Monday November 16: Final preparations for the week ahead. The challenges are:
What level of English will the teachers have? The report we had in advance from the school is that they aren’t very capable in English but are expected to teach in English
How many students will turn up?
What level of English will the students have?
We have promised that we will show cartoons to the students, but this poses more challenges:
- Will electricity be working at the school?
- Will the screen be sufficient to project images onto using the school’s projector?
- The only film that seems to be working is “Frozen” – is this too alien for students that never experience temperatures below 20 degrees celsius?
We have some exercises prepared by 3pm but it seems that the photocopier shops all shut at 3pm and don’t reopen until we’re due at school!
Tuesday November 17: Well 16 of the 24 teachers showed up. Timekeeping wasn’t great, but we got through the first “Getting to know” you exercise. We discovered that one of the teachers has a lucrative second line of business as a broiler chicken farmer, no-one has a computer and none of the teachers can drive. A couple of the teachers live in houses with more than one room and at lunch time we were invited to see one of the houses that has more than 5 rooms. They are very basic, cooking is done on an open fire but there is electricity and a very old TV.
After lunch Gasica, Caroline and I sat watching the clock turn two o’clock and we started to think about other ways we could spend the afternoon. By 2.15pm the first students had arrived and then by 3pm the classroom was full to over flowing...a total of 47 children showed up, from 5 to 18 and a few adult learners as well. The only video we had got to work was “Frozen” so we had a surreal afternoon discussing snowmen and handed out free pencils at the end of class.
Wednesday November 18: Our first drive to the school without Hassan to guide us through the traffic. The hour-long drive goes through a busy market where minibuses start and stop at random, bicycles and people meander across theand there is frequent use of the horn. Caroline does a sterling job in negotiating the hazards andbecomes adept at frequent use of the horn.
Additional teachers show up including a bright young English and Geography teacher who has just started at the secondary school opposite. We showed them how we used “Frozen” as a listening and comprehension exercise and they become as expert as the students at drawing snowmen on the blackboard!
The afternoon starts slowly, but after an hour we have more than a hundred children, divided into two classes. I have the older group and Caroline and Gasica have the younger group. Part 2 of “Frozen” works well, but teaching how to ask questions is more difficult as the students are more used to rote learning and being taught in Swahili than TEFL-style. At the end of the two hours we realise that we have to adapt our teaching style to the mass-market needs rather than the assumption of a select tutorial group that we learnt about on our course.
Thursday November 19: The setbacks today included the classroom lock not responding to the key that had worked the previous day and a power cut. So no “Frozen”, but plenty of snowmen on the blackboard. We are giving the kids lots of encouragement and they are learning words like “amazing” – they aren’t used to much encouragement from parents or teachers, so this is quite a novelty. We had a very good session with the teachers in which we had 3 breakout groups to give them an opportunity to do short English language presentations.
We're trying to enforce a prompt(ish) start time – Gasica is reminds everyone that 1pm is “European time” not “Swahili” time. We make a point of doing something fun at 1pm so students arriving late feel they are missing out. Today was learning the “Hockey Cokey” and they are now adept at “Shaking it all about”. We’ve hit on a format of Gasica taking the youngest kids for the first hour. Some of them can barely read or write. Meanwhile Caroline and I do a double act with the intermediate class. Then we teach the youngest children songs and games for the second hour when attention is starting to lapse.
Friday November 20: We're fairly exhausted at the end of the first week of teaching but get together with Gasica to plan the strategy for the next four weeks...