First Impressions – Arusha School

When we first got to the school, I was so excited, especially seeing all the little children walking on the way. The youngest students were in their classrooms and as we walked by, they shouted “Hello!” and waved through the windows. I was really looking forward to working with the little students, but we found out we had to walk a ways to a new building where the headmistress was located. The campus was really pretty and I loved all the unique buildings with courtyards, but they were clearly run-down. The headmistress had a very impressive office complete with a big desk, conference table, large bookcase, fireplace, and couches. She was very friendly and welcoming. She invited us to sit down on the couches and took her time getting to know us. I had expected that she would give us assignments and we could be in the classrooms as soon as possible. We signed into her visitor book and then wrote on a paper which content we preferred to teach. She called in the dean and another faculty member. While we waited for them to come, she talked with us and thought it odd that English was the only language we spoke and we didn’t have another, similar to their tribal language in addition to Kiswahili (Swahili). The other faculty members came and the dean took us to the teachers’ lounge, where we sat for several hours waiting for our assignments. I was confused by the teachers’ lounge why so many teachers were sitting in there while class was going on. I was also frustrated that we had to wait so long to get into the classroom. The teachers in the lounge were friendly enough but didn’t go out of their way for us, except for Baraka, a geography teacher who sat and talked with us for at least an hour. After being invited for tea time, we were given our classroom assignments. At first, I was really hoping to work with the youngest students all day, all subjects, but I didn’t realize that every class has a new teacher for each subject. I am assigned with Anskar in class 5B math, which I was honestly a little disappointed about because I thought the students would be quite a bit older and I was looking forward to working with the young ones. Anscar took me to his office where he showed me the syllabus (standards) and another small textbook he used. He seemed very knowledgeable and willing to help me teach, which I was excited about. We then went to his classroom where the students greeted me with song. I was surprised that they were not as old as I had expected them to be. For the first of the two periods the students had for math, Anscar taught while I observed. I was glad for this so that I wasn’t just thrown into teaching the whole lesson myself. He was teaching about multiplying fractions. He first did a review of adding fractions and LCMs, which I was relieved, glad, and surprised to see. This is obviously a good teaching method, so that was nice to see, but I was also a little surprised at how much they already knew. He also went over some multiplication of fractions problems, though the students already knew that you must multiply across for both numerators and denominators. After writing about five or six problems on the board and having alternating boys and girls come up to do the problem, he said, “Ok, so for the last problem, a tough one, let’s have a boy.” This was interesting to me. I still question whether his motive was that only boys could likely do the tough problem or simply because the previous problem was done by a girl so now it is a boy’s turns. Either way, no one volunteered, but a boy was chosen and could not do it, so a girl raised her hand and she completed it correctly. Other than that, I felt that the girls and boys were treated fairly and equally overall. Anscar then invited me to the front and asked me to do some problems with the students. I was appreciative that he allowed me to teach, though I was caught off guard and was not prepared at all. I quickly thought of a few problems and had the students come to the board to solve. They turned out to be mixed numbers and messier than I had intended, but the students did fine so I suppose it was a good challenge for them. When I was done with that, I helped a couple students pass out the notebooks to the rest of the class while Anscar wrote down the exercise problems the students were to do. He then left and told me to stay with the students as they did their work. They had a half an hour to do it which was more time than necessary, as many students finished early and then had nothing to do. At 11:50, when math was over and a new teacher was to come in, Anscar was nowhere to be found and neither was the new teacher, so I didn’t know what to do. I waited about ten minutes until the new teacher for their Kiswahili lesson finally came. I wasn’t sure where to go, so I headed towards Anscar’s office. I met with the rest of my group outside his office and we chatted for a while before being invited for lunch in the teachers’ lounge. While we were waiting for lunch, two girls brought in two large stacks of 50 students’ notebooks, saying “teacher, Mr. Anscar says these are for you teacher.” I went and asked Anscar if he wanted me to grade them, which he did and showed me how. Some of my group members helped me to grade them, which took a lot less time than we expected when we first saw those two large stacks! Even though it seemed like a lot of work at first, but I appreciated the experience it gave me and being able to see their notebooks, which were clearly only for homework exercises. The students have break from 12:30-2:00, so we just walked around campus a little bit and looked at the classrooms and played with some students, who were all over the entire campus, including inside and outside without supervision. That was slightly nerve-racking to me, but I realize that is normal for them which is pretty neat. I had expected lots of confusion and not a great day today, but I actually had a lot of fun and it was so interesting to see how such a different culture runs education and schooling, and what their facilities look like. I had a lot of fun and am excited to teach tomorrow, even though I do not have a very clear idea on what I will teach. But what would be the fun in that or the experience learned if I did?

About rachelwehner

Hello! My name is Rachel and I just finished my third year of college. I am a senior at Grand Valley State University and I am majoring in Elementary Education and Mathematics. In the fall of 2013 I took a leap of faith and decided to apply to a study abroad program to go and teach at a school in Tanzania, Africa. Next thing you know, I am packing my bags, ready to fly halfway around the world. Follow me along on this blog to hear of my experiences and adventures I encounter along the way of this incredible and once-in-a-lifetime journey!
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