I have been at the Bethsaida Secondary School for Girls for four days. I still feel a little lost, but am starting to find a niche for myself.
Friday morning, I met the headmistress. I was shown into her office, where she sat at her desk, preparing a lesson, receiving guests, issuing orders and a hundred other things, yet she graciously made time for me as well.
Headmistress Maristella is a thin woman, with close-cropped hair, large brown eyes and strong facial features. She was wearing a light brown printed blouse, with a wide open collar that kept slipping over her right shoulder.She was poised and confident and very smart. Beautiful, but not in a conventional way. Though she was sitting, I guessed she would be rather tall. (I guessed correctly, though due to problems with her right leg, she walks slowly and somewhat hunched, and thus looks smaller when standing.)
I proceeded to tell her who I was, how long I was staying and what I could offer – essentially that while I have some very specific skills they may find helpful, I am also willing to do anything that might need me to do. She immediately suggested I join the Form I Biology class, to see what they were studying, and meet the girls and their teacher. So I did. (And discovered I do not miss high school lectures. At all.)
Each night from 8:00 to 10:15, the girls are in their classrooms, studying and completing assignments. And so I am there, too, to answer questions and assist in any way I can. So far I have helped with calculating densities, explaining elements, compounds and mixtures, describing the theory of human evolution, and solving quadratic equations. I have also typed tests and made photocopies.
Tomorrow, I will be taking over two of the headmistress’ English classes, while she is in town on business. The first class (7:30 to 8:50) is Form IV (highest grade at Bethsaida – approx. equivalent to grade 10). I don’t have much to do – just pass out a test for them, supervise as they write it, and correct when they are done.
Then in the afternoon, I have the Form II class, and will be teaching them about direct and indirect speech, which as a native English speaker I admit I could not define before I read the lesson. (If you are wondering) it involves reporting on what someone else has said. Direct speech is simply quoting exactly what was said. Straightforward. Indirect is far more complicated. Reporting what was said without quoting, and all the changes in verb tense, and changes in adjectives and adverbs. There is a huge list of rules that I had never even considered. I just know how it is done. It seems easy – though the two German volunteers here say they found it very challenging when learning English, and the girls here struggle with it.
Fun. The first test of my teaching skills. Wish me luck.
*Bethsaida follows the standard Tanzanian curriculum structure, preparing its students in Forms I, II, III and IV to take the national “O Level” exams at the completion of their Form IV year. Two additional years following Form IV – namely Forms V and VI – are required to take the advanced “A Level exams”, prerequisites for attending university in Tanzania.