Thursday, 9 February 2012

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!!!

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