Thursday, March 5, 2009

New found respect for Teachers around the world

During High School, and to some extent during my University studies, I wondered what it would be like to be a teacher. To be a person who is trusted with providing tomorrow's leaders with the tools they need to succeed.
Upon graduating, I briefly considered if I would want to be a teacher, I even applied to Teach For America. And now I find myself a teacher in a foreign country teaching basic computer skills.
I never realized the amount of hard work that teachers go through to make their class a success until very recently. Even though I taught some merit badge classes during Boy Scout Summer Camp, I have found it is very very different when teaching in a classroom setting.
My first challenge was of course the creation of lesson plans. In my mind I knew what I wanted to teach to my students, but I did not truly realize how much information to provide each day giving enough time for all students to have time to practice on our limited computers (there are 20+ students and only 6 computers - one of which is used by the organization's secretary).
My next challenge was the language. I believe that all of my students speak Kiswahili and Kikuyu, the local language, (if I have a student who does not speak Kikuyu, it is likely to be another tribal language such as Kiluo, Kikamba, or Kiembu). As English is my student's third language, and my second, the way in which I explain certain actions or certain concepts sometimes needs to be very specific in order for my students to understand clearly. Thankfully, however, the few students who understand me 'accent' very well are able to assist other students who may not understand me.
My last major challenge so far has been testing my students' understanding of what we've covered in class. The past few days I've administered an exam to my students of their understanding of the things we've covered in class. However, I had to reconsider my testing criteria and split the exam up into different parts so that the students' performance can be graded not based on how quickly they can perform a task, but on whether or not he/she is able to perform the task. I also faced the challenge that my directions were not 100% clear for most of the students. In the future, I will need to be more specific in what it is I am asking them to do. I may even reformat the exam instructions so that they will be easier to read.
As a result of my new experiences as a teacher, I have a new found respect for teachers around the world. I have come closer to realizing what it takes to be a positive role-model and provide the future with the most powerful tool they will need to succeed: knowledge.


  1. Habari yako,

    Found your blog, I am a SED/ICT RPCV who lived in western (bungoma) and nairobi. Also while I was there there were some pretty good (though a bit dated) computer tools for teaching basic computing skills, check at the office if you don't already know about them.

    I was also wondering if Ken was still the country director. Feel free to email at msteudel at Hope your tour goes great!


  2. You are going through the topsy-turvey stuff: am I fit for this?; can I penetrate? homlowmustigo? hi! this is mike... reader of Kenya blogs extraordinaire from my armchair in VT. Don't know where you're from but Kenya is worth it. Stick to it bigtime and it'll be the ride of your life... a culture adventure that'll change you and maybe a few people around you. The important thing (have you been wondering?) is this: fill our day; give it your all; and don't worry. If you fail, no one's looking. Tomorrow's another day. And so is the next and the next and the next. There will be taunts; blank stares; but behind that is a real curiosity... of who you are; what stuff you've got; and if you can relate. Keep the grand object in full view: who the hell else has the experience you are having? Hardly a few... and if you give in to your fears, one less will have that experience to carry forward through a lifetime. Mike Gannett RPCV email any time

  3. I might be able to teach my wildebeest to sit up...if I had one.