Taking Little Big Steps Forward (and Sideways and Diagonally)

“Teachah! Teachah! Teachah!” The mob of children shouted as they ran towards our car, arms outstretched and faces beaming. It’s a sight that I’ve grown used to in the past few weeks, but one that never fails to stir up the wild flutter in my stomach and chest. The car slows down and the children press their faces up to the window, still chanting and peering in, impatiently waiting for me to get out. Just like every other morning, I’m amazed by how something so routine could still be so exciting and new as I step out of the car and return the embraces from the dozens of tiny, dusty hands that cover me.

In the past few weeks, we’ve established a regular morning routine: set up the chairs, take attendance, stretch, pray, review the alphabet, and then review all our other basics—colors, shapes, opposites, the five senses, days of the week, and body parts. Afterwards, we separate into groups and dive into the lesson plan that I’d labored over and meticulously thought out the day before for the next three hours until school is out. Despite the overwhelming amount of brainpower and physical labor required every day to prepare for the next, I’ve felt nothing but pure ecstasy (maybe except for the occasional back pains and hand cramps). As cliché as it sounds, all my work so far has felt like a labor of love. The physical strain from writing the alphabet 35 times and hand-making dozens of worksheets pales in comparison to seeing the vibrant smiles on my kids’ faces as they learn more every day. At this point of the internship, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on things; I’ve divided my class into four groups based on their writing, reading, and math abilities and we are making good progress in establishing our learning foundations.

Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.
Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.

 

I absolutely love everything about this internship, but it’s definitely not what I had expected. The mountains of hypothetical and academic preparation I did before coming to Namibia seemed all but to fly out the window as I had to hit the ground running as soon as I got settled. Coming to Tui Ni Duse four days a week for a month has made this internship feel like my actual job—and it feels great! I find myself thinking about Tui Ni Duse 24/7—even in my dreams! Constantly, I’m thinking about what I can do with the kids or how I can teach something in a different way so they can understand better. I even wake up in the middle of the night from dreaming about teaching the kids because of a sudden teacher’s epiphany! I know that a lot of it is from adrenaline because I can sleep as little as three hours to make more time for prep work and not feel tired the next day, but I also feel that the challenges of handling a large class alone has pushed me to improve my time management and multi-tasking skills as well as become more pro-active, responsible, and creative. Although I am not strictly following the plan I had laid out for myself before this trip, the literature I read and my anthropological training has definitely come in handy.

Going over our alphabet!
Going over our alphabet!
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity

I am currently planning a parents’ day event when the parents can come and see what their children are capable of doing. I got the idea after visiting the home of a student who decided he didn’t want to come to school anymore. When I met his mother, I took out his notebook to show her the things he had been working on in school and what a good student he was. As she pored over the pages with amazement and pride, I realized that she had never seen any of her son’s schoolwork! Hopefully, this parents’ day will give parents something to be proud of, boost parent support of sending children to school, and shine a light on the benefits of education.

– Brontte Hwang ’14