I haven’t talked too much about my kids yet, which is a shame because they’re the best part of my trip. I teach class 5, which are 9 to 12 year olds. I’ve been teaching them for almost three weeks and I’ve only finally learnt all their names.
The geography teacher asked me at the end of my first week to teach for him. I couldn’t really understand why, he just said, can you help me. I said sure. Then he gave me the geography book and told me which section to teach. He said that it was going to be on the exam.
Teaching any science subject is quite simple at the elementary age. You basically write everything on the board and the kids copy it. There’s no conceptual knowledge, everything is fact based and all the kids have to do is memorize it.
I’m a slow writer on the chalk board. I write slow and unnecessarily big. Compared to the other teachers who have spent years writing on the board, I look like a child learning to write.
On my first day of teaching geography, I spent most of the class writing the notes. When break started, I continued to write because I wanted to get ahead. Most of the kids had left to play outside but some of the kids stayed to finish copying.
They grumbled and said, “teachah, why are you still writing?”, but then continued to copy. Then finally Judith (one of my brightest students, she’s this little tiny girl, adorable) cried out, “TEACHAH, YOU’RE SUPPOSE TO HAVE TEA WITH THE OTHER TEACHAHS”.
The teachers here all drink tea together in the office during break and eat mendazi (deep fried bread, basically an unfrosted donut). I usually play with the kids instead cause all the teachers speak in Swahili. I feel pretty out of place.
Another funny story from geography:
I taught them about different minerals that are mined in East Africa my first geography class. My second geography class, I asked them to make a chart listing all the minerals, where they’re found and what they’re used for. They’re pretty much just putting their notes into a chart so it’s easier for them to study.
I told them to write one mineral at a time on the chart and to fill in all the information for that mineral before writing down the next mineral. That way you’re sure to have enough space for all your notes.
One kid, Abdulrazza (mouthful, I know) had written all the minerals in a column which left no space for notes on the side. He asked if he should make a new chart, I said no, you can just cross out some of the minerals to make more space. Then he stared at me with wide eyes and said, “but teachah, my mothah will beat me”.
Oh my goodness, these children are the reason I live.
This may come as a shock to some people, but they hit children here in school. It’s not physical abuse, it’s “disciplinary”.
Julia teaches a preschool class for the entire morning. When Ana and I don’t have class, we go to Julia’s to bother her. Her kids are so cute. The teacher for that class teaches the younger kids while Julia teaches the slightly older ones on the other side of the room. I haven’t seen the teacher do any actual teaching. She goes over the homework with one student at a time, meanwhile the rest of the class does nothing.
One day, the class was going INSANE. Julia gave up teaching her students because the younger ones were so loud. They were running around, moving chairs, lifting tables (this little boy was holding the entire table bench over his head) and screaming. It was like watching a zoo.
The teacher finally had enough and yelled at them. She told them to line up against a wall and proceeded to give each kid three slaps on the hand with a ruler. The kids who had gotten their slaps went to sit down at the desk. They weren’t gentle slaps, they had some girth to it.
Some kids handled it like it was nothing. They showed no emotion and sat down like nothing happened. Some kids started crying and others tried to move their hands to avoid being slapped, but that just made the teacher hit them more.
I was unfazed. My dad had hit me like that a couple of times when I was younger. It was nothing new to me. But Julia and Ana were so distraught. Julia asked if she should tell the teacher to stop, and Ana started crying. They couldn’t believe that teachers can do that to children. They know that it’s cultural and it’s not their place to judge. It got kinda awkward after so we left quietly as fast as possible.