Things I Have Learned in Tanzania

Over the past three weeks I have learned so much about the people, the culture, and the educational system of this great country of Tanzania that we have been living in. I have also learned so much about myself as a teacher and how I can improve my own teaching back in the United States. Although I can’t possibly explain everything I have learned, here are just a couple of things I have learned so far on this trip:

1) Every single person you encounter will say “Jambo” (which means hello) to you, even if they don’t look happy! It is part of the Tanzanian culture to greet everyone.

2) It isn’t always sunny and hot in Africa. The first week it rained every day on our way to school. In fact, it’s been raining all day today as well.

3) A youth hostel is not the place to find the Headmaster of the school. Our Sekei group walked into the wrong building right from the get-go and they had no idea what we were doing there. Needless to say it got a good laugh.

4) Pole Pole – this means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this over the course of the past three weeks. The way of life here moves at a slower pace than anywhere else and the locals are always reminding us to slow down!

5) 30 white people (Mzungu as the locals call us) walking through Arusha is quite a sight! We receive a lot of looks when we all walk together

6) Street vendors will do anything to get you to buy their products. This usually includes acting friendly, asking your name, and where you are from as well as calling you “my friend” or “my brother from another mother”. And believe me, they never forget your name and will spot you from a mile away in the city!

7) After three weeks of non-American food, we will do almost anything for a taste of home! On our free day, a group of us went to McMoody’s (which is like a Tanzanian McDonald’s) and all got burgers and fries. Tonight at dinner we had pizza and French fries and it was the best thing ever!

8) Tea time is the best part of the day. Every day at school we are given tea (which is actually quite delicious) and either bread or chapati. This small snack usually helps get me through the rest of the day.

9) There’s no such thing as a substitute teacher in Tanzania. If the teacher doesn’t show up, the students sit in the classroom for the whole day by themselves. That’s where we come in: to teach those no-show teachers’ classes.

10) Tanzanian people know more about American than Americans do. Our students and teachers are constantly asking us about politics in America and if we know Obama.

11) Tanzanian students (and teachers) are so appreciative of us coming here to teach. The students respond so well to our teaching and are generally excited to have us teach them. The teachers are excited to get to know about us and how we teach in America.

12) Education in Tanzania is seen as a privilege, not a right. Schooling here is not free to the public as it is in America. Students have to pay to come to school. Because they have to pay, they take their schooling way more seriously. Students value every moment they have at school!

13) It’s a struggle to teach students in a language other than their primary language, but it is possible. A lot of the students in my classes struggle with English so I have to slow down or explain things a couple different ways to make sure they understand. It’s difficult but it is definitely doable. This really helps prepare pre-service teachers for ELL students they may encounter in their own classes.

14) Hamna shida – It means “no worries”. If something (like a lesson you planned) doesn’t go as well as planned, just say hamna shida.

15) Everything is a learning experience. I’ve learned to embrace the good moments and the bad moments of teaching and of this trip in general and use them to help me in the future.

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