How many of you have ever taught a class? That was my job last week, being “Madame la professeure” to a team in southern Senegal. Is this how your teaching normally looks?
- It was easier for me to travel there than for all of them to come here to the capital for a week, so I took an overnight boat trip (no beds) down there. Luckily, the boat schedule allowed me to have a night on the beach to catch up on a bit of sleep before class started.
- What was I teaching? Discourse analysis. The write-up for this language is being written in English in Europe, and yet is supposed to benefit the French-speaking team in Senegal. So my job was to help explain what discourse analysis is, why it’s important, and a little of how it works in their language so that they will be better able to learn from what has already been figured out. (Lord willing the lady doing the write-up will come and share more of what she’s found out once she’s finished and then translated it into French.) Basically, I was to give a 20-hour overview to what Ethnos360 usually teaches in 11 full days, and others teach in 3 weeks. Ready, go!
- And, yes, it was in French. Let’s just say that I appreciated the help of my “students” in choosing more helpful technical vocabulary when mine wasn’t quite right. They were so patient with me!
- Also, I was warned ahead of time that it was unlikely we’d have much electricity. So computers, powerpoints, and screensharing were all out. Welcome print-outs (that I had to do here in the city) and a big pad of paper and fat markers. The benefit was that we got to put the papers all around the room (see the picture above), where they served as reminders for the rest of the week (reminders for them of what we learned, and reminders for me of what vocabulary was used to convey the information!).
- Speaking of the room, we didn’t have a nice conference room or anything. Those who hosted me had a garage (maybe a two-car garage if the cars are parked one in front of the other?) that was rather cleared out, and that’s where we met. Pull up a table and some chairs and here we go!
- Now, the garage was cleaner than you may think when you hear “garage” and is rather clear of junk. And cleaning it was another one of my jobs – sweep it out every day or two, since there is sand everywhere.
- And then I had to figure out how to go about teaching. Of my “students,” two were western and two were African. So should I teach how we like to learn in the west (group projects, collaboration, figuring it out together) or how they often like to learn in Africa (the teacher conveys knowledge, you grasp what you can from their fount of wisdom, and you use lots of rote memorization)? I decided to try to find a balance – I taught, there was a good bit of group collaboration, and then I gave them a one-sentence summary of each hour of learning for them to repeat together and memorize.
- Oh, and I wasn’t just Madame la professeure. I also got to meet the neighbors, learn about local culture, fix an e-mail account, try to fix a computer, bring some supplies from the city, etc.
So is that what it looks like when you’re asked to teach a class? It’s amazing how something that is so different than what you’ve grown up with can become so normal!
Yes, my trip was full and tiring, but very good as well. I’m so grateful for the chance to get out of the city for a bit, for the hospitality of the team there, and for the opportunity to see their context and enable them to be better equipped to translate the Word of God into this language.