Monday, March 30, 2009

The end of a beginning

"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." John F. Kennedy

It's a bittersweet ending of my first computer class. I always knew that the class would eventually come to an end but I kept the thought of its end at the back of my mind. I was always more concerned with things like making sure my students ("wanafunzi wangu" in Kiswahili) understood me, being there to answer their questions ("majibu" in Kiswahili), making available my textbooks ("vitabu"), and other notes outside of class time so that everyone was able to understand the topics I was teaching.

Alas all good things must come to an end...

I saw a leaf falling from a tree that is drying up and a single tear came to my eye. As the leaf fell, I thought of my class: I hope that I did not fail them as the lack of rain has failed this tree.

The first class I've ever taught is in its closing stages. Sure I've taught merit badge classes at Boy Scout summer camp, and I've taught plenty of people in a less formal setting. Nevertheless, this is the first time that I have taught a class and been a 'teacher' ("mwalimu" in Kiswahili). As my students are taking their last exams, I cant help but wonder: Did I fail my students? Perhaps a few of my students didn't try their hardest or didn't pay attention during class. Even so, did I fail to teach them properly?As part of the exam my students were asked to write a letter providing feedback regarding the course in general - feedback, I hoped, that would help me improve my teaching style for future classes. Many students wrote very positive things such as "Mr. Daniel was very nice and helpful" and "I hereby wish to congraturate you for the good work that you voluntered to do" which made me feel better about my self-doubts. Yet part of me wonders, how would I feel about the course if I were in their situation: a high school graduate that possibly has never seen a computer before; in a class being taught by a foreigner who speaks the third language I've learned and with an accent at that.

I am deeply grateful for the assistance that the students have provided to each other and to me as we've grown. My students have have provided me great assistance as I learn Kiswahili. In addition to the help with Kiswahili, they have also taught me a great deal about Kenyan culture and the community in which we reside.I can honestly say that I will miss my students and I do wish them the best as they depart from my 'classroom', with theoretical & practical knowledge of computers. The next class or lot, as referred to by Kenyans, will begin next week as the exams come to a conclusion and certificates are awarded for their completion of the course. As a new class begins, so will a new adventure. I certainly hope not to fail my students. After all, I was brought to this locale to facilitate community development.

The above post is as it was originally written. Since its original inception, my perspective has changed. Having had a chance to speak to most of my students one-on-one I have come to realize that I have not failed them, as I had feared. Each and every one of my students is leaving my class with a knowledge of computers. The degree of the information learned varies from student to student, but alas everyone of them has learned something which they did not know before.

1 comment:

  1. Daniel, you are a marvelous human being whose sheer force of presence is uplifting and illuminating. There is no way you could possibly fail your students. As you have seen, each has been touched in one way are another and all have received benefit from your efforts. You are a gift for which the Kenyan students will forever be grateful.

    I read your poignant accounts and am moved by your experiences. You write beautifully and should save this blog as the genesis for a wonderful book about your adventure. Keep the entries coming. I very much look forward to each one.

    BTW, my wildebeest did get routed to Jamaica. Have you ever tasted Jamaican jerky?