Big Up from Aribinda

Monday, December 17, 2007

Teaching the Little Ones

Teaching a hundred little brats all at once tests the patience. Of course, not all of them are brats. Some are great kids. Age range is crazy. Size in American classrooms always varies, but age may only vary 5 to 6 months. Not here. There's this one little guy who sits right up front. He is a shy kid with a kind face. I get the feeling he got pushed through primary level cause I know he doesn't get a feeling like he understands what I am trying to teach.

Lots of the kids don't understand homework or studying. Some of them need it desperately too. One challenge that teachers in this country face is a language comprehension issue. Of course, the education language in this country is French. But there are 6-plus major ethnic languages spoken. When kids go home, especially in real remote areas, they are speaking Fulse, or Moore, or Dioula, or something even less common. They aren't speaking French and it is a problem. We had a discussion in class the other day and the kids found out I speak a little Moore and Fulfulde. They asked if we could speak in Moore, the most dominant local language here. I asked them if they wanted to go to America. The majority answered yes. My response: Il faut apprendre le Francais d'abord, puis, l'Anglais. The kids think it's a real hoot that I understand a little, c'est drole!

Also, there are no electives in school, at least at a high school level there aren't. I mean no cultural judgment but teaching kids English when they barely (and sometimes don't) comprehend French is a huge no-no.

I genuinely like the kids. Teaching is usually fun. The kids are normal enough as in one-on-one they are respectful. Get a grip of 'em together and they stop being respectful. The sign of respect and submission here is rather comical. When a little kid sees us "professeurs blancs" they, individually, go up to each Haole and do an arms-folded-across-the-chest combined with a slight courtsey. At first is almost seems like they're mocking you. It's a shit ton of courtsies with 40 kids and 5 profs around and it happens too often!

I remember I told the kids my first day never to come to my house. Wrong move. So many of the kids need and/or want the interaction. I have also learned the value of one-on-one or small group instruction. The kids seem to feel good about it. I am also able to demonstrate more clearly to finer, more specific needs. The relationship/rapport building and language nuances are also ameliorated when les enfants viennent a la maison.

Things seem to get better after every lesson, after every devoir. The kids are now required to turn in homework and I know that benefits them. After I begin a few secondary projects, things will be even better.

Beaucoup d'Amour du Sahel!

No comments: