And now it’s Night Time …

“And how do you keep your feet on the ground when you know that you were born, you were born to fly?”

It’s only ten, but I feel like it’s much much later. What an exhausting day. I’m still a little overwhelmed from the street experience. I was talking with Rebecca (one of the professors) earlier about the math value of being a street seller. It’s incredible because they can easily convert between American dollars and Tanzanian schillings (this is something that takes me, a college math major, at least 30 seconds to figure out and they do it almost instantly). Also, they can add and subtract very quickly to compute prices. We read an article before we left about street sellers in Brazil doing similar things. It’s interesting, though because they can very quickly and efficiently do these calculations, but it’s in a different way than you or I would typically do them. For example, what if you buy 10 postcards at 50 cents each? You know that you just add a 0 when multiplying by ten. A typical way for them to think about it would be something along the lines of well three is a common number purchased and I know that 3 cost $1.50, 3 more makes 6 or $3, take 3 more for 9 and $4.50 and finally add the last one to get $5.00. The method is completely accurate and they can do it quite quickly, but it’s just different than our mechanisms. It has purpose and context, though. They’ve just needed to do this from a very young age, so they’ve developed the math skills necessary. The math has meaning to them and makes sense. I’m going to the schools tomorrow and I’m just thinking about how to make my context relevant to the students here. Something like street selling isn’t relevant to high school students in America (sales in general really with cash registers and calculators on phones these days), but it’s incredibly relevant to my students here. I know I can’t make everything fit into a context, especially in such short time but I sure want to try. I’m just so impressed in how quickly they can do these computations with little schooling.
We’ve also had a lot of time to get to know each other today. I feel as though I’ve been reaching out and getting to know different people. Between lunch, dinner, just walking around and hanging out at night we’ve had a lot of time just to chat. I love that I’m connecting with people. I’ve also found that several people have some of the same fears and concerns that I have, which is really comforting. Some of the things I was feeling on the streets earlier, they were feeling as well. Some of the things I’m feeling about teaching they are as well.

We got our school assignments. I’ve been assigned to Prime Secondary school. You know as much about what that means as I do. I will find out tomorrow. Well, by the time I get around to actually posting this I will know what it’s all about. I do know, however, that I will be teaching alone and not with a partner. We had the option but she needed people to volunteer to teach alone so I decided to go for it. I mean go big or go home, right? Jumping in with both feet and going to really do this thing. We were talking today about how the classroom is different than the classroom in America. For one, I’m told classroom management won’t be an issue at all. The students will all rise and greet me “good morning teacher” in the mornings and they should be well behaved. They see teachers as strictly authority figures. Part of this is due to the use of corporal punishment. The elementary students were warned that they might see their teachers use physical punishment. I don’t think that’s something I could stomach. Another implication of seeing teachers as strictly authority figures is the style of learning. The teacher is expected to stand at the front of the room and deliver information to the students. The teacher doesn’t ask the students questions because she should already know the answer. Group work is practically unheard of. I’m hopefully going to get the opportunity to implement group work and more collaborative learning in my classroom. There’s been a push at the national level to do this, but it hasn’t really found its way to the classrooms yet.

The students I have are likely going to University soon and I will be helping prepare them for their A or O level exams. From my understanding these are like exit exams, and I think O level is sort of like AP classes in the States. The students learn math that’s very comparable to the math our high school students would learn. Only about 25% of the population attends secondary school. For part of my capstone I have to focus on an equity issue of some kind, and I think I’m going to choose gender, so I’m curious to see how many men versus women are in the classroom. One thing I’ve noticed throughout town is that you see very many men and very few women. When you do see women they are much more timid and less willing to engage you. Lisa (our professor) was telling us that the women here work really hard at home cooking, cleaning, craft work, etc. while the men tend to hang out in the village, more than a few unemployed. I have also noticed that mostly men are employed, though. I guess the impression that I get is the woman is almost always a hard worker, most likely at home but sometimes outside of the home, and the men are sometimes hard workers. It’s just an interesting dynamic.

I’m excited to go in and just meet the students and teachers and get to know about their perspective on life in Tanzania. Apparently there’s a 20 minute tea time in the mornings where the students just hang out outside unsupervised and all of the teachers will just go inside and drink tea. We are encouraged to go sit with the teachers and talk to them about life, teaching, Swahili, or whatever sounds interesting to us. Not going to lie, this is kind of intimidating to me. But I’m going to go in with a positive attitude and with full intentions of engaging as much as possible. I guess I shouldn’t really be that worried because all of the workers here at the hotel and our guides have been really nice. Anyone who wasn’t trying to hassle me on the streets has actually been incredible. They’re all so welcoming and so excited to engage with us and learn about America and tell us about Tanzania.

If you’re still with me, kudos to you for reading over one thousand words of my pointless rambling.

Love you and miss you all!
Love, Cassie

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~ by Cassie.Becker on May 6, 2011.

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