Repeat Repeat Repeat

Blog Photo-5TRO – Muhanga – Rwanda

I have never been officially trained in the art of teaching. I helped out setting up the preschool my mother owned and ran. I was a camp counselor at a YMCA camp. I tutored middle school when I was in High School. I even was a volunteer teacher 7 years ago for an 8th grade class in Nairobi. My job as Human Resources is teaching people how to do their jobs. If you asked me back in January before I embarked on this journey if I could assist a kindergarten class, I would have (and did) say ‘not a problem.’ I assumed, at that time, 8th grade would have been a bigger challenge I have already had than a kindergarten class.

Nothing can whip you back to the reality of how unqualified you are for a job more than someone handing it over to you completely and you falling flat on your face within 5 minutes.

That was my experience when the kindergarten teacher handed the class over to me one day to teach the word “book.”

Not a problem. Say the word book, write it on the board, ask the kids to repeat after me “book.” That took up about 1 minute. Now what?

I would experience this feeling over and over again during the next month and a half at different schools. There is the word, that is the word. I cannot tell you more than that. How do you teach a word  you already know?  Draw it, show and tell with a physical example say it and repeat. Over and over repeat until you think it is over kill and just ridiculous, repeat again.

One of the teachers in Tanzania described it best, “you have to remember kids are ignorant.” This was not meant in a negative way, kids just do not know anything yet. They have not been taught it yet. I know this sounds obvious, but even the way of learning and memorizing has to be learned. Just like learning how to teach needs to be learned for me through repetition. Because still, I get it wrong and do not repeat the lessons with the kids enough times.

At least it was not just me failing to pick up the correct way to teach. I was joined by other volunteers that tried to teach and when one reviewed information the next day and kids did not remember her response was “We just learned this yesterday!”

Teaching is hard. Teaching kids just learning English plus basic learning is really difficult.