In the past 3 weeks I have probably learned more than any other 3 weeks of my life. I have also learned a more diverse range of information than at any other time. The knowledge I have acquired ranges from random facts related to everyday life in Tanzania, Tanzanian culture, Maasai culture, Tanzania’s educational system, that Tanzanians are the friendliest people, how to cross the road without dying, and how to bargain with street vendors so that I do not pay a mzungu price. However, of everything I have learned the information that will stay with me the longest are those related to my experiences teaching and in the schools. I have learned a lot about education and about myself as a teacher. But one thing that I am confronted with every day is the importance of understanding content over memorization. All of the students I have met here are smart and capable of learning the information. However, the style of teaching that is common here relies primarily on memorization. When students are asked to define a word or concept they read the information directly from their notes. While some of the students may understand what they are reading, it is clear that many do not. Students are taught directly out of textbooks which are written in English and many students are not familiar with important words in these books. As a result they copy down notes without fully understanding the content and they simply memorize what is written. The same phenomena is common in the U.S. Students are asked to memorize definitions, dates, and people. However, being able to produce this information for a test does not mean that they understand it. This experience has helped give me a better understanding of learning and I hope to apply what I learned in my future classrooms.
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