Saturday, June 04, 2005

Teaching and becoming a volunteer

Alright, its been a long time since ive written here; but remember - IM IN AFRICA - anyways, since last time ive taught in burkina classrooms of about a hundred kids and ive become a vrai volunteer.


id just like to say, to allay any worries from the beginning, that im an awesome teacher. but i didnt always know that. so heres how the story begins

before i came to africa i almost got a job teaching act/sat classes with kaplan testing service. but i didnt pass the training phase because i wasnt a good enough teacher. at the time i passed it off as a result of not caring about the program and thinking that it was entirely worthless and a complete rip off - i still believe that now - because i believed that, i did not prepare at all. but it did worry me a little i will admit. fast forward to burkina

we start our program by doing what they call a micro teach - 30 minutes in front of a classroom introducing a topic, introducing yourself, and then taking questions about america. it went well, but i only had about 10 kids there. i was introducing negative numbers and i tried to use a thermometer example only to realize that they had never seen a thermometer before. even with that, it still went well. then in gourcy, i was supposed to teach about protozoa but i started throwing up and didnt teach that day. instead the next day i taught in front of the other volunteers about the anatomy of a flower. it was pretty horrible. at this point i get a little bit worried. but then i realize, hey, i actually need to prepare. so instead of just writing down some notes, i pretty much memorize my entire lesson plan and i go slower. on monday i teach in bassi to around eighty students. i started a little slow, but it all went well and i just continued to get better as the week went on. the thing about being completely prepared is that it gives me complete confidence in front of the class. i command the class. i have a presence - thats actually what the other volunteers said - and i have what has now become known as the voice - when i was teaching a class in gourcy one day, one of our language teachers was observing a volunteer in another classroom right next to mine and she said she could here almost everything i was saying. it booms. it controls. it inspires fear. im also, as luck would have it, a male, which greatly increases control of the classroom. in addition to that, i also have fun in class. i write skits that i act out with the students. i use the students to demonstrate earthworm locomotion. i blow up baloons to demonstrate malaria and the destruction of red blood cells - my 2 hour malaria class in gourcy was by far the highlight of my teaching, the volunteer and the burkinabe teacher observing me offered no critiques saying that the lesson was simply awesome - i try to have at least one activity in each class that makes at least some of the kids stand up. i enjoy it a lot.

and i think that I like that Im teaching in french even more than in english. its like i become a different person when im up there teaching. im no longer shy english speaking tyler, instead im the french speaking teacher who commands the classroom with an hagi like iron fist - the hagi is one of the bassi characters, picture an african warlord. its great, and i have no real worries about my ability to be a great teacher here. now i just have to learn biology so that i actually know what im talking about instead of just making stuff up when they ask me questions.

Swearing In

we just got sworn in as official volunteers on friday. it was at the american ambassadors house. i gave a speech in moore - the most commonly spoken local language here - it was on tv - and then i got interviewed by the press, twice. im famous. I was also wearing a crazy africa suit that i had just bought that morning at a store right outside our hotel. i think i will right more on this later, my time here is running out. tomorrow i head to my village where i will be staying for the next four months doing nothing until school starts - it could be even longer if they cancel school until after the elections. who knows. im going to try and remember to post my address at my site when im in fada tomorrow. later.


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