November 26, 2012
For the past two weeks of training my hands, and most likely my skirt, have been covered in chalk dust. For this time, all PCTs lives have been consumed by Model School. Model School is one of the first, last big hurdles to get over before we are allowed to swear in (the others being the final language exam and the finals tests for Safety and Security, Cross Culture and Medical). For many PCTs, it was the first time we had ever taught in an official classroom capacity, including myself. Since the Rwandan school term finished up a few weeks ago, PC has been signing up local kids to come to our school (basically a voluntary, two-week summer school so kids can get extra practice). Mostly we had pretty small classes, which helped to ease everyone’s anxieties. This will not be the same at site as most of us will have class sizes from anywhere between 40-65.
As I stood in front of fifteen 12-14 year olds attempting to discern the difference between a countable and uncountable noun, I realized something: I really like teaching. I love standing in front of those children, giving them a push in the right direction when they are wrong or encouraging them when they are right. I love the moment when I see it “click” in their minds, or when the shy girl in the back raises her hand to finally answer a question.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is INCREDIBLY difficult to teach and my respect has grown by leaps and bounds for every teacher I have ever had. Teaching in an environment where “classroom resources” consist of a blackboard, chalk, my own creativity and maybe a pre-made rice sack (used for longer readings, diagrams, pictures, etc, you can buy a blank rice sack for around 15 cents) is incredibly difficult. Not to mention that we are teaching in a culture where positive reinforcement is a unique experience for students, rote memorization of notes is the only way to learn and creativity and critical thinking are rarely used by students or teachers. This is why it is so exciting to be here. I get to use the years of wonderful teaching I have witnessed and change the ways Rwandan students understand learning.
This was most poignant on the second to last day of Model School. I was teaching a double period (100 minutes without stopping) of S3 (rough equivalent of 9th grade) the active and passive Voice. Unable to contain my glee when my students understood how to use both, I couldn’t help but remember my year-long struggle with passive voice during Mr. Campbell’s IB English 2 class and out mutual joy when I finally wrote an essay without any passive voice. (Oh and Mr. Campbell if you are reading this, one of my students corrected me during the lesson, so trust that this did not go straight to my head). After I finished the lesson, we played a variation of Alge-ball, the game I played in my 9th grade Algebra 2 class, giddy when the students really got into it.
Now I am more exited than ever to have my own class at my site. I am excited to form relationships with my students, to have a curriculum to follow, and to test how creative I can get with them. Hopefully my love of teaching will balance out my fear and loathing of lesson planning, which is sure to be the bane of my existence these next two years.