We’re all aware that I’m here in Benin and I have no idea what I’m doing. Jokes. Actually, I’m a teacher. To be specific, I’ll be teaching English. We’re also well aware that I like being the center of attention. In my future, I would love to be a college professor and I feel that if I can teach kids in Benin to speak English I could probably teach some Americans
I’ve been in training since I arrived in Benin. I’ve been learning French, I’ve been learning how to live in Benin, I’ve been learning how to haggle in Beninese markets, I’ve also been learning the Beninese educational system and how to function properly in it. The Beninese classroom runs a bit differently than an American classroom. The most obvious difference is the lack of educational supplies. In America we have all of the luxuries associated with advanced and multifaceted learning. We have computers, flash cards, I think there’s something called a “magic board” which is like a chalk board but is magic, (I think it records what you’ve written on it and has the capability of emailing it to the students, or some other space-aged thing.) and numerous other educational tools to help students with all sorts of learning characteristics learn all the wonderful things that are out there to learn. Contrarily, there isn’t anything in a Beninese classroom but students, a teacher, and a blackboard. To be honest, they don’t even have books. What we kind of have are photocopies of books that the teachers get and then use as a guide to help teach. The students then copy whatever is on the board into their copybooks. Honestly, they’ll copy anything you write on the board in the exact same way that you write it. If you leave too much spacing between letters it’ll show as two different words in their copybooks.
All of this training is to prepare me for my teaching life in Benin. Appropriately, we have a few weeks of model school, which takes place at the school where I’ve been receiving my training. Model school, which is supposed to mimic the teaching environment in which I’ll find myself in Kerou, was the first time I had had real teaching experience. In college I tutored and worked at a learning center, but never have I been the actual teacher. This was the first time I was the one in charge of the scholastic development of not one, but 30 to 40 students.
Thus the birth of Mr. T., not to be confused with the 1980’s television bad-ass known for his gold chains and Mohawk. That being said, I have had a faux hawk a few times. I don’t drive a van, and I surely don’t use the phrase, “I pity the fool.” I pity plenty of things, a fool isn’t one of them. Mr. T. is an easy name for students to say, and, according to how often it’s repeated throughout campus, quite easy to remember. As you can probably imagine, I’m a rather animated teacher, I move around a lot, I tend to speak a bit fast, which isn’t the best for comprehension, and I like making my students laugh. I act things out, such as vocabulary, and I want to teach my students some cleaned-up rap lyrics. (By the end of my stay in Kerou I promise you 5th and 6th graders all over that town will be singing Biggie Smalls. You mark my word.) Students tend to remember me and there have been cascading eruptions of students screaming Mr. T. as I cross the campus. In one class, the week after I had taught a 5th grade class, another teacher was teaching the present continuous and one student stood up and was like, “Mr. T. is laughing.” As you can probably imagine, my fellow Volunteers got a kick out of it.
So far I’ve been having a lot of fun teaching. It really feeds into my personality traits, and is something I enjoy. I like having to think on the fly to figure out ways of presenting the information in an accessible way. And, it’s a lot of fun being in front of these students essentially doing whatever I’d like. It’s kind of like I’m my own boss.
Model school is now over and i'll be moving to Kerou in a few days. I won't have people shadowing my classes and giving me advice. I'll be making the decisions, (scary, i know) and i'll be our on my own. Staging really has been a rewarding experience but it's nothing like what my real Peace Corps experience will be. I'm about to make the giant leap into the real Peace Corps life. (Also scary, i know.)
I've always known that teaching would be something that i would like, it's nice to know that my presumptions were correct.