“You will start on Monday, then!” were Mama Minja’s excited words to me as she handed me a stack of books.
“All by myself?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes. Mwalimu Mwasha is leaving this weekend, so her classes are now yours.”
Mama Minja, the head teacher (principal as we would call it) had just given me a tour of all the 12 classrooms at Kilimani Primary School, jam-packed with students dressed in light-green uniforms, many ripped and tattered but still hanging on to their bodies as if for dear life. I don’t feel that I can describe the school to you good enough to create an appropriate mental picture in your head. So you will just have to wait until I can take pictures. From classroom to classroom, Mama Minja took me in and introduced me as Mwalimu (teacher) Bethany from Canada. They would all stand up from their wooden benches and chant, “Good morning, Madam. How are you doing, Madam?” It was so well practiced that it didn’t really sound like much of a question, but I answered them in my best Swahili, which made them snicker as they sat down.
I had been wanting to get out and do some more volunteering somewhere else to get some more experiences and meet more people. My volunteer contract with Cradle of Love requires me to work 40 hours a week, but I am allowed to arrange those hours how I need to, so I was determined to get a teaching position part time in the mornings. There are two schools across the field from Claire’s house, a fifteen minute walk from Cradle of Love. Laganga Primary School has 1, 075 students and Kilimani Primary School has 900 students. Laganga Primary school has dark green uniforms and Kilimani has light green uniforms. I talked about a volunteer teaching role with the head teacher of Laganga on Thursday, but she said they had no openings and I should try Kilimani next store. I was a bit discouraged, thinking Kilimani would give me the same answer, but it turns out that one of their teachers is leaving for two weeks and they were desperate for a teacher. All of the classes are taught in Swahili, so that puts some limits on what I have to offer, but there is one subject in which I feel fairly competent and that’s English. What I had in mind was to help out in the English classes, tutoring, or grading or whatever else needed to be done. But since the teacher is leaving, I will be teaching Class 6 English to 120 or more 11-14-year olds starting Monday. The class is split into class A and B, so thankfully there are only about 55 crowded into the small concrete classroom at once. I will have two or three class periods every morning depending on the schedule. To be honest, I’m terrified. A few days ago I had this impulsive feeling that I needed to start teaching right away—I needed to be busier and I needed to be doing more. I was confident in my teaching ability and sure that I had much to offer. “I am an Education major in University and I speak fluent English! What more could they want!” I thought. Now as I sat in Mama Minja’s office, all of my proud confidence was draining. What was I thinking getting myself into this? “I must make lesson plans, grade 120 papers every day, and keep all of these energetic and mischievous kids in line. I’ve never taught a class in my life. This is legitimate teaching of which I currently know nothing of. Sure, I’m an education major, but I’ve only completed my first year which was full of generals! I know nothing of classroom control, standing up front and giving a lesson on the chalkboard, activities, or anything. Yikes. These kids are learning English, but they don’t speak it fluently and maybe my words will go right over their heads. How will I explain things? What am I going to say?”
Those were my thoughts as I sat in the office looking at my stack of books to read and draw lesson ideas from. A young student came in and brought the head teacher and I some Chai tea and Chapati so we ate and sipped as I asked her a zillion questions. She’s a wonderful woman and we ended up getting to know each other quite well on Friday morning. She boosted my confidence back up a little and encouraged me in my upcoming task. I don’t know if she realizes that I actually don’t know how to teach yet or not because I came into the job pretty confident. But I hope that no one will find that out! Me and God together are going to rise to the occasion and teach these kids English! I really am excited and I know I have a lot of learning a head of me. So, I’m going to stop blogging now, and start on tomorrow’s lesson plan!