Saturday, October 15, 2005

school - the basics. interesting stuff to come later

The first two weeks of school have passed and I have dominated. Not really, but I felt the need for some kind of emphatic statement. Anyways, to the rundown of events.
- School ‘started’ on the third. They have what they call the ‘appel’ on the first day, which means they call roll and they tell a bunch of people that show up that they are not on the list and cannot come back. I give out my schedule to each class and then I go home. My counterpart, M. Ouedraogo (think Mr. Smith), starts his math class. The other two teachers have yet to show up.

- Second day, I begin. I have 13 hours of teaching for the week. 5 on mon., 3 on tues., 4 on wed, and 1 on thurs. I introduce myself to the class, explain the basic structure of the course, give out my rules, and then have the students write their vital information down for me (name, age, birthplace, parents occupation) and one thing interesting about themselves. This is my first encounter with the perils of teaching in the rote learning based system. I wrote down my basic information on the board and then for each class I gave something different that was interesting about me. When I said I liked to play guitar, everybody gave me something they liked to do. When I said I had lived in Saudi Arabia, everybody told me about someplace they had lived. This type of thing will probably continue throughout my teaching experience.

- Third day, no school, its international teachers day.

- Fourth day, actual teaching. In general, uneventful. The two absent professors continue to insist on not showing up.

Alright, a quick rundown on the students. I have 125 kids in sixieme (which translates roughly into a type of seventh or sixth grade in the us system), 83 kids in cinqieme (seventh or eighth), 81 kids in quatrieme (eighth or ninth), and 79 kids in troisieme (ninth or tenth). The numbers are about par for the course for Burkina schools except for the troisieme class which is ridiculously larger than most classes of the level. As for the ages, in the sixieme they range from 11 to 15 and in the troisieme from 15 to 21. I was very happy to see that nobody was older than me. Most of their parents are farmers although I have a high percentage of functionnaire kids due to the dam and the good results of the school in exams last year. A little more than half of the kids are muslim with the rest generally being Christians although there are some animists as well. Most of the younger kids are of the Gulmanche ethnicity but in the upper levels they are about even with the Mossi.

Now as for the school. There are 4 classrooms a little larger than an average school classroom in the states. In the classrooms there is a chalkboard and about 5 rows of table bancs – skinny benches with desk tops attached to them. In the upper levels its two students to a desk, in the lower levels its 4 or 5 (they’re smaller anyway). There is also a desk and a chair for me. Then there is a building for the teachers. It has 4 offices (for the directrice, the econome, the secretary, and the surveillant – he’s the disciplinarian) and then a professors room – like a living room – and by the grace of god two bathrooms with flushing toilets although I usually have to bring my own toilet paper.

As for materials available for me from the school, as I said before there is a blackboard and there is chalk of many different colors. There are also an assortment of various rulers and other materials for drawing geometric figures on the board. And that’s it. Luckily I have been able to get some textbooks from the peace corps office and some lesson plans from former volunteers which are a great help.
For the classes, I teach flowering plants and human biology in sixieme, invertebrates and non-flowering plants in cinqieme, geology in quatrieme (although when I get tired of that I am just going to move to diseases) and human biology in troisieme.

The next week was full – no holidays. And the other teachers did arrive, thankfully. For me, the week passed largely uneventfully, which is good. I did some skits, I involved the students, drew a bunch of diagrams on the board, and answered questions. I thought it went well. A note on the teaching. We do not serve as teachers only in the explanatory sense. We also serve as textbook writers. Most of the kids do not have textbooks for most of the subjects. All they have are their pens and their notebooks in which they write down everything I put on the board. Their notebooks are their textbooks. So for the class, I write down a basic outline for the day, write important explanations and definitions on the board, draw epic diagrams, and then explain everything and then ask questions or have demonstrations to emphasize the explanation and eventually I’ll be doing homework, projects and some experiments to emphasize all that.

That’s all the time I have for right now, but up next, what do you do when people seriously ask you for new computers?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arise, Citizen Journalist
It is customary to thank the reader profusely. Without you, we wouldn't be here, etc, etc, etc.
Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to private road construction on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like private road construction!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI Tyler, Thanks for the journal on the first couple of weeks at school. It makes me realize how easy I have it teaching 15 kids in Vt. When you see Shenandoah give him a birthday greeting for me. He will be 29 on the 23 of Oct. Also give him a little grief about not at least emailing his family and friends in the U.S.! Shenandoah's Mom

12:06 PM  
Blogger Arkansas's Swiss Family Imholz said...

Whoa, this is great hearing about your teaching experiences...
I wish I could see the faces of your students, and I'm glad you're the old man on the totem pole. I understand that you teach in French? I look forward to reading more about your adventures. This is my first visit to your blog, Tyler!
Charlene and Family

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Hey Tyler! We always enjoy reading your blog. We look forward to more info on your teaching and living experiences. Hey - if you missed it, Rams beat Saints 28-17. And yes, the Saints got cheated by the refs again...

Love,
DAD

7:35 PM  

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