Working in a school in another country will certainly make you to think about your preconceived notions of the education system, and will sometimes require you to put them aside. Schools in all of the countries WorldTeach partners with vary a great deal and flexibility will be one of your keys for success. When you open your mind to new ways of looking at learning and teaching, you will find that you can make a real impression on your students that you will both be able to feel and see.
Megan, a WorldTeach Tanzania volunteer, shares her first classroom experience in Tanzania followed by one of her last days and some reflections on her experience.
From October 6, 2010:
When I walked into the Form 1C classroom my eyes were overwhelmed to see more than 60 students crammed in the classroom. All of their desks were jammed together so there was absolutely no way I could walk in between the students. I went to the front of the classroom...and wrote my name on the board as "Madam Megan" and began my lesson. I introduced myself and told the students a little bit about who I am and where I'm from. I showed them some pictures of Vermont from a book I'd brought with me. They were pretty wowed by all the snow in the photos.
Then I began reviewing vocabulary that I thought might be challenging for them from the story I was told to assign the students to read. I went over about 15 vocabulary words. I'd originally planned to put students in groups to define the words themselves and then go over them as a class, but I didn't have any paper for the students and some of the students didn't even have notebooks of their own so I decided to just review the vocabulary myself on the board for the class. I had to be flexible and change my plans. Going over the vocabulary took a lot less time than I'd anticipated so I had to improvise. Luckily, I'd brought the book with me to class. Since I didn't know what the students reading abilities were yet, I decided to make the first day more of a listening exercise. Listening is always the easiest learning exercise to do when you're learning a new language. I read chapter one to them and asked them comprehension questions after I finished each paragraph to see if they could understand me and were listening. They did surprisingly well and I was happy about that! Then again, only a group of 8 students consistently insisted on answering my questions, and there were more than 60 students in the class.
As I left the class some of the students walked me out and one of the guys stopped me and said, "Madam, I really like the way you teach us. You are so good!" I smiled at that, happy that I'd at least satisfied one of the students in my class!
From April 21, 2011:
Yesterday I handed back my students' weekly tests. Overall I was really pleased with their marks. Out of my 200+ students from my four classes, at least 15 students scored 100% on the exam! I'm really ecstatic about that because it's incredibly unusual here for students to score even above 80%. In one of my classes along, 1/3 of the students scored in the highest marking bracket (82-100). Although coming from America an 82 is a B-, here it's a great score.
No matter how much of an impression I've made on any of my students in the past months, they'll never be able to grasp how much I've gotten out of this experience myself just through knowing them. I can say with utmost certainty and satisfaction that this experience has been all it could be because my students and I made it as good as it could have been.
If you're interested in bettering the lives of students in Tanzania, get more information on how to become a WorldTeach Tanzania volunteer here. Applications for the Tanzania Semester program are being accepted until November 1, 2011!