Tuesday, 21 May 2013

'if this isn't a challenge, I don't know what is' - Zamukulungisa Primary School - Day 1

Millie Jones writes here about her groups 3 day stint at Zamukulungisa School -

Alarms began to wake us at 6.45 and one by one we reluctantly began to get ourselves ready for the day ahead. For a brief moment I longed for my bed in Twickenham- my feet were numb and although I was was wearing five layers I was still freezing; we were beginning to realise that Africa's winter wasn't the tropical climate we had planned for. These dramas were quickly erased over breakfast and the excitement and speculation about what the day ahead would bring quickly took over.

After dropping Patsy and half of the group off at their school we finally arrived at our school. We tried to reserved judgment as much as possible with the general acknowledgment being 'this is different'. We briefly met the principle and the other teachers who, compared to the previous day, greeted us rather formally. There was a brief discussion and I opted to be placed in a grade four English class, naively I assumed that at least the teacher would have a good level of English- I was in for a surprise. 

On arriving into the class the teacher asked me 'what are you doing', I replied 'I will just be observing your class'. Clearly this word 'observing' was misunderstood as she continued tell me that I had an hour to teach them anything. I felt helpless.  I managed to explain that I was to watch rather than lead for the first hour and so she taught and I marked their work- trying to take on board as much as I could for when I would be in her position. 

The children break at 10am for breakfast and after the teacher expressing her passion for having me try some I was brought a huge bowl of rice and beans. It was nice- very salty and very filling. I only ate a small amount, but the children who probably wouldn't have a proper meal until the next day, ate as much as they could. 

After break I lead an hour long lesson that focused on me communicating with the students in English. We played a few games and sang some call and response songs, overall it was an extremely difficult experience. I was beginning to understand how different the students level of English was to that of the previous day, and mainly how that lack of a common language calls for a reevaluation of how every exercise is executed. The lesson ended and I felt drained but I knew that I had learnt a lot and that it could only get better. 

Our drama workshop went more positively and we were instantly able to put into action all of things we had learnt from our individual experiences that morning; we used exercises that took little explanation and that we could demonstrate clearly, used call and response songs, and repeated instructions as much as possible. The group clearly enjoyed using their imaginations and were happy to perform, with more planning we knew we could create some great work with them. 

The bus journey back to the principles house was hard- I think our group wanted to quietly reflect on the challenges of the day and how these could be addressed in our work tomorrow, but the morale of our students who had been at the other school didn't allow for that. We all responded to their enthusiastic intrigue as best as possible answering all if their questions as positively yet truthfully as we could; it was clear that we had had quite contrasting days. 

We are all determined to make tomorrow a better day and everyone has been busy sharing experiences and planning lessons all night, and now after assisting in making dinner (I made salad and almost used cabbage instead of lettuce), and searching my room for insects, I am wearing half of my suitcase, preparing myself for another tough night. 

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