Saturday, February 2, 2013

Final reflection musings

The group with Tickey--our Sossusvlei guide and local driver
Final Reflections

The program provides an incredibly rich learning environment.  Although students come to be able to begin their student teaching in Katutura, the program provides multiple opportunities experience Namibia.  This time we began on the Tjiramba farm, and although the students were still adjusting to the time, the heat, and the food being immersed in an authentic setting was a great way to begin the program.  Students for the first time understand their learners’ summer experience of being “on the farm.”  Farms and homesteads are a way of life for many Namibians.  Our students observed the self-sufficiency of young children, children helping with daily chores because that’s the expectations, and respect shown for elders by children and “elder” refers to anyone that is older.  

Our students participate in this program to begin their student teaching in Namibia.  We have students at two primary schools (Grades K-7) and Pionier Boys School for "special" students ranging in ages from 13-21.  These boys have not been successful in school and get an education and also learn a trade like welding and brick making.

A.I Steenkamp Pictures:

Teaching in Katutura is a challenge—the school and classroom facilities are run down.  The classrooms are crowded—a class of 35 learners is small—most of our student teachers had classes over 40 learners.  Although administrators at the school and university level always refer to best practices, learners still spend an inordinate amount of copying information and problems into their notebooks.  It seems the copying time often takes more time than instruction.  However, we encourage our students to use the strategies they have learned in our education program.  They stay up late planning at night, the develop activities that reinforce content from the books and they teach strategies like talk to a partner or think in your head.  We always hear from the cooperating teachers how much they learn from our students.  One of my favorite stories from this year involves a management strategy created by one of our students.  She refers to it as “Our Class’s Big 5.”  Namibia has their Big 5 which refers to the big 5 animals that are the hardest to hunt (Elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo).   Our student recognized the context of her learners and her Big 5 refers to how she counts down for attention—5 voices off, 4 eyes forward…She made a poster and references the expectations when counting down.  After one week of her teaching, her teacher who teaches most afternoons (half the time he as left knowing he has a US student teacher in his class, was reminding the learners of “Our Class’s Big 5, and using that as his management strategy too. 

St. Barnabas

Good bye High Fives

(I am missing Pionier Boys School photos.  They started academics late because of Athletics and we didn't get teaching photos)

Paula and I were able to observe every one of our student teachers teaching.  The timing worked well this year—it seems most of our students are teaching the entire morning before the break and are getting lots of teaching opportunities.  Although there will always be ways for improvement, our students have figured out ways to manage the large group of learners, and are doing some really strong teaching.  I observed one comprehension activity where students were able to identify and describe story elements from a Read Aloud.  Our student had her learners talking to each other before raising a hand to respond, and we talked about ways to get more students participating in oral responses.  I watched another pace her learning activities, so the students transitioned from a comprehension activity, to a singing review of letter sounds that included hand and body motions.  All except 1 student was engaged and my teacher noticed the lack of participation and pulled the student into the group singing.  Already in such a short time the student teachers demonstrate confidence and have acquired “teacher legs.”  They have even talked about their elevated levels of confidence in planning, management, and teaching.  They have set themselves nicely for the next month.  Not all days will be great, but  they know how to support each other, and they have a resource (Mary Beth) who has fabulous teacher skills herself.  Mary Beth (Director of the after school program) will be eating Wednesday dinners with them, and we have encouraged them to rely on her when they have questions because of her vast experience teaching kids from Katutura.

BNC snapshots

Mary Beth training our students
Before school started, ready for lunch

Some other musings....
Home has very different meanings for Namibians. I have thought about the idea of home on this trip because home has such varied meanings for the people I interacted with during the month.

For Edwin, home is the farm and Windhoek is where he lives and works.  For Emmy his wife, their new house is more like home.  At the old house there were always family members around, and now Emmy mostly has just her children at home, although there are always family members that pop in, but the home feels much calmer.  Emmy has made this place a home for her family.  I wonder what her children, who did not grow up on the farm will consider home.

For many young adults Katutura is home.  In the 1970’s many of their parents were forced to relocate to Katutura (means the place we will not settle), but they grew up in this community.  Shaun, the owner of Wadadee House considers Katutura home—the guest house is the large home his family moved into after independence.  He spent the beginning of his life in a smaller house in Katutura, but Katutura is home and his passion is for outsiders to experience the culture and vibrancy of Katutura.  When our students told people we were living in Katutura, everyone were surprised and couldn’t believe we lived there.  Wadadee house is clearly different from most of the cinder block or corrugated tin houses found in Katutura—it’s in a small area with large houses that overlooks the city in a place called Luxury Hill, but still part of Katutura where children play in the streets after school and the sidewalks just down the hill on Independence Avea crowded with people.  Our students know to always walk in pairs and not go out after dark.  Yesterday was payday, and five of the Norwegian nursing students living in the house had the 7PM – 1AM night shift in the Emergency Room and were warned to expect gunshot and stab wounds.  Katutura is home to many people. Often Windhoek residents and other Namibians associate Katutura with poverty and danger and there are  multiple issues related to drinking and violence.  However where we lived was not the typical Katutura area where Black Namibians had been relocated--we had our on place at the top of the hill and  coming back from weekend excursions, our students felt like they were coming “home.  They have another month at their home in Namibia, and will return  in another month to settle into their homes in Washington.