Teaching the little ones

I have such a greater appreciation for teachers since volunteering in Tanzania. I have never felt like I’ve wanted to become a teacher but I respect and admire those that do and those that are. It’s a commendable job that often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

A lot of the days I was left alone with the older ‘baby class’. Basically the 4 year olds who were more advanced. The other volunteer, Kelsey, would stay with Mama Frida in the ‘baby class’ of 3 year olds and a couple 2 year olds. And the 3rd volunteer, Claire, would be in the big kids class of 5-7 year olds with Madame Eva.The days when not as many kids showed up to school we would only split into 2 classes and Kelsey and I would tag team the ‘baby class’.

Below is myself, Mama Frida and Kelsey.

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My first day in my own class was trying to say the least.The problem was the communication barrier and not having an aide help translate or help keep the kids quiet and focused. Quite honestly, the first time I taught alone I left the school day feeling so frustrated and defeated. My patience was tested and I felt like I failed so I was disappointed in myself.

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I think the best advice I could give when volunteering in such a short period and when never having the experience before is to just allow yourself some forgiveness and patience. Cut yourself a break. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to save the world going into a program like this. There are time and financial constraints. What you can do is give what you can with compassion and love to the children. I had to remind myself when I became frustrated and felt hopeless that I had never done this before. That my purpose isn’t to change the educational system in Tanzania but to help provide support and to do what I can in the short amount of time I was there.I had to woosah and just roll with it. Kids are gonna be kids no matter where you are. I just needed to have fun with it and be patient!

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Any time the classroom started to get crazy and I would feel their focus start slipping away I would break into song. The kids loved to sing. They know so many English and Swahili nursery songs. It was fun to watch them get excited and become involved again. Or I would bust out the camera. The kids loved getting their picture taken and seeing it after. It was too cute.

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The other 2 volunteers and I taught them the hokey pokey when we were there. I forgot how long the song was and how much energy it required. It always left me winded. hah!

My lesson plans consisted of Math – numbers from 0-100, basic addition, problems that highlighted missing numbers etc; as well as English – going through the ABC’s, associating a word with each letter, shapes, colors, and body parts. Kelsey and I made posters for the classrooms as tools. I also used colored post its below to help re-emphasize colors.

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It was fun to go around the room and point at articles of clothing the kids were wearing for colors. They would get so excited and start bum rushing me and yell “teacha teacha” and point to their undershirt or their sock or what have you. Drilling the color purple into them was easy because their uniforms were purple.

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Sometimes I would take the kids outside to the painted mural on the side of the school so I could quiz them on animals and colors. Why there is a dinosaur with all the other animals I’m not quite sure.

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When my patience was severely tested I would break out the construction paper and crayons I would bring to school with me. I would have the kids draw through the alphabet with animals and objects or draw simple shapes that I would first draw on the chalkboard. When that failed, just having them draw anything quietly worked for me. It was fun to see them so excited about the colors. I would hand out each construction paper and have them repeat the color of it to me. I would do the same with the crayons. It was exciting when they knew the colors on their own and would ask for a specific one.

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It was even more adorable when they would show me their drawings proudly.

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Sweet Jennifer below never smiled and was very quiet but was so so lovable.

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One day the classroom I usually taught in was occupied by visitors. So we went to the church and I tried very unsuccessfully to teach them something. They were very hyper and excited to not be in the classroom. What happened instead was we sang a lot of songs, drew on construction paper, and when a couple of the boys ran around screaming through the pews of the church I conceded to what clearly was going to be a play day and I took them outside to do just that. I was told later that they could hear us in the other classrooms. Oops!

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I wasn’t always left to my own devices with my own class. Thank goodness! It was always such a great reprieve to share the responsibility of teaching with Kelsey or with Mama Frida. Kids have soo much energy.

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Look at all these adorable faces!

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On certain days we had workbooks that we give the children to practice their math. For the younger ones it can simply be tracing numbers for the older ones it was usually addition. They also had homework as well. One day I surprised Mama Frida and the kids with fresh new pencils. She was so grateful and full of thanks. Something so little can make such a huge difference and can go a long way in these schools. The kids were ecstatic! They always wanted the pencils with erasers intact and became really sad when they weren’t. This was huge for them.They broke out into a “Thank you teacher” very loudly and happily. It made my heart swell.

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Porridge time also was a bit of a reprieve. It gave us a chance to catch our breathe and observe these beautiful children.

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The stickers were reserved for really great days and a special treat for the kids. We would hand them out at the end of the day before we were picked up. The kids were so excited they got to choose which one they got.

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Each day that passed I fell more and more in love with these beautiful children. It proved to be very difficult to say goodbye. I’ll share that experience with you all soon…

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