Here in the land of goats, electricity outages, and never-ending plates of boiled bananas, my first teaching module has come to an end. It was meant to be Speaking and Listening class but then the night before I was told it was changed to Reading and Writing. The freaking night before.
C'est la Rwanda.
It was challenging. I cried in class my second day when the projector didn't work, my throat hurt from yelling so all 103 students could hear (but not understand) me, and after discussing how to write a summary for 45 minutes a student raised his hand and asked, "What is a sentence?" And then a teacher came to tell me they would be taking over my classroom for a government meeting and couldn't tell me when I could start class again. I didn't know where to find chalk, and when I did find it, was told to take it home between my classes so other teachers didn't steal it. Um, ok. It was a wild ride. And I'll get to ride this rollercoaster every weekend until my contract is over or until I can find a way to get the powers that be to schedule me in the weekday classes rather than the "16 hours a weekend" modules.
For now, I have the same students for 16 hours a weekend for two weekends, and then get all new students. It's a rotation that is not efficient or built to foster actual learning. It's just moving them through the modules so they can get a certificate in the end. It seems the end goal is not true learning, but just having had been there and survived.
In the midst of the educational chaos, there were some truly sweet moments. It is very true that small victories abound in even the most disheartening circumstances. There were also some hilarious times.
Like when I found out the hard way that my students don't know what stickers are.
I had my students write summaries of their "Happiest days," and turn them in for credit. Before coming to Rwanda, I went to the teacher's store in Tampa and stocked up on tons of stickers for use in class, orphanages, and to give to random kids. I have some cute little elephant chart stickers that I decided to stick onto each happiest day summary as proof that I had been there and seen their work and approved.
This turned out to be a bad/funny idea.
Because after giving back 103 essays, I had 103 people literally FREAKING OUT.
"What does this mean?"
"Teacher what is this?"
"Why is this animal a cow and his is an elephant?"
"Why is this blue and hers is red?"
"Why is this on my paper?"
Oh good Lord.
After answering maybe the 20th time that the stickers all mean, "good," I just stood and laughed. It had never dawned on me that my students had never seen a sticker before. I took the opportunity to have a teachable moment and pulled the pack of stickers from my bag. I wrote STICKER on the board and described that these little pictures are used in America to say, "yay good job," from teachers to students. I explained there was no difference between a blue elephant and a red cow - they all mean, "good." And I showed them how stickers work, you peel off the sheet and it can stick to things.
They nodded their heads and made sounds of understanding, "ohhhhhh." Then, feeling really amused at life, I let the students go.
And then, after having explained what a sticker is for over 3 minutes, a male student approached me and asked, "Miss, what does this mean?" pointing to his sticker.
God help us.
I'm never sticking another sticker on a Rwandan student's work. It's not worth the 45 minute chaos. And I thought I was being cute. hahaha. Lesson learned - never take for granted that another culture/people group has been exposed to what you know. Nothing is learned by osmosis, we must encounter and then process the knowledge. If you've never seen a sticker, a blue elephant on your paper might freak you out!
Have some pics of my first module...
|can you tell I haven't washed my hair in 2 weeks?|
|"Take pictures of teacher" time.|
|group work time|
|wore my new kitenge to our last class|
|love bugs getting their reading on|
I knew this whole experience would be a trip. And it is not disappointing. haha. Next time you see a sticker, don't take for granted that you have a life that has stickers in it!
walk slow. xoxo.