teaching, learning and living around the world
Each month that passes, my Swahili and weekly routine become richer and richer. When I first arrived to Goma I spent every morning at the small school at Heal Africa’s hospital, and every afternoon studying Swahili. Now, my Swahili gives me the capacity to work independently- allowing me to pack much more into each week.
Monday, Friday: I go to the GSF Mugunga School. The first hour on Mondays is like church- the students sing and a handful of teachers read from the bible and offer a short sermon. Then I meet with the director about various nuts and bolts as well as projects we hope to develop this year. Afterwards I observe two classes on my own. At 11:45 we have an early release, except one class of students stays. Then all the teachers and director observe one teacher for a 40 minute lesson. Afterwards the kids go home and the faculty stays to have an in depth discussion about strengths, weaknesses, and suggested strategies. The teachers know each other well, and they offer lots of great insight. Yesterday we had a good laugh when one of the teacher’s hadn’t shared her critique yet, so the director asked for her thoughts. She said, “Well, I know this isn’t that serious… but why on earth didn’t you open up the door and the windows?! It was so HOT we were all suffocating!!!” We all erupted into laughter- we’d all been wondering the same thing. The teacher responded with, “Well look! When I have the windows open like this, the kids all bang their heads on them!” We sympathized, suggested shifting the desks around, and continued laughing.
On Fridays there is a normal, full school day (ending at 12:40). First I meet with the director, then I observe several different classes. After school I teach the faculty English. I’d been resisting teaching ESL since August, but finally caved when they explained how they hate it when visitors and donors come to the school and they are unable to communicate. So- the theme of our class is connecting with guests. I’m hoping that by the end of the school year every teacher will be able to give a school tour in English, explain a few of the school songs in English, and the director will be able to tell the school’s history in English! (As we work through this I’m hoping to create a trilingual book about the school and teachers, with all the information in Kiswahili, Francais and English.)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: I co-teach at the Tungane School in the morning. Since I arrived in August we made the decision to limit our curriculum to focus only on basic literacy, basic math, drawing, singing and drama. For the most part attending Tungane is a safe space for the children- a place where they are loved, and given engaging activities to participate in. Recently we did a letter and photo exchange with a class in Alexandria- the kids shared one thing that makes them happy. It was fascinating!
In the afternoons I go to Lycee Amani, an all girls Catholic school. I am assisting the librarian in digitizing their card catalogue. I enjoy this because it’s easy to chit chat (in Swahili) as we match books with barcodes, tape them on and scan them into the computer. I’m thrilled to be able to serve the school in this way as the sisters, faculty and I continue to get to know each other. Next week the students have exams, and when the new semester begins my role there will evolve, but we’re still working out exactly how… more on that in March!
Swahili: I still have highs and lows with Swahili. Some days leave me feeling great- proud that I was able to express myself for all occasions. Other days leave me feeling defeated- frustrated that there are still SO MANY words that I have yet to learn. I don’t take formal lessons anymore, as I feel like I’m comfortable with basic grammar and structures. At this point I carry around a small notebook and write down about ten words each day that I hear and learn through conversation. Overall, I know that each day I spend immersed in Swahili leaves me one step closer to becoming fluent.
Connecting Teachers: I’ve scoped out a week at the end of April when I hope to arrange a 3-5 day teaching workshop with local and international teachers. I’ve thought long and hard over the past six months about what we might be able to accomplish. (Like Swahili, I have highs and lows about this as well.) So far the plan is to create a survey for local teachers (that’s neither too open nor too narrow) about what they might be interested in discussing, exploring and learning about. Then I hope to spend sufficient time working with workshop leaders to create a brilliantly enriching experience for all involved. Also, I’m beginning to ask various folks here about their experiences arranging similar conferences or workshops… more on that to come!
My experience is constantly evolving.
Slowly, but evolving nonetheless.
I feel like June is already just around the corner…
So much to do!