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Greg's YASC Blog

Welcome to my blog. documenting my service as a teacher in Tanzaina. Thank you for joining me in this mission!

Sink or Swim

I have always had a lot of respect for teachers. They go through a lot of training and take a lot of hours for pretty low pay.

I'm starting to get why they go through all that training. Going in almost cold has made for a long first week and a slightly easier second week. It's taken a few rounds of gritted teeth and grumbled prayers.

Eleven days of school into the semester, I'm only just getting to the point where I can start realistically planning ahead beyond a single day, and can start making plans for a given week. At this rate I should have my full plans for the ten-week term done by... probably week 5. Woops. At least it's teaching me a lot about lesson planning for the next three terms in the process.

Part of the steep learning curve is that I've been more or less shanghai-ed into English teaching for Form 1 and Form 2 as well as chemistry lessons for the whole secondary school. I'm presently only one of two native English speakers on staff at Canon Andrea Mwaka, and the other teaching here is single-handedly directing an ESOL plan for the entire school, including the kindergarten and the teachers. I'm figuring out a lot in the process.

With Chemistry, I can basically make up lessons as I go along. The textbook is well written and the curriculum is straightforward. I remember my core concepts well, and have a science degree with experience in university level chemistry courses. It's not bad. Each class between Standard 7 (grade 6 in the USA) and Form 2 (grade 8) has a lot of wiggle room, and the Form 3s and 4s have a very set curriculum.

As for English? There's not much of a guide, especially for the lower two Forms I'm tasked with educating. I'm having to teach myself a lot, at least partly from reverse engineering my past AP Lit and Comp classes from high school. I'm also learning with each assignment I give and grade about how to grade papers fairly for a group of students who are not (besides one Kenyan girl) native English speakers. It's a delicate balance between asking them to understand and comprehend literature in order to form well-written essays, while also realizing some of them are still mastering the language. Long and short of it is, I definitely know all of my students are capable of forming connections between complex concepts, and I'm working each day respect that fact while also addressing each student's own ability to speak English.

Teaching seven courses, two English and five Chemistry, adds up to something like 18 hours a week of class time. Add in a corresponding amount of lesson planning, grading, and other associated work, plus the mandatory practice of staying on school grounds between 7:30 and 14:30 each day (plus my Science Club I'm hosting each Thursday for fun and to educate on scientific topics outside the dedicated science curriculum!). It all comes out to a pretty solid 40-hour work week in real terms. Now remember - I'm vastly under-worked compared to someone taking on the job of a secondary-level teacher in the USA. This is certainly a calling even with only a few dozen kids and forty hours, let alone for my peers in the 'States working with hundreds of kids and the corresponding amount of grading and class prep adding up to over sixty hours a week for many American educators.

Respect teachers, folks. By God, you've got to respect teachers.  

First Post from Tanzania!