Teaching is hard work. This statement will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever taught, but before now I have never truly appreciated just how exhausting teaching is! It takes time to invent and create and the lessons and the implementation (especially here) is particularly frustrating. Despite hours of meticulous planning I am still often faced with a room full of blank stares when I am explaining activities. The hardest part of a lesson for me is that horrible moment when you have 35 students saying, “teacher, we do not understand” as I desperately try to save my precious lesson plan that I was so proud of a mere 20 minutes ago. It is like putting in the time to build a ship and then be forced to abandon it in the midst of a turbulent storm. Sometimes, with the effort of a Kinyarwanda-English dictionary and just the right attitude I can manage to save the activity and break through the “blank stare barrier.” Most of the time, however, I reluctantly jump ship and fall back on a different activity that they already understand. There is a fine line between pushing my students to learn in a new and different way and just frustrating them to the point where they shut down. Unfortunately for me, since this is my first time teaching in the Rwandan school system, this line is often discovered through trial and error. Most of the time error.
Looking back on my all my years of education I can finally realize how truly blessed I was to have such amazing teachers! Teachers who always put in the extra effort to help me learn, spent countless hours creating fun and interesting activities and have dedicated their lives to forming the minds of children. A mere five weeks into my debut as a teacher I cannot believe how incredibly frustrating and difficult this job can be. Yes, it can be rewarding and the children are amazing to work with, but sometimes after an especially difficult day it takes all the courage I can muster just to walk back into the classroom the next day. Luckily for me a majority of my students are fantastic and I really love spending time with them and the extra work is totally worth it. As for that handful of students that seem to exist in this world with the sole intention of driving me crazy- well- I suppose this type of student is in every classroom around the world.
Today we welcomed our Senior 1 students. They come a month later than the other students because the education board has to finish grading their primary exams before they can decide which students can go to what schools because they are separated by scores. This doesn’t really make sense to me because they have a break from November to January and you would think that this would be enough time to grade all the exams but this is just one of those kinks in a developing education system that will hopefully be resolved eventually.
I was only supposed to teach two hours today, but when I showed up for my first class that starts at 9:45 am the students were all in the field in front of the school playing the drums and singing. I left my things in the teacher’s room and headed out to watch at the same time that the inclusive pre-school across the street arrived to do a short dance performance. It was adorable and very entertaining. I think the secondary school students really enjoyed it as well, and the Senior 1 students couldn’t decide if it was more fun to watch the children or stare at the white teacher. I am a constant source of entertainment for my community- hopefully after two years the novelty of my skin color will start to dissipate. So this little celebration happened to take place during the majority of my first class so instead of teaching 50 minutes I had about 15 minutes. I am slowly starting to get used to these random interruptions. For example the other day, while I was giving my kids a quiz, one of the teachers came in to collect all of the kids sweatshirts since it is technically not allowed- they take their dress code very seriously. All the kids had to stand up to be examined to make sure their shirts were tucked in as well. It was rather annoying since I knew that some of the students needed the whole 50 minutes to work and an impromptu visit from the fashion police put us behind schedule- but when you are a teacher in Rwanda you just learn to go with it!
I hope that everyone back home reading this will take a moment to appreciate the amazing teachers that changed their lives and how much work they put in to help get you where you are today. Sending lots of love to everyone back home- and everyone in Colorado enjoy the snow- I miss it! 🙂