School fees are very important to schools in Tanzania. On our last day of school they were taking their monthly exams. These exams are taken very seriously and are all day long. I was in charge of watching grade 7 math for the first two hours. It started at 8:30 and went until 10:30. At 8:30, when the exams were supposed to begin, there were less than 10 students in the class. It did not take until almost 9 until most of the students came to the exam after paying their fees. One girl did not come to class until after 9:30.
I will take this and use it the rest of my life, just showing the students you care goes a long ways. The teachers at assumption are very nice and welcoming, but they do not show any of the students the time of day. Especially outside of the classroom. I believe that ever since we started going to Assumption, the students have had a better attitude about coming to school and enjoy themselves. It is amazing how gradually overtime the students kept responding to us better and better. Just getting to know them and having them becoming comfortable around us creates a positive learning environment. At the beginning of our trip, the students were afraid to answer a question incorrectly on the board. I can see why, while observing Tanzanian teachers, I saw them laugh at students when they completed a problem incorrect. I would be afraid to come to the board if there was a chance I would be laughed at. About half way through our trip, students became comfortable coming to the board because they felt a stress free environment.
I am really overjoyed that I choose the profession of teaching. One lasting impression is, if my students in my future classroom are anything like my Assumption students, I will have the best job in the world. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a child understand a concept or just making a difference in a child’s life. I know we have made a difference, especially when the students are asking all of us GVSU students to please stay for another month.
When I now think about Africa or more specifically Tanzania, I think of very smart, determined, and genuinely kind people. I do not just think of elephants, lions, giraffes, and village people living in huts. My whole view has changed. I now think of children who want to be doctors, lawyers, and accountants. I do not just think of children who will spend their whole life living off of the land. There are children that will do this, but not all children will grow up with that lifestyle. I will think about how content and happy so many people are with so little material possessions. It just shows that wealth is not always based off of how much money you own.
I would never have guessed how beautiful Tanzania is with all of the mountains and jungles. I will think of the amazing landscape and not only the endless plains of the Serengeti. Not only will I miss Tanzania, the students, the teachers, and the safari drivers, I will also miss all of the people on this trip. I believe that everyone has gotten along so well for living together for a month. Everyone has been so accepting of everyone else, and we all go out of our way to make sure everyone is included.
Ending on a not so serious note, I will never forget traveler’s diarrhea or how everyone was so comfortable talking about it. I will not forget how 30 people squeeze into a van made for 7 or 8 people. I will not forget the lunches at school that made my stomach turn just by staring at it. Most important, I will always remember the smiles that were always so big on the students faces.