Things I have learned so far…

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.


Things I have learned so far…

Ever since I stepped foot in Tanzania, I have been learning.  Everyday has new experiences to be had and to be learned.  Some things I have learned about myself, about teaching, the culture, and life in general.  But some things have stood out to me.


Things I have learned about culture:


I am glad this trip is filled with different excursions instead of just teaching in schools or sticking to touristy things.  Being able to see how people live in the city as compared to how people live in the rural country helps me see how different areas in Africa can be.  Before coming to Africa, I thought that it was mostly dry and not very populated.  Well was I wrong.  The city is very populated.  There are people everywhere, even when it is pouring rain outside.



Things I have learned while teaching:


There seems to be some wholes in students learning and connections of concepts.  I have sat in on math classes, assisted in, and taught math classes.  What I can gather from seeing students do math in these situations is that students are missing critical concepts.   One of the concepts that I came across were students not understanding (or relating) the sum of 7+7 is the same as the produce of 7×2.  To show how repeated addition and multiplication were the same I wanted to do a quick activity by reciting their time table 5 and marching by counting by 5’s.  As I thought about it more,  I do not think that my students would understand that the marching by 5’s would give them the same result as multiplying by 5’s.   It would turn into a whole class period lesson instead of a mini lesson or review.


Time is precious but should I give up my tea time?: Our time ran out to be in the classroom, but I was still working with these two students.  The teacher came up to me and noticed that we still had some work to finish on the problem.  She said, “Well I don’t know when I would help them.  I could during my tea time or later during play time.”  I quickly responded and told her I can finish up helping them and I will meet with her at our next classroom.  I could not believe what she said.  I was shocked to say the least.  In any American class a teacher is always more then willing to take time out of their day to help students.  There are specific teaching jobs to assist students with extra help.  I am not saying that my teacher here should be the main teacher as well as the assistant teacher, but not giving a students help with they clearly need it is not helping the student progress with their learning.


Majority Rules: I have taken the advantage of the ability about the power multiple examples has on students.  If most students understand the material then the teacher will move onto the next example.  The teachers do not go around and help students. Their idea of monitoring the class while they do classwork is standing and waiting for students to get done with their classwork, mark their classwork, and then move onto the next student to check their work.  I worked with two students in standard 4 in math.  I helped them before with the formula for perimeter of a rectangle and a square.  I figured that they were also going to need more help today. Today we used the formulas for perimeter of a rectangle and square to solve for the length or width depending on what shape.  These two students were lost.  I noticed that the teacher was still moving forward with the material because ¾ of the students were chorally responding to their questions.  Even as we went through the problem together, these two students were still having a rough time deciding where to put values of numbers and what to write next.


Things I have learned about myself:


  1. I like working with small groups.  For me it is easier for me to see where students are having misunderstandings.  From there I can assess where they are and guide them to the next step.
  2. I would rather stay in one classroom then switch every class period.  That way, if I want to spend more time on a topic or subject then I can.  I think that is also beneficial for the students.
  3. The safari was better then I expected.  I would rather see animals in their own habitat then in the zoo.
  4. I like warm weather.  No more snow for me!
  5. Bartering is the best way to get a good price.  I have learned to speak up and let people know they gave me two prices.  The first one low and then a higher second price. I know I am a mazungu (white person) but I know when you are trying to hike up prices.
  6. I love traveling.  It is better then reading books about distant places.  Having hands on and real time experiences makes everything worth it!

Things I’ve Learned

  1. I have learned to step very carefully out of Safari vehicles. There is a very big step from the first step to the bottom and if you are not careful enough… you will sprain your ankle.
  2. Moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi. That is how you count to 10 in Swahili. It is really awesome to ask the kids at school how to do this because they can count very super fast.
  3. I also learned how to cut grass using a machete. When we stopped in the Serengeti to get our flat tire fixed there was a man cutting grass. I really wanted to help him cut it, so I took over the machete and started chopping. It would take extremely long to cut the grass that way, but the method definitely works.
  4. I learned how to blow air using a tire to keep a fire burning at a blacksmith shop. I had to switch from left arm to right arm and open and close the tops at the same time.
  5. I learned that I am not as claustrophobic as I think I am. I crawled into a teensy tiny little cave in the ground where the Chagga and Masai villagers would hide when they were fighting years ago.
  6. I also learned that I love African food. Tonight we had rice and some carrot pudding. It was different but still good.
  7. I have learned that I do not need the internet and my cell phone as much as I think I do. It is actually very nice to have more reflection time to myself, especially with all of the new things I am seeing and hearing. Rather than spending that time on the internet.
  8. I learned to be flexible while teaching and sometimes having to think very quickly on my feet. Being prepared doesn’t always mean you are actually prepared.
  9. I have learned to travel lightly and that all the materialistic things that I need in America, I do not necessarily need in Africa. Except for money, but not always a large quantity.
  10. I have learned to never take a day for granted, especially while in Africa. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I am realizing that everyday. You can do anything you put your mind too… even with a sprained ankle. 🙂

Things I have learned so far

With the trip already half over stopping to think about things that I have learned so far is really helping me to realize how much this experience has taught me.  The amount of lecture and meeting time in which I would have needed to be thoroughly prepared for this trip would not have been practical.  From the different personalities to the school and commerce systems here in Arusha, I am learning things that people who have never been here will probably not be able to learn.


Tanzania’s greatest asset, the people would be hard to describe in a within a novel.  Tanzanian’s who may be looking for their next meal or business connection or citizens just wanting a couple minutes of your time to know about you, sprawl the city streets from sun up to sun down.  I have learned that millions of people can coexist for the most part, despite different languages, tribal backgrounds and dire economic situations in a downtown in which you could count the traffic signals on both hands.


The opportunity to teach here has taught me how resilient teenagers can be when facing an uphill battle.  Students here look forward to the privilege to take notes and learn something that they did not know the day before.


Outside of the things native to Tanzania that I have learned, is what a great group of people I am here with on this trip with.

Things I have learned so far

I have learned so much on this trip so far! The first thing I have learned is mostly about myself as a teacher and how I want my classroom to be structured. I have learned how important I feel that group work and discussions are. It has been very hard on me to plan lessons here and follow through on them because my teachers have been telling me exactly what they want me to do, almost step by step, and every time I have tried to incorporate some sort of group work or collaboration they have intervened and asked the kids to work on their own. I have also learned a lot about how much I want my students to feel safe and comfortable in my classroom. I have really been taken aback a couple times having the students ask me if I would like a stick (as in to hit them with) and every time I have respond by basically saying no, under no circumstances would I ever hit them. It is just very strange and eyeopening to have a child offer you a tool that they know is used to hurt them and their fellow classmates.

Next, I have learned a lot about the african culture and environment here in Arusha. It is very strange for me now to look back at how things are in America in terms of clothing and the way people present themselves in relation to how people present themselves here. Africa is definitely a lot more reserved than America and honestly, it is very refreshing to see people dressed modestly and respectfully while out in public. In terms of culture, I have learned that i really do not care for curry! Most of my meals here have consisted of rice, rice, and some more rice. I have tried a lot of the different foods here and have really enjoyed most of them, especially the ice cream! The environment here in Arusha is also extremely fast paced which is a bit of a culture shock for me. I would relate the driving here to that of downtown Chicago with cars speeding and horns honking everywhere! This kind of city atmosphere is definitely something that I am not used to coming from Traverse City, Michigan.

Lastly, I have learned a lot about myself as an individual. Typically, I am very shy and keep to myself but this experience has really forced me to come out of my comfort zone in so many different ways. All of the kind and outgoing people here have done nothing but encourage me and have helped me grow and learn so much. All of their outgoing personalities have helped me to feel more comfortable in my own skin and with who I am both of which I could not be more grateful for. This trip really has been the experience of a lifetime!

Things I have learned so far

This past week was a great week at school and in town. So many people are recognizing us on the street and school has been going a lot smoother.

At school, I have learned so many interesting things about how students learn, Tanzanian culture, and things about my teachers. This week, I have taught math and science. In the math lessons, I taught how to add and subtract vertically and horizontally. The students learn in a way of counting sticks together (for addition) and cutting sticks (for subtraction). For science this week, I taught about sitting and walking proper, and HIV/AIDS. I have learned that the language barrier is the hardest thing about teaching here. I try to ask the students questions about the math or science and they only respond with “yes”. I ask the questions in a different way, but the students still have a hard time answering what I am asking them. I have tried different ways of getting responses and it has worked great. I modeled first how to do something, then I would say, “tell me all together” and they would repeat what I just said. They understand better by choral response and I noticed that in their classwork notes. Also, I stepped out of the comfort zone of the students and did an activity that didn’t involve writing in their notebooks for classwork. The students will always learn a lesson for about 15-20 minutes and then they will copy the notes in their notebook. This copying process takes a very long time because they are such young students. I learned that they LOVE the individual attention by me so I tried a math activity that involved picking cards. I went to each students desk and had them pick a card. I would have 2 students pick one card at a time and then I would tell them to either add or subtract those two numbers. This was such a different experience for these students because they weren’t used to doing a classroom activity. I learned that my teacher wanted to really teach the way I did.

I have also learned a lot about Tanzanian culture by just talking to my math teacher, Rehma. She was asking me and telling me about differences or similarities in America. She first asked me if I was married and how marriage works in the USA. I told her that I wasn’t married but had a boyfriend for a long time. She told me that usually women get married here at a young age and then have kids. She has 3 children 12, 8, and 4 months and she has been teaching for over 10 years at Lutheran. Then we talked about beggars on the street here and beggars on the street in the US. She told me that we had to be careful because some of the beggars use the money for drugs or other bad habits. She also told me that those people will sit out on the streets and just wait for people to give them money. Most of the women will cook corn, beans, and nuts and try to sell those to make money for their families. Then we talked about religion here and in the US. She said most of the people she knows are either Lutheran or Roman Catholic. They have certain times during the day for prayer where everyone goes to pray. She asked me if we had certain times and I just told her that I go to church on Sunday’s and other people can go to church more than once a week if it is offered. I also shared with her that we can pray when we need to pray, like when we need to ask for forgiveness, pray for meals, before bed, and for guidance. She was shocked to hear that we could pray whenever we needed too because their prayers are always scheduled. I learned so much about her culture and a little about Tanzanian culture last week that I am so interested in hearing more this coming up week!

On the street, we made friends with the locals who have been trying to sell us items at the beginning of the week and now they don’t try to sell us things anymore. They will help us cross the street because the streets are super crazy here! They will also ask us about Michigan and Obama. They are becoming our friends and they are really nice to everyone which makes us all feel more comfortable while walking. I just love the culture here in the streets and seeing how friendly people are. I learned a lot about the street life and how much people want to talk to us. I love being here with all the hustle and bustle of the city!