Monday, July 21, 2008

Teaching in Swalinglish

On Tuesday, July 15, the LTP team began teaching at three government schools in Arusha: Themi Primary, Uhuru Primary, and Naura Primary. Whereas Arusha School, Shalom Primary, and St. Joseph's Secondary were English medium schools, the three schools at which we are now teaching are Swahili medium schools. Although the students take English classes, they speak very little functional English. As a result, my rudimentary Swahili skills have been getting an intense workout, but I've been pleasantly surprised that I really haven't had much trouble communicating with my students.

For this final stage of our LTP teaching, I am paired with Lindsay and Baldeep at Themi Primary School. From Tuesday to Friday of last week, we taught a standard 4 class (about age 10), a standard 6 class (about age 12), and a standard 7 class (about age 13). The standard 4 class was learning how to tell time (English time, because there is a different time system in Swahili), so we did a project about daily activities. The students photographed their activities at certain times of the day (for example, brushing teeth at 6:30 AM, going to school at 8:00 AM, etc.) and made posters that included the time, the accompanying picture, and a drawing of clock. Standard six photographed pictures representing English adjectives, and standard seven (which is currently learning about postcards) used their photos to create and write postcards to a "friend" in America. In the week that I'm home between the cruise and my semester abroad, I'm hoping to find an eighth-grade class to respond to the students' postcards.

Standard four students work on their time-telling posters.

Our standard four teacher at Themi helps her students with their poster.

On Thursday, Alia, Ami, Kaitlin, and I went back to our form 3 class at St. Joseph's (girls' secondary school) so that our students could present their misemo projects. We were extremely impressed with the students' final work, and their presentations were the best we've seen yet. In general, we've observed that students here are highly timid about speaking in English, especially in front of groups. It was wonderful to observe the existence of some viable leadership skills, especially among young women. When we left their class for the last time, we spent at least a half hour exchanging contact information and notes with the girls, and as we walked towards the door we were smothered in hugs and kisses.

A form 3 student presents her group's misemo project.

Part of one group's misemo project.

Our after-school projects at Arusha are coming to an end as well, and my book-making class has certainly been feeling the time crunch. My students must finish their books today, so towards the end of last week my students were staying (voluntarily, as always) for upwards of two and a half hours each afternoon working on their stories, illustrations, cover pages, dedication pages, title pages, and "About the Author" pages (each of which includes a photograph of the student author). The finished products are books with a laminated cover, spiral binding, and plastic back-cover. My students are between the ages of 10 and 13, and some of the books are twenty pages long. Although it has been exhausting to teach the class, grade the papers, and assemble the books all on my own, the book-making class has easily been one of my most fulfilling experiences here. When students are willing to stay for hours after school just to learn and be creative, how can you deprive them of resources and instruction? Even as I type, some government education officials are standing behind me, flipping through a few of the finished books and thanking me for the work I've done here. We've received an extremely warm welcome and a lot of support from the government, which has been very helpful in making our project successful and sustainable.

My book-making students working diligently.

My youngest book-making student decided to write this on the blackboard - I thought it was adorable.

Because this past weekend was our last one here, much of it was spent running around accomplishing lots of "leaving soon" tasks. We also had a batik art workshop on Saturday with Pelle and some friends of his, during which each of us spent about 7 hours completing a small piece of batik artwork. It was fun and interesting, and of course the final product makes a great souvenir. My batik was of two giraffes (because I've fallen in love with them), but the picture itself was traced from a calendar (because I completely lack artistic ability).

The batik workshop.

It's hard to believe that I have less than five days left in Tanzania. Between teaching three standard 3 classes at Themi, finishing my book-making class, preparing for the LTP Exhibition on Friday, and a whole host of other things, it's going to be an absolutely insane five days. At around 3 AM on Saturday, I'll be off to London...

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