Category Archives: Looking Back

Looking Back

I know that I have already posted about looking back, but it was a short post and I promised Lisa I would write more when I got home. Now that I am home and cleaned up and rested (to an extent) I am finding myself missing it more and more. I can tell you that it is the weirdest thing to not see my group today! I miss everyone in the group so much. We have gotten so close over these four weeks and it is the weirdest and saddest feeling to not see any of them today! But looking back at the trip as a whole, it was such an amazing growing experience. It made me do things that I would not have done other wise. It grew me not only in my career choice, but in life in general. I am now a stronger, bolder, more confident person.

Being in the classroom for three weeks really allowed me to get used to teaching. It has prepared me for anything! I am so ready to have my own classroom to teach, I am so excited to start getting into the classroom more and more. I was able to co-teach with Diana which was a great experience within itself. We worked so well together and we were able to help each other grow as teachers. Teaching over 20 lessons in front of not only a class, but a class in Africa has made me so much more confident. Diana and I were thrown into many classrooms on the spot and being able to think up lessons in five minutes was a stretch but a great test! We were able to adapt to the different situations that we were thrown into. I have to say again that I am so prepared to be up in front of a classroom and I am even more excited to see even more differences and similarities between the classrooms!

The trip as a whole was a growing experience like I said earlier. This trip grew me physically, emotionally, and relationally. I was able to climb a mountain and I can tell you that I would have never been able to do it with out the group! There was so much encouragement and support from our group which is i think the only reason I made it! I truly think that I have created life long friendships which I am so thankful for! We not only have this trip in common, but we have the love of teaching in common! I am so excited to be able to share ideas and stories with all of them as we begin to have our own classrooms. This trip will be one that I will never forget and I already want to go back!

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Looking Back

Where to even begin about being here in Tanzania! So many great things have happened in four weeks! Leaving the schools was probably one of the hardest things ever. I am going to miss talking to the teachers during break and not only teaching the students but learning from them. I think one of the biggest things that i learned here was being flexible and going with the flow. I really liked being forced to teach with a piece of chalk and chalkboard. It really forced me to get back to the basics and really think of creative ways to teach. I have really enjoyed learning about the culture. One of the best things was walking in town and recognizing people! We were talking to the locals which means we have been here a while! It was a blast becasue we felt like we belonged here!! It will be hard to leave all of these wonderful adventures, I hope to one day be able to come back and see everyone again! There is so much more i could write but i woudl be here for hours, so I will just keep it to this short synopsis.


Looking Back

As this trip comes to a close, I find myself in a blur of emotions. Before today, I was strictly excited to head back home. I feel so ready to see my family and friends, eat delicious food, and sleep in my own bed. Yet, after going to school today and seeing all of the students and teachers I am not so sure that I want to leave. This morning at school, we played a soccer game– teachers versus students. Surprisingly, our teacher team won 3-1! (see Cody’s blog for a play by play) After the game, we headed back to the school where we savored our last moments there by having chai (or in English, tea) with the teachers and talking with many different students. As we were preparing to leave for the day, all of the students gathered in the courtyard for some announcements so we were called over to say our bittersweet good-byes. Mr. Shayo, the English teacher who took us all under his wing, asked us all to say a few words. We simply could not hold it together; many of us started crying and many of the students were emotional too.  Each of the six of us mzungu teachers told the students how appreciative we were for taking us in to their school and how we hoped that they learned just as much from us as we did from them. I honestly did not think that leaving the school today would have an affect me because I was so excited to go home yet; it was extremely hard to leave all of those wonderful people. Teaching at Sekei Secondary School these past few weeks has been a wonderful, eye-opening learning experience and I will never forget the time I have had there. Through teaching here I have learned so many new things.

 I have learned about myself as a person, how to work closely to co teach with two other people, how to plan a lesson, and many other important things. Coming here originally, I was very unsure of my decision but being here has taught me to be confident in myself. I find myself being more confident in so many aspects of life including just walking around the busy streets and talking to people I don’t know to exuding confidence in front of a group of students that I am teaching. I have learned that co teaching with others is a very difficult yet rewarding experience. We had different opinions on what should happen in the classroom yet we were able to come up with and execute lessons that turned out very well. I have also learned that being a teacher is not just about the content that you are lecturing. Teaching is established around continually building relationships with your students. Having an open relationship with your students is crucial to communication and participation in the classroom. This fact was highlighted every single day while teaching here in Tanzania. The students here are not used to group work or having a voice within the classroom and so building a relationship with the students was essential in order for them to feel comfortable enough to participate.

 Ever since the day we got here, people have been so kind and welcoming to us. I think the phrase I have heard the most while here is karibu which is translated as “you are welcome”. I have seen this welcoming attitude in a multitude of places here from our safari drivers and teachers to random street vendors. I wish that this attitude toward life would be adopted in our culture. I am so appreciative of being able to come on this trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend this month with and I can guarantee that I will forever remember, and attempt to pass on, the skills I learned while in Tanzania.


Looking Back

As we wind down and begin to reflect on our experiences in Tanzania, I find myself thinking most about the relationships I have made on this trip. The group of us from Grand Valley have gotten very close and have built some really strong friendships during our time together. We started out as a group of acquaintances, maybe having one or two classes together during the previous semesters, and ended this trip as remarkable friends. We agreed to spend 26 consecutive days together, not knowing exactly what the trip would entail. Even though we had orientation meetings for months before the trip, none of us really knew what to expect when we arrived in Arusha. We boarded the first plane to Amsterdam together, and I don’t think any of us really realized how much this trip would change us as individuals or as a group. We grew personally, but also grew together. Our first weekend in Mulala village was really the starting point of a lot of our relationships. I mean, all 15 of us shared one bathroom (well, toilet), and that’s a pretty extreme way to get comfortable with other people. We quickly learned to rely on each other for support when we needed it, and we depended on each other a lot. It’s been incredible to be a part of this group, and I’m really going to miss spending so much time with everyone.

I’ve also developed a lot of relationships with the teachers and students at my school. The students were so excited to have us in the classroom and truly seemed to appreciate us being there. We were greeted each time we walked in a classroom, with the students standing and repeating a chant that I will never forget: “Education is the key to life. Our motto is to face the future with confidence. Good morning, teachers”. We would reply and then ask them to take their seats. It was so interesting to see how respectful the students were of the teachers, going to get extra chalk, offering up their seats, and passing out workbooks. But, like all elementary classrooms, we did have our fair share of classroom management issues to tackle. The students were very interested in us and our lives in America, asking questions and treating us like celebrities in the classroom. It was a completely different dynamic than I was used to. Our students were eager to learn and were truly some of the greatest kids. It was a privilege to be able to teach in their class, and I loved every minute.

The teachers at our school were a little hesitant of our presence in the school, but quickly warmed up to us. After the first few days passed, we settled into a routine and spent a lot of time in the staff room. We talked with the teachers during our free periods, and we learned an incredible amount of Swahili from them. Like the students, they were very curious about our lives in America, asking about the schools, government, politics, culture, and weather. It was so nice to have the opportunity to have long conversations and ask them questions as well. We were able to observe their teaching and interaction with the students, and I learned so much from my time at school with them. It was really hard to say goodbye and walk out of the school, knowing I probably won’t see any of them again. The teachers had us promise we would ever forget them, and I easily agreed to that. This experience has changed the way I think of myself as a teacher, a student, and an individual. I have created some amazing relationships that I hope never fade.


Getting Ready to Leave

We leave in less than two days. I am ready, but at the same time I am not ready to leave. I feel like I have just arrived, but at the same time I feel as though I’ve been here forever. I love almost everything about being here. The people are all so friendly. It’s really something you don’t get in America. You walk down the streets and people will just start tagging along. Most of the time they want to sell you something, but they’ll converse with you as well. Even today we were walking home and practicing our Swahili and some Masaai men just started walking with us and helping us out with it. It’s just incredible the amount of interaction the public has with each other. Walking down a street in America you might say hi to someone passing, but it is a rare occurrence that you would stop, change your route, and start a conversation with them.

The kids here are so wonderful. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to teach them. I feel as though they are much more willing to learn and more appreciative of education than students in America. I know that I am different from all of their teachers, which makes them love me so much. I had them write for me yesterday what the liked about my teaching, what they think I should change, and any other comments. I was shocked by some of the things the students said about me. They loved that I smiled while teaching or that they weren’t afraid to ask me questions or that I let them work with each other. These are things I feel as though we take for granted in our teachers in America. I was walking through the Masaai Market today and one man asked me how Zanzibar was. I gave him a slightly puzzled look and explained that I have never been to Zanzibar, assuming he had just mixed me up with some other white person he had had recent interactions with. He apologized and noted that henna is a very common thing in Zanzibar so he just assumed. I explained to him that I am a teacher and my students did the henna for me. He told me that I must be a very good teacher and very loved by my students because it’s quite an honor. I am so thankful for my time here teaching them and I really am going to miss them.

I feel as though I have grown so much throughout my time here. I have definitely become much more culturally aware. I’ve learned many things about Africa, and even some things about America. It is incredible how much the people here know about our country and how little we know about theirs. In regards to my teaching I’m glad I’ve gotten to try some techniques out and to gain experience in the classroom. I think I am much more sensitive to ESL learners now and that I am more capable of making culturally relevant lessons. At the beginning of the trip I found it very difficult to relate my lessons to the students, but throughout the trip it’s gotten easier and easier. I think this comes from getting to know my students better and getting to know the culture better. I have learned so much about Africa, about teaching, and about myself on this trip. I have loved almost every minute of it, but I also miss everyone back at home. Just one more day in the schools, and then we are headed back to the United States. It’s gone by so quickly! It’s been absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


3 and a half weeks

It is hard to believe that the trip is drawing to a close.  I knew the trip was inevitable to reach an end, just as inevitable as it was for me to arrive on African turf.  I am quite sure that I can speak for the majority of students on the trip, that we will come out as different students, teachers, citizens, and people as a whole.  Through the interaction of people in the schools, city, and villages, I have learned more than I could ever have within a classroom in America.  For example, talking to Massai about the customs and tradition around livestock, women, and lifestyle is something I would truly never understand in a textbook.  Also speaking with teachers in the Teachers Lounge about family culture, marriage, education, and values upheld by society that wouldn’t mean as much with out a face and people to associated it.  What has been most impactful are the children. I have never felt more like a celebrity that here in the schools.  Having easily 12 children surrounding you in the greatest attempt to hold just a finger or touch your hair is such a insightful experience.  To think of the joy that your presence brings them, it is so inspiring to be such a positive influence in their life.  And what a better influence than reaching them through the academia, out on the playground, and seeing them in town.  Looking back this trip has brought tremendous insight on the true nature of Africa.  All misconceptions, myths, and inaccurate portrayals of Africa and its people have been broken and brought down by the authentic interaction with its people and surroundings.  On a more objective level, it has reminded me of the differing lifestyles and beliefs that other people hold, not solely speaking of other countries but also other people in which I interact with regularly in the states.  Looking back i have learned, I have had fun, I have experienced!