“He cry cut penic with a dirty knife.”

This is another sentence a student wrote on an exam. Maybe she was trying to say pencil? I know it may look like we aren’t doing very well teaching English but many of our students are improving. Some of their sentences are just so funny I have to share them. We were practicing polite questions the other day and our oldest male student wrote “Can I take off her dress?” We couldn’t stop laughing.

Week three went very well. We taught object pronouns, prepositions (which Katelyn was very excited about since the students really struggle with this), capitalization, clothing vocabulary, and negatives (She does not go to school on Saturday). Every evening we divide up the next day’s curriculum so we each teach something different. Some days it is such a struggle to keep everyone’s attention and it can be really discouraging when you walk around to check their work and realize that nobody has written anything correctly, even if it is written on the board. On exam days (usually Fridays but Thursday this week because of the holiday tomorrow – October 14 is Nyere’s Death Day) we have an hour and fifteen minutes of review before we begin the exam. This week I decided to make a printed practice sheet for each student. It was just a third of a sheet of paper with a few questions in all of the subjects we have been practicing. I began review with each student working independently on the worksheet and then we went over everything, including the directions, on the board. Reading directions is the most difficult concept right now so we went very slowly. I think this review worksheet has been the best classroom tool and I can now understand why my teachers have used it in the past. It was so great to start class with everyone focused and QUIET! The other new thing this week was a listening portion of their exams. I felt so bad for some of them…they were so nervous to come sit with the teacher and answer questions. I reminded me of the oral section of Spanish finals in high school. We read them each a story and then asked six questions about the story. Some of them did surprisingly well!

After finishing the exam we had nothing left to teach for the week so everyone helped clean up the classroom for church on Sunday. They still think it’s strange but they all help pick up trash around the church with a sense of humor. Juma insisted, with a smile, that his wrist was hurt and then swept the whole classroom very slowly with his other hand. It was the first day the students really started to relax with us and we were all laughing and playing soccer. The boys were very funny teaching me useful Nyakusa and Swahili words. One of our smallest boys, Frank, kept marching around saying “Mama Dot, Mama Dot. I will see you on Monday. 7:30.” It was a really great day.

Outside of class I have been learning to weave mkeka, a colorful mat made our of dyed reeds. Mama Mwasamwaja, a respected mzee, or elder, is teaching me. I went down to her house near Lwangwa yesterday after I bought some green and white reeds. She laughed at me because I has purchased rough dirty reeds in my attempt to look like I knew what I was doing at the market. She’s so strange and kind of feisty. One minute she’ll be calmly teaching me or talking about different things but if I misunderstand her she gets very snappy. We were talking about when her and her husband lived in Ohio and how people there were surprised she didn’t have a thermometer. She explained how she used different parts of her body to test the temperature of different things she was cooking. She uses her elbow to test water for tea. I was supposed to walk back today because she was going to give me better reeds to take with me to Matema but it started to pour just as I got down the hill. I’m not sure what to expect on Monday but I hope she will not be too upset.

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2 thoughts on ““He cry cut penic with a dirty knife.”

  1. You are learning so much, and I’m sure your students are as well. You’re a natural teacher! Your writing is marvelous, and I look forward to the next installment.

  2. It’s so great to hear how you are doing. It sounds like an incredible adventure! Good luck! Prepositions take time to remember and negative structures are difficult because they are not intuitive. I’m jealous though because teaching English is so much fun!!!
    Say hi to Dot and Katelyn!

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