“I am a teacher.”

After my first week of really teaching in Burkina Faso I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that…I’m a teacher, and not just a teacher, but a teacher in a foreign country. 

I’ve been standing in front of a classroom of 76 kids, sitting 3 to 4 deep on a bench, looking at me blankly while I try to do a reading comprehension on the simple present tense, and all the while  I’m thinking, “Omg they don’t understand a word that is coming out of my mouth.” 

And I’m right because the reading, about an 11 year old boy who lost his father’s cows, that I thought was simple went over their heads like a fighter pilot, and now I’m translating the reading into French, praying this is actually helping them learn English and not learn that their teacher can’t actually speak French fluently. 

And what about the 3 girls in one of my classes that refused to read 2 sentences of the story out loud? I tried to wait them out, and succeeded with only 1, but I can’t wait forever. It’s not fair to the whole class. But if they won’t participate how are they gunna learn, how are they going to pass the tests, and how are they going to be a part of the 6.6% of girls in Burkina Faso who finish Secondary school a year? 

And not only do I go through this in one class but I do it in a second, and I’m explaining material they learned last year, that I only wanted to review the first week before delving into new stuff next week but that isn’t going to work out, in French because maybe they didn’t learn it last year, or maybe I’m not explaining it well enough, or maybe it’s my accent (omg I have an “American” accent) but regardless I’m standing there explaining, and I’m worried that just because they can conjugate “to be” doesn’t mean they can form a personal sentence with it or use it in a conversation- and isn’t that the point of learning a language?

And really, I guess all that concern about them learning the material and actually being able to speak English…makes me a teacher. 

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2 Replies to ““I am a teacher.””

  1. What a challenge you’re going through! Although I don’t stand in front of a class of 76 (kudos, you’re awesome), I know what it’s like to stand in front of a bunch of children who don’t have any idea what you’re saying. You make jokes and expect someone to laugh, but you end up being the only one chuckling. Have faith in your teaching abilities and faith in your students’ abilities to learn. The progress will be slow, but you will find it somewhere. When you do see that a student makes even the teeniest bit of progress, all of your frustrations will be worth it. Keep blogging. I’m excited to follow your story!

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