This was my first week of teaching at the peace corps “cours de vacance” training school. This week I taught seconde, quatrieme, et sixieme students IT courses. I teach at a Lycee, which is like a combination high/middle school in the US. I was teaching roughly the equivalent of 6th, 8th, and 10th graders. There is a huge range of ages in each class, some students being about 4 years apart. This week I taught a total of 8 hours, all in French!
I have been surprisingly successful teaching in French considering my language level (Intermediate Low, according to peace corps standards). I am picking up a lot of new language (both technical and for classroom management) and now I get a lot of practice speaking! I know I make a lot of mistakes but the kids seem get the gist, and I think most of what I write on the board is correct.
The kids are not too difficult to control; they have so much respect for their teachers. Students here stay together all day in one room – it is the teachers who move around, not the students. When the teacher enters, they all stand and say “Bonjour Monsieur,” which is pretty precious. I have about 30-40 students per class right now, which is not bad at all. I think it wouldn’t be too much worse teaching even larger classes. Sometimes they can get rowdy, but I haven’t had any trouble I couldn’t deal with yet. (Although my voice did get a little hoarse from yelling at the quatriemes)
This week I taught the basics of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word to the secondes, computer networks to the quatriemes, and the keys on a keyboard to the sixiemes. I teach most of my classes in the classroom – I lecture about IT on a chalk board. The classes mostly consist of me writing on the board and lecturing while the students diligently copy everything into their notebooks. The technology divide is amazing. This week I was writing my lesson plans for IT by the light of my oil lamp, which is quite a unique experience.
Each class gets to use the computer lab for an hour a week. The kids love the lab – they run all the way there and are impossible to control while on the computers! The kids are at all different levels, I have a few students who have computers at home and know everything and I have others who have trouble double clicking and selecting text. I try to go around the room and help everyone out; I feel practicing is the best way for them to learn!
I am also running an “informatique” club on Wednesdays (Wednesdays are “club day” where classes end early and they have a club of their choice for the afternoon). There were only 30 computers so I had to send so many kids away, the others were peeking in through the windows the whole afternoon.
Overall I am very excited about teaching, and find the study of pedagogy extremely interesting. This model school is the time to experiment with teaching styles to see what works and what doesn’t. The Cameroonian educational system (like any other) has many faults, and learning how to face them and create positive change is my main goal.
At the end of the week we had our staff meeting where we discussed our experiences, and we ended with a teachers party (common practice, I hear)!