Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm Mediocre

>> So while learning how to teach, we're doing two different approaches, something called "Peer Teach," which involves teaching to our Peace Corps colleagues and "Micro Teach," which involves going to a local school and teaching to actual Sierra Leone students. I am really great (okay, pretty good) at teaching Peace Corps colleagues, mostly because they're all college-graduates, intelligent, and know the subject matter. I am really terrible (okay, really terrible) at teaching Sierra Leone students. Whilst teaching in my Micro Teach, I had more blank stares than I've ever seen before and this was after slowing down my speech multiple times, writing on the board, and then repeating, etc. It was frustrating up to a point and then humorous. I turned to the chalkboard and whispered, "Deadmau5...Deadmau5...Deadmau5..." and everything seemed better. The students are not at fault. The problem lies in the disconnect between my teaching skills / language differences and them, not to mention that the topic assigned to me was far too advanced for them. In my future? One more Peer Teach and then Summer School starts on Monday (i.e. a "Micro Teach" environment but everyday. Wish me luck)

I couldn't get to internet last Saturday because we had to go in for work and Sunday the internet was down, so my apologies. I am concerned about my potential site because conversations about it have ranged from a 2-hour-bike ride to internet to a twenty-minute walk to internet. I don't consider myself to be dependent on internet, but if I don't have ANY access to it, I can see my own potential stress levels becoming difficult to relieve, etc.
There's not much else notable to report although I did give my African children glow sticks for the first time ever (in their lives) and played an m5 mix on my laptop for them. They went absolutely crazy and passed the glow sticks from person to person and they ALL danced like crazy to it :) I wish I could upload the pictures from that night, but the internet here barely holds together long enough to write a blog post, nevermind uploading pictures.
A final thought- I had initially planned to come home in the summer 2011 but it now seems as if we will be helping to train the next batch of Peace Corps volunteers coming in, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to come home, (but you can bet that I'll hedge on earlier rather than later and that I'll give you plenty of warning :)

I love and miss you all.


  1. Teaching kids in Africa was so different from teaching kids in the US. Getting them to think, rather than recite, was something we couldn't really get past other than by letting them play. The first teaching session I did was to some of the smarter, high school aged kids and I thought I was awesome. Then I did the same lesson for the kids and it didn't work at all. We had to rethink the entire lesson plan for the following session of kids and use more of a skit to teach them how to do it.

    Also, for bad internet write up the blog in Word or Wordpad or something and then just copy/paste into blogger. I think you can also post by email which would also help on the bandwidth. If you use gmail I hope you setup offline gmail so that you can go into "flaky connection" mode where it sends whatever bits of info it can whenever the internet is strong enough. Also, all of the info for gmail is saved on your computer so you don't waste bandwidth downloading the Gmail code everytime. Try HTML mode if you didn't setup offline yet.

  2. Meeker,

    I think solution you have not found yet is that every once and a while the kids need to get smacked around a little. Not a lot, but just enough to show them your in charge. They learn better that way.

    I hope everything else is going well.

    All the best,

  3. STROBE! I did read online that one of the most stressful jobs was being a teacher. And you have all the other stresses adding to that.

    I think the only problem is all the barriers you're faced with. I'd say for the first few weeks don't worry much about it. You'll get used to the kids and they will get used to you (yeah...MAYBE)


  4. You mentioned the language barriers...I'm guessing that the kids you're teaching speak English (even if it's a second language). It still must be hard to communicate complex ideas to a group of students that have such a different background and culture. I mean, you really don't know what kind of education they have had before and therefore don't know where to start or how much you have to spell things out for them. The thing about the glow sticks and your mix is awesome! You should definitely introduce them to Zeppelin if they don't know it already, and we can't forget Sinatra. Glad to hear you're at least optimistic, even if you're a little frustrated. I'm proud of what you're doing. Much love from the USA!!

  5. Meeker, you can't be so hard on yourself! Imagine how I felt when I got blank stares from my classes full of American, suburbanite, English is their first language, high school students last semester. It's a tough job, and I give you infinite props for taking it on! I'm sure you're doing better than you think, sometimes there's just that awkward disconnect because they don't know who you are. Plus, they're kids and it's school - they're not always thrilled to be there, especially with summer so close. Keep your chin up and don't lose that optimism!!

  6. yeah, i wish i could see that glow stick dance ;) sounds like a really coll experience overall. even before you joined peacecorp. i was thinking i might want to do that someday, maybe somewhere in europe, considering my 3 years of german class at school, although those schools are not the ones that need a lot of help. anyway, have lots of fun for me!!!
    love, cousin julia