Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Class Dismissed

My second year of teaching in Benin ended with little
fanfare, no parties, less than average drama, but with quite a bit of

Year two was definitely easier, as I was more familiar with
the Beninese education system, the curriculm, and I didn’t have to teach 4th
grade. I prefer my students be able to understand simple phrases like “I am Mr.
T,” and “Sit down and stop talking!” 6th grade students (4eme in the
Beninese system) are older, more engaging, and more experienced. This means, in
my opinion, you can be more daring and creative with the material, as well as
introduce teenage/puberty-related topics. Don’t forget that at this age some of
them are having children, working 20-30 hours a week, and, though not many,
some are contemplating leaving school and becoming full-time adults. We
broached topics such as alcohol, smoking, HIV/AIDS, sex, sexual health, healthy
living practices, and abstinence. It was obvious that some of the kids, because
they still are kids, were reticent to participate in class, but there were many
who were quite learned on the dangers of drinking too much and having too many
sexual partners. (I’m not sure I want to know why/how.)

I had one class that was filled with bright students. And,
those who weren’t bright enjoyed participating. This class was literally the
highlight of my teaching week. We played games, laughed, learned, and generally
had a great time in class. My two favorite students were also in this class: a
girl named Faida, who was by far my best/favorite student (and is pictured next
to me on my Facebook profile picture), and a boy named Joseph, whom I taught
how to play chess. They were engaging in class. They participated daily, if not
too eagerly. They asked questions that demonstrated their understanding of the
material and desire to use/adapt/modify it to previous lessons. They encouraged
others around them to participate and rarely
disrupted the classroom. You could not have asked for better students. I
promise you, I will surely miss them both.

After my last day of class I felt both joy and sadness. I
was excited to have completed the two years of teaching obligatory to my
service, I accomplished something; I struggled, I prospered, I tried, I failed,
and, for lack of a better word, I taught. I stood in front of 70 studnets per
class with two two-hour long classes a day and found a way to overcome so many
obstacles to imbue an understanding, if though merely cursory, of the English
language. Most days didn’t go according to plan, but I found a way to make it
work. Somedays I left skippy and jocund, others I left distraught and downtrodden.
But, looking back on my two years as a teacher, I wouldn’t have changed a
thing. I challenged myself to not let hardships overcome me and to always look
for a solution. Sometimes I had to reteach things three or four times, but
progression was made and I know my students are better for it.

Before teaching in Benin, it was my job to “teach” people
about advanced automotive teachnologies; to breakdown complex ideas and
concepts into digestable content suited for all. I think my experience in Benin
has heled me hone my abilities to break down different concepts and ideas
making them accessible to a different audience. I know that my teaching
experience has made me a better “teacher.”
Will I ever be a classroom teacher again? Not sure. I’d love
to be a professor later on in life. I can think of nothing better at keeping
someone young at heart that surrounding themselves with the freshness of youth
and eagerness to learn one experience in a classroom environment.

Thanks to all of you who’ve supported me throughout these
two years by sending markers and supplies. I promise you it was appreciated by
more than just me.

No comments:

Post a Comment