally be on top of us just listening. In America I would normally ask them comprehension, character, or prediction questions, but I got the hint that these students just wanted to be by us, listen to our voice, and be by us.