I imagine that every teacher is as guilty as me in having a class that becomes your favorite which you look forward to teaching every day. Ideally as a teacher, all of your classes are something you look forward to, however, this is really unrealistic since your class make-up is usually out of your control. I teach three different classes of eighth grade and since week 2 I have a favorite class that only continues to remain in the lead as days and weeks go by. If all my classes here were as good as this class, I would love teaching to death. I am not sure what it is about this class – but I suspect that some factors include: it only has about 55 students as opposed to 70+ in the other two classes, there are more intelligent students in this class; my favorite class easily has 10 noticeably smart kids and maybe 5 each in the other classes (5 out of 70, remember). My favorite class works quicker and harder and seeks to learn more than what I give them. Whatever the reason is, it’s a good ending to my day (4/5 days I teach them last). Yesterday, the students got interested in knowing me better. Here’s a bit of dialogue that really was entertaining:
Student: Who is your President?
Me: President Obama, of course! You know him (all Tanzanians know him). Did you know his father came from Kenya, the country just north of Tanzania?
Entire class: A huge round of applause
Student: How big is your family?
Me: It’s just Jon & me – so there are two of us.
Another student: No, we mean how many children do you have?
Girl students: WHAAATTTT? Why?
Me: We will later, but if we have children now, we must leave Tanzania
Boy: How old are you?
Me: How old do you think?
Me: Thanks, but I am 28
Girl: How old is Mr. Jon?
Me: How old do you think?
Continual class guesses: 40, 35, 30, 45, 33, 50, 28, 29, 100, 1000
Me: Okay, I will tell you. I write a 2 on the board and dramatically wait to write the 5, finally they see the 25
Class: A giant uproar of laughter and hysteria for about 3 minutes
Me thinking: Are they laughing because he looks older or because he’s younger than me? I conclude a little bit of both as they refused to guess under my age and let’s face it, he does not look 25
Me: Let me tell you a story. Mr. Jon was 18 when I met him. I was 21 (lots of laughter). But, at 18, even then Mr. Jon had little hair. I thought he was older! We got married anyway. *Applause from the students*
Student: What is your father’s name? and mother?
I write my family’s names on the board (by the way, they find Amanda a funny name)
Student: What is Mr. Jon’s family like?
I write out Jon’s family. I tell them I now have a brother and 3 more sisters because of Jon’s family – the students applaud to this, too.
One of Peace Corp’s goal is for me to share American culture with the Tanzanians I work with. On occasion, I try to bring it up, but I think I realized that the opportunity needs to present itself more naturally. This teachable moment which shows a little bit about Americans culture also teaches my girl students many good lessons. Most importantly, that having children is a choice and it is possible to plan a family for an opportune time. It’s very unusual for women (especially in the rural areas of Tanzania where I work) to choose to have children even as “old” as I am. The fact that they see we are waiting, by choice, sets a good role model for them. Hopefully, this message will also be spread – family planning by choice, not getting pregnant too early- that is when I can start a health class.