The First Day of School

Today I experienced my first class at Cindis-Hope. Here they don’t teach by age but grade assessment. Since many of the children experienced spotty learning in school, that means one child might be second grade in math, first grade in English, and third grade in Swahili. Our class has about 6 at any given time.

I worked with Teacher Faith, who is also the head of the elementary division. She showed me the ropes, and is teaching both second and third grade. I won’t be surprised if sometime soon she has me start teaching second grade. The way they teach is very strange-the curriculum is meant to help children who are behind catch up, but it is structured in a way I have never seen before! You read the text straight from the teacher’s book, and then have all the children respond together or by themselves. And for them to respond you give a signal, either a snap of the fingers or a tap on the table. It was the most repetitious, boring thing I have ever seen. Sue, the person I am staying with, tells me it works exceedingly well. I have yet to be convinced.

It was a long day, and after break Teacher Faith had me grading workbooks. Apparently she fell behind over the weekend-and what a lot of workbooks there were! I had an especially hard time grading their math work-there is a shortage of paper here, so they stress using less paper to do your work. In my experience this leads to sloppy math, and easy mistakes-although I do understand where they are coming from.

After class I pulled one of the little girls aside-Sharron, and went over some of the math with her. I think she is a visual/hands on learner, and the way they are teaching math really wouldn’t work for that learning style. She was having a hard time visualizing 3D objects on the paper-like pyramids and hexagonal prisms. I’m not sure how well I explained it, since we don’t really have these objects on hand. She is a quiet girl though, and fears messing up, so I can tell the math is not helping her confidence. Hopefully she will be able to understand the concepts as we go along.

I had to wait for someone to take me home-all the dirt roads look the same. There is only one paved road ( called the tarmac road) going through town. While I was waiting I asked the children how to say some Swahili words. Next thing I knew they had taken my notebook and were writing them down for me, one after the other! I had to get them to stop at the end of the page-I don’t think I can learn more than one page a day. Sue told me she wanted to learn Swahili, but she has been here almost two years and barely knows ten words, so I challenged her to a competition-whoever learns the most words before I go home is the winner. I am hoping to encourage her to put forth a little more effort.

So today hasn’t been the most exciting day, but overall I think it was an enjoyable experience. I just hope the names start clicking soon-please children quit looking the same. Please, please, please, please.