Thursday, 9 February 2012

As it continues...

This week I started teaching my Form 3's for Biology. Like Form 4's, there are 2 streams, A and B. And, apparently, now Form 4's has 3 streams, despite the fact that what is now B and C, are still in the same classroom as the original B. Starting with Form 3 was a nice change because my Form 4's were giving me major issues about turningin homework. I don't understand how difficult it is to turn in homework that I assigned a whole week ago. Talk about lazy. And organizing the desks at the beginning of class (I usually teach the first 4 periods of the day...)seems to be the most impossible task in the world. It's so frustrating when I feel like my job is more babysitting than teaching but, alas, such is teaching here. I spent a lot of time at school this week and last organizign lessons and pouring over pages of past NECTA's (the final form 4 exam) to find good homework/practice questions. Sometimes I think that I'm more invested in teaching than any of the students are in learning, but, ultimately, I know that's not true. It's just hard since it's their future that's in the balance. Not mine.
Aside from the venting, class has been continuing well. In my Form 4 classes, we just finished the chapter on Growth. Quiz next week...get ready class! In Form 3, we started on Movement today. We'll be covering movement for a little over 2 weeks and then move onto reproduction, which the NECTA asks a LOT of questions on. I wanted to get started on the topics like reproduction and genetics that the NECTA focuses on. I think my favorite part about this Form 3 class (aside from the fact that they payed really good attention this week....probably because I'm new and they are still interested in seeing how I conduct myself) is the fact that because I'm starting with them so early in the year, I can actually give them a good head start on covering all the topics in Form 3. Since the Form 4's this year only covered less than half the topics in Form 3, it's nice to be able to plan out getting them to complete all the topics.
After school today, I went into the village to pick up a few things and fix my bike. I took it to the fundi (tradesman) and he fixed 2 more punctures...that makes 4 in 2 weeks. There sure are a lot of little thorns at my site. While waiting, I visited one of my favorite mama's, the one who sells eggs. She's never raised her price despite a now increasingly dramatic egg shortage and, despite the fact that she'd closed the shop for her lunch break, she was still more than willing to help me. Sometimes, I need to be reminded how wonderful and generous soem Tanzanians are. So, although she was out of eggs, she asked one of the neighbor boys to find me some and he came back with as many as he could, 6, still for the usual cheap price (200/= each...or about 10 cents). To show her my appreciation, I bought soap and salt from her little shop (usually I got to the main one in town, Mr. Kassedy's, who also happens to be my second headmaster, but I'm sure that she could use the business a lot more than he could.) Afterwards, I stopped by to just say hi to my mango and tomato mama's and then finally picked up chicken soup for my kitten.

Notebooks-check, Red pens-check, chalk-check...school’s back!

After a month and a half long break, school is now in full swing. A calendar has been made, class schedule printed and the grounds cleaned. While it did take over a week and a half to accomplish those 3 tasks alone, the teachers, myself included, have finally started entering the classroom and doling out homework. This year I’ll be teaching Form 3 and 4 biology. Each form has 2 streams and each stream meets twice a week for 80 minutes. There is the option of combining streams when teaching in order to teach less and/or faster, but having 40/50 students in one classroom is enough. 90 is just a bit too crowded. So, my classes are Monday through Thursday and I’m attempting to do office hours Thursday or Friday where I give them practice problems from old NECTA tests. The NECTA exam is the big test that all the Form 4’s take and if they pass, they can go onto to advanced studies, after which, if they pass that, they can go onto college. At my school, the rate of passing the NECTA is about 50% last year. That’s pretty good for this region and really good for Tanzania. So, the last 2 weeks, I’ve been busy preparing my lesson plans, which has included skimming through the national biology text, PC s supplements and years of past NECTA tests to try and give the students the practice that they’ll need for their exams. While preparing for these exams is a lot of work, it’s worth it if they want to do anything other than work the fields or run the family’s duka (little shop).

Also, one of my goals this year has been to use as little Kiswahili in the classroom as possible. While it is almost impossible to completely avoid, although the Tanzanian education board is under the delusion that all classes are taught exclusively in English, I think that the more practice these kids get, even if it is challenging and forced, the better they will be. This choice does have some consequences. It really separates the kids who understand English from the ones who don’t. But, to looks at the positives, it gives the kids who really want to try to understand, the forum to do so and more confidence in their abilities once they do. Personally, I’d rather have all the students understand everything I teach (aka use only Kiswahili). It’d be a lot less daunting going into the classroom without so many blank stares. Additionally, my Form 4B’s, the non-science stream, hardly answers any of my questions. But, alas, one must still go on and so I do.

As for other updates on the Mulbadaw front, I’m still in the process of making my home a home. I had the workers come last week and fix up the table around my sink and a electrician came two days ago to repair the electricity in my bathroom. I still would like a plumber to finish connecting the pipes in my bathroom sink and to replace the faucet in my foyer, but the progress, although slow, is still progress. Next big tasks: paint the inside of my house, repair my bed and make new curtains. Thanks to my mom, I’m currently as comfy as ever sleeping under my beautiful quilt that she sent me. It has pictures of me from childhood onwards so when I wake up feeling nostalgic, I can look at it and think of home. I also finally received my Christmas package from home with lots of goodies, including a mini xmas tree and adorning lights, so to elongate the Christmas spirit, I put it up in my room, put all the presents and even other unopened envelopes under it and each day, I open one more. Christmas didn’t really feel like xmas here so its nice to be able to recelebrate it in my house with all my wonderful goodies. Thank you family!!!