Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Who is your President?

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?
Me:  None
Girl students: WHAAATTTT?  Why?
Me:  We will later, but if we have children now, we must leave Tanzania
Girls:  giggling. 
Boy:  How old are you?
Me:  How old do you think?
Boy: 23. 
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.