Wednesday 18 September 2013

Day 13 & 14 (Monday and Tuesday, August 4 & 5, 2013)

Day 13 (Monday): Today we thought it was a public holiday, so we tried to sleep in. I was all up and ready to do a workout, when Momadi and Keuba came to tell us that it actually was not a holiday and we had to be to the school within the hour. I had no lesson plan made, and no idea about the next chapter of what I was teaching, because I thought I had the whole week to memorize my lecture. Turns out I had to embrace my inner Gambian, and put myself to the ultimate test of how well I knew the manual. I had to teach 3 hours today, so I came up with a few activities on the spot, and I think I taught the children about bacteria in an efficient way. I used glitter and rubbed it all over two of the students hands. I sprayed everyone else's hands with water (which was even more fun than the glitter). The two students had 15 seconds to shake as many people's hands as they could. I then stopped the time and handshaking, and asked who had glitter on their hands. When everyone except one person raised their hands, I then told the students that the two students who had the glitter on their hands initially had a disease, and now everyone who had shaken hands with them and not cleaned their hands may have that disease now too. I think it really hit home with the students on how important it is to wash your hands.

Since the kids are on their third last day of Ramadan, in the afternoon no one was paying attention and they were falling asleep. I got them up to present and playing a few water related games to keep them engaged. So all in all I think it was a great teaching experience. I had to learn today that you sometimes just have to go with the flow, and you cannot control everything in life. I think experiences like this will be good for me when I get home, so I am not so uptight about doing everything a certain way at a certain time.

Day 14 (Tuesday): Today I did not teach because we closed early for the Ramadan break, but I helped Danielle for a while. Then I headed over and watched Amanda’s class put on skits. They were really funny to watch; the kids are so great at drama. It is as though they transform into different people. In class the kids are sometimes super shy, but it is like they break this barrier and show the true them hiding on the inside.

I also almost cried when my students told me they were going to miss me over the break. This also gave me a boost in confidence. I feel like although they test me sometimes, that we are all truly looking out for one another in the long run. I know these relationships will last a lifetime.

Day 9 (Thursday August 1, 2013)

Day 9 (Thursday): This has been one of the best days since I have been here. I started the day off really badly. I threw up a few times because of my antimalarial pill. I took it easy, and Danielle and I decided to combined our classes to do drama about water pollution due to my feeling under the weather. The kids absolutely loved it. I ended up learning a few Wolof words from my class. I have a hard time remembering the words because the kids get so excited and tell me one word, and then another word, and then they tell me those words in every language they know. I will get the hang of it though!

We then did a scavenger hunt with the kids, which they loved. We tried to get all the teachers involved, and the students had to find us and do a task for us that needed to be signed off on. All the teachers thought it was such a great idea. It made me feel very proud at that moment because they thought we were teaching the kids in ways that they had never seen before, even though these are such common activities at home.

I feel like I am being more comfortable with the students, and am able to enjoy my time with them more and more each day. I then stayed after classes and the students wanted to take pictures with me. I loved seeing them so happy when they had pictures taken of them, and then looking back at all the pictures that they were in. The little things really matter, which is so nice to see. I told them they can have my email at the end of school so that I can send them the pictures by email. I think they will be proud to have memories like that to show their families, because I know I will feel proud showing their pictures to my own family at home.

Day 8 (Wednesday July 31, 2013)

Day 8 (Wednesday): This may be the worst journal article I have written yet, as I did not eat for seven hours today and my body is not functioning properly. Ramadan is starting to get the best of me. We try to not eat in front of anyone because we do not want to make their fasting any harder, but it is starting to take a toll on the body. I would like to try and experience what it is like to fast for a whole day, but after today I feel that drinking no water all day would put me right into the hospital. 

On a more positive note, I taught by myself for the first time today for 3 hours. I found it easier to talk to the kids today. I think they have a better understanding of what I am saying and I of them. However, I am still pulling teeth to get them to do group work. I don't know if they don't understand the concept, or are still just being shy. I am going to make it my goal to have these kids doing group work in a fashionably manner by the end of this experience!

I hope that I can get them to take turns and accomplish tasks as a group better by the end of summer school. I did notice that when I put them in groups to draw pictures of watersheds, that they did not have as many problems working together. I think their love of drawing really showed, and allowed them to work together better. Some of the girls even brought their friends in to show them their drawings. I also got them to make bracelets to represent the water cycle, which my age group really liked (even the boys). It took almost the whole class, but their excitement was well worth it. 

One of the proudest moments I've had of my was yesterday when Keuba complimented me on letting a child guess the answer more than one time because apparently usually they will just ask the next student if the other student gets the question wrong. I felt proud at this moment for doing something so simple. I feel if you move from one child to the next too quickly you kill their self-esteem. I'm hoping that this way of teaching may catch on.

Day 7 (Tuesday July 30, 2013)

Day 7 (Tuesday): Today was our first day of teaching, and I think it went quite well. I helped Danielle teach her class first period, which I think helped because I got to hear how she wanted to explain the material, and then I got to do it myself and adjust to how I saw fit.

When I first started teaching my class they could not understand me well, and I have a hard time understanding them. Although, Joseph says that if the students are quiet that it means that they understanding, and if they are not that they will ask questions. However, when people are giving you the "I have no idea what you are talking about lady" stare, how am I supposed to feel confident in my teaching abilities. Even though students do the same thing when they understand at home, it would nice for someone to just ask one question to reassure me that they are grasping the material. Those stares can be intimidating.

The only problem I really had was getting the children to work in groups. I have one of two guesses, either the children are really shy because they all came from schools across the country, or that group work is not practised here as much as it is at home. The children had a very hard time understanding how to sit in a circle and work together as a group. I think it was a great challenge though to get them to interact with one another, and I feel they learned a lot and had fun while doing so. The children really love math and English, but I am hoping that they will love health science just as much by the end of the month.

Day 6 (Monday July 29, 2013)

I'm hoping this will not get confusing for you all. Once again, I am posting today and adding in my thoughts and feelings, but I kept journals the whole time I was in The Gambia so that I could share my stories and experiences with you. I have altered the journals a bit, but for the most part they are my direct thoughts and feelings on the said day.

Day 6 (Monday): Today was orientation at the school for everyone. We started off the day listening to the rules and expectations, as well as introductions. My heart pounded as 100 gambian students stared at me blankly as we were called experts of water and sanitation… not quite. At this moment I am hoping that if at any time my study skills paid off, I hope it is now, because these kids seem to know what they are talking about!

Everyone was very welcoming. Amanda, Chris, and I went into a class and introduced ourselves and the programs. We were shy during the first class, but by the end we were trying to get them to use their drama voices, and questioning them more and more. Chris stayed behind and talked to one class for the same amount of time that we talked to 2 classes. We laughed a lot. We then went to the staff room to eat lunch in private. I still feel so bad even thinking about drinking water in front of any of the students or teachers because it is Ramadan. I think each one of us almost fainted a few times, but energy bars have been our lifesavers. I don't mean by this that we weren't aloud to eat; we were told many of times by the NSGA that it was ok to eat in front of everyone and we would not offend them. I just did not feel like it was fair to the staff or students to wave food in their faces. They are already so tired and hungry.

They closed school early. We relaxed and made bracelets for the students and teaching plans all afternoon. I am having anxiety just thinking about it. I think I am now very prepared and just over the moon excited to get to know my junior class. Hopefully by the end of this process I will be more relaxed and confident in myself, because right now I feel like the pressure is on.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

The Beginning - The Gambia

I would like to start with saying, expect the unexpected. Although I took so much time to write out a lesson plan, it was a bit pointless. I think I failed to forget that the 5000 odd miles that separate Canada and The Gambia may have meant that some information may have change by the time we reached the country. We got there and the way we had thought we were going to teach was changed. Instead of two people to a class, we were each going to be one teacher to 25 kids. Anxiety starts to set in now. I have no idea how to teach. How will I teach these teenagers when I don't feel I am the expert. I learn right away that they know so much more than I ever thought possible. My perception was that they didn't know a lot about water and sanitation. It's not that they don't, it is just hard to change the way people have governed their lives for years upon years. I think on this trip, I learned how to adapt to change. Adjusting, modifying, teaching. It is what I need to do as a nurse back in Canada, it is just stressful when you are in a new country and don't know the language or culture.

I'd like to hear your stories on your first encounter teaching or volunteering in a foreign country! So go ahead and post your experiences : )

Monday 16 September 2013

It Has Been a While

So, summer did not go as planned with blogging. I was unable to access this site in The Gambia. I have completed journals throughout this experience and over the next few weeks I am going to update my findings and thoughts regarding the trip. Believe me, I have lots.
I apologize for not keeping you all up to date, but I feel it will be worth while to still share my experience now.