The last four weeks in Tanzania has flown by faster than I expected. In the little time we have spent in Tanzania I have learned so much about the culture, education, and everyday life in a developing country. These new findings will only benefit me as I continue my education in the secondary mathematics field.
We were always told beforehand that you might have to teach a class and have absolutely no lesson plans for. It was very tough to prepare for something like this. As I gained more experience I have found that it does get easier. The first couple times going into a new math classroom or other subjects I was nervous because I did not know at all what I was getting myself into. I have now gained much more confidence with the experience I have gained here that I can walk into a classroom and teach something to the students. You have to think quickly on your feet, which I have gotten so much better at compared to when I first came here. I have always relied heavily on a structured plan for what I was going to teach for the day. I now realize that I do not need as much of a structured plan to have an effective lesson. These changes to the prepared lesson known as instructional decisions have become very prevalent in my lessons. I think this is a good thing because you are adjusting to the students. No class is alike so a lesson plan for one class may have to be done a different way for another class. I have gained a lot of experience making these quick changes to the lesson to benefit my students which has allowed me to improve my teaching abilities.
There are so many citizens of Tanzania that are very nice and love to talk to foreigners. They try to sell something a lot of the times, but will have a conversation doing it. They attempt to teach some Swahili to the foreigners and love when people attempt to speak Swahili. They laugh and try to correct them, but it is not personal. They just want to teach their language, sell something, and are interested in learning more about the country the foreigners come from. I thought it was amazing when we played football against the safari drivers that the field was lined with spectators. Many people of Tanzania love to play football and love watching foreigners take on citizens of Tanzania. I am more of an outdoors kind of person and loved seeing so many people outside every single day, even when it was pouring down raining. I do not understand when it is a beautiful day in America and see so many people stay inside. Seeing all these people working outside or enjoying the day outside was refreshing to me that I cannot say that is true with America.
I have come to appreciate the American educational system and the teachers even more since coming here. Of course the system and the teachers are not perfect, but they are the best we have. This is especially true for the educational system. Debates have gone on for years about the problems of the educational system, but no resolutions have been made. It is the best we have, and for the most part has been effective. Many teachers in Tanzania do not have motivation to go to class, skip class often, leave class after five minutes, or just don’t show up for school at all. This frustrates me more than anything because when a teacher is not motivated to be at school, they just pass along that message to the students and the students then are unmotivated at school. I was not expecting Tanzania education to not have substitute teachers in the event that a teacher does not come to school. If a teacher does not show up to school, the students do not have class and are allowed to play around in their classroom. I think this is unacceptable, but I have learned that schools are tight on money so any expense, like paying for substitute teachers may stretch their budget too much. Also, America has so much more resources at our disposal compared to a Tanzanian classroom. Students in Tanzanian schools are lucky to have a library to use. In America we take that for granted and if there is a school without a library, it is a big deal and people raise money to put a library in for the students.
I have also come to appreciate America even more. Electricity is rarely knocked out which is not the case in Tanzania. We have so many resources in the classroom and in everyday life that we just take for granted. This trip has opened my eyes to how good we have it back home.
The students in Tanzania are just like the students in America. There are not many differences between the two. Of course the majority of the native backgrounds are not the same, but this is only a small difference. They just want to learn and do not care who teaches. They have come to really appreciate the American teachers that have come on this trip since we do our best to transmit information to them that easiest way possible since there is somewhat of a language barrier between us. Kids are kids and they want to have fun and hang out with their friends in schools. There exist the same social classes in the schools for both countries. However in both countries, the students know the real reason for going to school and that is to learn. These were evident in both American and Tanzanian classrooms.
Tanzania is a beautiful country that I would love to visit one day again. There are things here that can only be appreciated only if you visit this country. The safaris, national parks, and geography are only the beginning to this place. However, as far as living permanently, Tanzania is not the right place for me. I have learned I am more of an independent and structured person than I thought I was before leaving for this trip. I have come to appreciate America and the luxuries we have so much more since visiting here. Having said that, I would love to teach in Tanzania for a month again like what we just did, and is definitely on my bucket list to come back and visit in the near future.