Learning to Teach

Since my last blog entry, we’ve had two lessons with the art club. After weeks of asking Aicha when it would begin and her forgetting to check in school, she suddenly announced ‘it’s today at four!’ Eight kids turned up on the first lesson and eleven on the second. We’re expecting more to come after the holidays. So far we’ve gotten our students to decorate the covers of their sketch books and then do free choice drawings, which they could turn into jigsaw puzzles. For Monday’s lesson, we’re going to make Christmas cards and paper snowflakes. We’ve also been teaching art to Aminata Fall, Herr Fall’s five-year-old daughter. We made cards with her and some for the family and other volunteers. The teachers have started complaining about the cold in the mornings at school now. I’m usually fine, as it’s nothing on British standards, but I had to wake up at half past five in the morning last week to get water from the tap outside, and it was the first time I’ve worn my hoody since I’ve been here. I asked Madame Diodio a few weeks ago if it would be possible for me to teach two English classes in the middle school rather than just one. She said that I may find it too much work, as I’ll be getting a timetable from the Lycee soon too. I agreed, so did not turn up for the Friday lesson of one of the classes. She then asked me why I hadn’t gone and that she thought it would be fine for me to teach two. I’m pretty glad about this as there’s been so many strikes in the Lycee, I wouldn’t have had very much to do otherwise. Julia’s not been teaching for quite a while, as Herr Fall is striking. Luckily for me, Madame Diodio is not, so I have eight hours a week in the middle school. I observed a few English lessons with Mr Ba and Amadou as well, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting our own classes in the Lycee. Mr Ba said it would be fine if I wanted to bring in a text and teach a comprehension lesson or something like that, but as we’ve not been observing a specific teacher or class, it seems we’ll just be teaching the odd lesson here and there. Julia and I accidently wandered in to an extremely long meeting about strikes in the Lycee and got stuck there for ages. Julia, Amadou and two other teachers were all either asleep or drifting off in a row, which was hilarious. Madame Diodio asked if I would do a song with the 5eme classes. I was teaching them modal verbs and sports / instruments, so I wanted them to sing something that linked. It ended up with me changing the lyrics to ‘Do You Love Me?’ the song that’s in ‘Dirty Dancing’: Me: Can you play the guitar? Class: I can play the guitar Me: Can you play football? Class: I can play football Me: Could you play the kora when you were younger? Class: Yes____ I_____ Could_____ Me: Can you play basketball? Class: I can’t play basketball Me: Can you play tennis? Class: I can’t play tennis Me: Could you play the piano when you were seven? Class: No_____ I_____ Could not______

Surprisingly it went down a treat with the first class, though the other class were slightly less enthusiastic, and some looked as though they wanted to kill me. I’ve been to lots of rehearsals with the petit choral now and it’s going pretty well! I’ve sang in Wolof, Serer, Joala, French, Latin, and some other African languages I can’t remember the names of. There’s a barbers opposite the church where brothers from Sierra Leone work. They speak English and Creole, and no Wolof or French, so they were very happy to speak to someone who understands them. (Though not in Creole of course!) Sophia taught me a few basic phrases in Pulaar and Serer, which I still need to memorise! Unfortunately, she is no longer here to teach me more, as she quit. One night, without even saying goodbye, she was gone. She had often complained about housework being difficult and the hours being too long, but I was not expecting such a dramatic exit. Since then, Binta has been here every day, doing the cleaning and cooking. I’ve tried to help her out with cooking most days as well. I’ve started eating fish now. I don’t think I needed to for health reasons, it’s more just for convenience. For instance, if we go to somebody’s house for a meal or even just here with Amadou and Aicha, it’s a lot less awkward to eat fish, as they have it every day. Aicha’s brother, his wife and some other friends and relatives visited from France a few weeks ago. When you get visitors in Senegal, it’s a very big deal and they need to be treated extremely well. We prepared an absolute feast, chicken with rice and vegetables, two cakes, thiakri, etc. I ate some of the chicken. It was the first time I’ve eaten meat in my life! I’ve decided that when I’m here I can eat fish and chicken, but I’m not eating any red meats. On my way home from school the other day, I had three offers to join people for lunch, two for ataya and met one man who remembered me as ‘the girl who always struggles to open her own front door and has to ask passers-by to help her’. Julia and I have been to Mbour a few times this month. The first time was to go Christmas shopping, but I made the stupid mistake of forgetting my bank card, so that completely failed. The second time was a more successful Christmas shop, and we got presents for the family and other volunteers. Julia went a third time to see an eye specialist, as she got another infection. She’s going to see him again on Tuesday as well. The other day I was in a five-seater taxi with eight other people. There were four squished into the front next to the driver, and four in the back. Crazy. On the 5th December, it was the Muslim festival Tamxarit. It is Senegalese tradition for men to dress as women and vice versa, as well as going from house to house dolling out couscous. We went to Oumou’s house and watched as large groups of people came in banging bowls like drums, singing and dancing in clothes of the opposite sex. Boys were wearing wigs and dresses and painted their faces with white powder. Everyone looked pretty insane, but we had a lot of fun! Last Saturday, Julia and I got invited to a wedding by some members of the church. Joseph, who I’d met before a choir rehearsal, drove us to the reception, which was in a large outdoor club. There was only one other Toubab there. We felt slightly out of place, but got put on a table with a primary school teacher and soldier who were really friendly, though it did seem slightly as if we were crashing the wedding. The bride was wearing a white dress, similar to any that you would see in the UK, but the bridesmaids all had matching boubous. We stayed to watch the dancing for a bit and had some champagne, baobab fruit juice and donuts, before getting a taxi home. Joseph later invited me to another wedding, but I think I’m going to pass on this one. He said that it’s fine in Senegal, you don’t need invitations like in the UK, but I’m not sure how true that is… The following day we went to Dakar with Aicha, some other teachers from her school and a few primary school classes. First, we visited the Renaissance monument and then an annual commercial fair. The fair was absolutely huge and they had stalls from all over the Senegal and the world. Julia bought a Nigerian bowl and I got a pair of shorts. We didn’t have too much time for shopping, though, with all the kids running around. However, we have an early Christmas present of internet in the house! ICT lessons have started in the middle school now, so after the holidays, we’re going to help out with them from time to time as well as the school website. In the break between my two lessons last Wednesday, I bumped into one of the teachers from the middle school and he took me to the house of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s father and we got given a tour. It was nice to learn some of the history of the first president of Senegal and his family. His father had four wives and forty one children! For the last few choirs rehearsals there have been mbalax drummers and a guitars, which is great. I’d love to learn some mbalax drumming. In the Masion D’eau Caritas, opposite our house, yesterday, there were musicians and a spokesperson doing a talk on the importance of washing your hands and keeping clean for kids. It was a really good idea and very interactive, with the kids getting up and dancing, as well as answering questions and demonstrating how best to wash their hands. At the end of the talk, they handed out free bars of soap. Unfortunately Marieme didn’t get one, which resulted in her crying and stomping back to the house. We’ve stopped going to Wolof classes now, as the lessons ended up with us just asking for vocab that we didn’t know. The teachers didn’t plan specific lessons for us, due to them teaching others to write and read, so it seemed like it would be easier for us to just ask someone in the house if we wanted to learn a new word or phrase. A funny Wolof tradition is if you call someone’s name, e.g. ‘Binta!’ they reply with their surname, ‘Gaye?’ Gaye is a common surname in Senegal and is pronounced: gay.

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