Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Week as Miss Jamie

Hello there!
When I last left you, I had just finished a mentally and physically exhausting trek north. We awoke early the next morning to begin our very first day in a Namibian classroom, with no one having any idea what to expect. After a nice breakfast and lesson planning session with my teaching partner for the week, Jessie, we were ready to teach our first lesson! We decided to do a lesson on comparing Namibian and American culture, and were hoping it would be a hit.We walked over to the school to wait for the learners, and got our first glimpse of Namibian classrooms. For all my fellow teachers out there, let me just say, we are spoiled in the States. These classrooms were a disaster. The first think I noticed was the trash. It seemed as if the bell rang on the last day and everyone just walked out and closed the door behind them (I later found out that this is exactly the case). Paper, wrappers  notebooks, backpacks, ripped books, and trash were piled on the floor, on the desks, and on the shelves. Once I looked past that, there was really nothing left- a rectangle room with cement walls and cement floors, old, broken, graffiti-ed desks and chairs, a ripped and drawn-on bulletin  board on the back wall flanked by two wooden shelves, and an old chalkboard at the front. (I'm pumped for the chalkboards though, I've missed those.) Teachers here typically are the ones that rotate, so there were no decorations on the wall. They were so barren compared to even the most bare-bones classroom in the US. One thing that we discovered immediately was that the sound of metal desk/chair legs on the cement floor is the most loud and obnoxious sound we had ever heard. Any time someone moves their chair or desk even the slightest bit, the sound drowns out any other sound in the room. Hurdle number one. 
A typical Namibian classroom.
After getting our materials ready for our lessons, we went outside to greet the first learners. We had no idea of how many to expect- this was there summer vacation after all- but Bret had assured us that plenty of kids would show up. We were supposed to start at 9:30, and at 9:20 we only had about 4 kids. We waited around for a bit and once we had accumulated about 15, we started. All throughout the lessons, kids kept trickling in. This is apparently extremely common here, punctuality is not as important as it is in the States, and students have a difficultly with the concept of time, so tardiness is rampant. Hurdle number two. 

Our first lesson went really well, and we were pleasantly surprised at how bright these kids were. Although there is obviously a language barrier, their spoken English was impressive for the most part, and we could tell  that they were all smart thinkers, even if they couldn't always articulate precisely what they wanted to say. They were also so much more respectful and eager to learn than most students in the States. I didn't once have to stop and ask students to stop talking! This may be due in large part to our role as "guest teachers" but I got the feeling that this is what they are like the majority of the time, so that will be nice. They seemed to really like our lesson on culture, and we received some very insightful thoughts from them about American culture. During one exercise, we asked them to think of foods that Americans like that Namibians don't. They three answers they came up with were sushi, crabs, and soy sauce (which explains why we couldn't find it in the store!). After the lessons were through and we said goodbye to the kids (we had about 50 by the end!) and then had our first debriefing session where we got to talk about our initial reactions to our own lessons and those of our colleagues. Our lesson received a good deal of praise from our fellow volunteers, and one of the other career teachers in the group complimented me on my cold calling technique, which was very nice to hear.

Because of the success of our lesson and Jessie and I decided to continue with that theme for the remainder of the week. We had students talk about their dream jobs and make their own business cards, plan how to save for a vacation, and create skits in which they have to interact with people from other cultures. The learners continued to get into our lessons and Jessie and I were pleased to be getting such good feedback. It was also fun to watch everyone discover their own teacher personalities and to gain comfort in front of the classroom. I am part of such a great group, and I know we will all have a great deal of success in our classrooms.  

Thursday came all too soon and we had to say goodbye to our learners, who we had quickly become attached to. All of the volunteers had their cameras out and the learners were having a great time hamming up for us. We finished the sessions by taking group photos and jamming out to the Cupid Shuffle and Waka Waka. While we will all miss these kids, we left feeling very excited to meet our own students and start in our own classrooms. 
Jessie and me with two of our learners, Monica and Maggie.

This post is starting to get long, so I think I'll write a separate one about my out-of-school experiences of the week. Hopefully I'll get it up soon!

Till then,


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