This morning I was asked to cover the Christian Religious Education (CRE) for Standard 3. `Standard` is the Kenyan equivalent of `class.` In my 30 minutes of preparation I was handed a half inch think textbook and was told the theme for the class was `Leaders don`t Steal.` Reading the story detailed for the lesson, I was surprised to discover that is was not even from the Bible. Making an executive decision, I scrapped the curriculum story and decided to tell the story of Naboth`s vineyard. Seeing as it was a grade three class or about 30 kids I was a little concerned about if they would understand my English.
As I entered the class, a few of the students caught sight of me. The way their eyes lit up knowing the mzungu teacher was there to teach them warmed my heart. I am nothing special, but the way they love having me teach makes me feel like someone important. I guess a change from their regular routine is nice. I introduced myself and talked for awhile to gauge their English comprehension. I was impressed at the amount they understood and decided to go with my story-telling idea.
`Let`s sit on the floor over here,` I said. Giving the mzungu teacher an interested slash `you`re a weird teacher` look they stood in unison and obediently gathered on the floor around me. Sixty beautiful black eyes staring at you with honest curiosity would either terrify you or help you become the most outgoing exuberant person ever. Well, thankfully today was one of those exuberant days.
I launched into telling the story of Ahab, the evil king; Jezebel, the even more evil queen; Elijah, the God-fearing prophet; and Naboth, the farmer. Prancing around, waving my arms, pointing, strutting, and using my facial expressions and my voice to the best of the ability, I illustrated that God does not like it when leaders steal. Their eyes following me around the room, their faces intent on hearing what happened next, their mouths open wide at the news of God`s punishment on Ahab and his family, these wonderful children marveled at God`s word.
Now, I`m not even close to the best story-teller in the world, but I think these children appreciated a different teaching style.
I love interacting with these children. They are open, honest, hardworking, respectful. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient they really are. As the lesson ended early, we had a laugh trying to guess how old I was. Turns out that 54, 60, and 80 years old are good guesses for me ... I never thought I looked that old! We then branched into the typical questions of siblings, parents, ages, names. I was treated to learning all their names. This is difficult as they are African names, but also because, when these children talk to you, they speak so meekly that often you have to get your ear within a few inches of their mouth comprehend what they are saying. Add the volume to the accent to the language and you have a serious mental activity on your hands. After so many classes and bunches of names, I am getting better at repeating names as well as pronouncing `Nyongesa` correctly on the first attempt.
After a lunch of ugali, kales, and a treat of two small bits of beef, I went to teach English in Standard 6. Again, I loved it. We were learning the use of `who` and `what` as pronouns. Explaining the concept was simple, but the way the given exercise was organized was confusing, even to me. About a third of the class was able to complete the exercise properly without asking for further help, but i was so pleased to have the rest ask for clarification. To have a student say, `I don`t understand,` means that you have not taught well as a teacher. But, for these students to have both the courage to vocalize their confusion as well the English vocabulary to be able to do so is a real exciting concept for me. Thanking them for asking me re-explain the concept, I obliged.
|This is my lunch each day- ugali and kales. Not bad, but horribly bland|
Another thing unique to Africa is that when you mark, students love it if you use red pen. Not only that but to have a mzungu checking your work is a real exciting experience. Well, my only red pen died and Joseph (picture is in a previous post) offered to go scrounge one up for me. Once that pen was in my hands I was swarmed by 30 12 years-olds all asking me to check their work. When everyone had their work appropriately corrected we still had 10 minutes left. So I asked them if they would like to learn some of another language. These students were delighted to learn that it is possible to talk with your hands. They can now say `welcome, teacher,` `Jesus loves you,` and `my name is` in sign language. I love their curiosity!