Teaching in Kenya: American teens learn the ropesby kenya on Jun. 10, 2011, under Life
June 8, 2011
Dispatch from Kenya
By Olivia Paige, Atlanta Girls’ School (taking part in St. Gregory program in Kenya)
Today was our first day at our respective schools. Louie Sanders, my teaching partner, and I were both nervous and excited to meet our students and the other teachers we would be working with for the next 12 school days.
After another yummy breakfast and packing our lunches, all of us left for our respective schools on foot or by car. Louie and I were assigned to Tigithi Primary School, the school farthest from Batian’s View, and luckily we get to travel by both car and foot. After being dropped off on the side of the main road, we expected a short walk down a side road to Tigithi. Much to our surprise we had to walk down the small side road, follow a trail, cross a river, climb up a hill, walk down another road and cross a field before we finally made it to school.
We arrived out of breath (which we blamed on the altitude) and eager to see what our school would be like. The general layout of the schools is an L-shaped building with wooden classrooms and dirt floors. Some of the schools have stone and cement classrooms that have been built by the government or donated by groups from Britain or the U.S. The students at Tigithi came out to see us arrive, all wearing maroon shorts, shirts and dresses. Each school has its own color of uniform, and Tigithi’s is maroon. Despite the heat, warm hats (especially ones with Obama on the front) were worn by many of the students.
After a quick introduction to the rest of the teaching staff, Mrs. Maina, the head teacher at Tigithi, led Louie and me outside to meet the students. Introducing yourself to about 200 Kenyan students, all of whom are staring at you as if you are a movie star, is a bit nerve racking. However, after we spoke, the kids clapped and smiled, and it was clear that they were excited for us to be there.
Louie and I spent the rest of the day talking with the teachers, getting our materials for the lessons we would be teaching and playing with the kids. Luckily, Louie and I didn’t have to find our long way back to the main road to catch our ride to Batian’s View. The Tigithi school cook, Ms. Ann, was nice enough to show us a short cut. Though the “short cut” ended up being just as confusing as the long way, there was no chance of us getting lost – two little boys from school held our hands the whole way back.
We couldn’t wait to exchange stories of our first days at school when we returned. Though our group was spread out among six schools, we found many similarities in our first days. Here is a brief summary of some of the things we discovered from our first day experiences:
1) At first, the kids are scared of you. They wave enthusiastically from a distance, but when you wave back, they giggle and run away quickly.
2) Our American names are very American, and most are hard for the kids to pronounce. Lauren has become Maureen, Olivia is now Orivia, and Allie is Alice. The name Dominic is hilarious to the kids because it is considered a girl’s name in Kenya.
3) After the kids shake your hand, they love you. You are like a rock star to them and everything about you, from your skin to your water bottle to your hair, is fascinating.
4) Being surrounded by a large group of students who pull your hair, pinch your skin and grab at your hands can be a bit overwhelming.
5) Though the first day was very busy, the teachers were welcoming and the students made us promise to come back tomorrow.
We don’t plan on breaking that promise, and can’t wait to go back to the schools tomorrow. By the end of the day it was clear to me that the wonderful teachers and students make any walk to school, even a long one up hills and across rivers, to be very worthwhile.