As I prepare for my Indian classroom, (leaving Atlanta, June 21) my thoughts drift back to Africa where I entered classrooms of children ( grades 1-7) from the majority tribe, Shona, with the sole intention to make a difference in their classroom experience.
In the end, I discovered my own classroom beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.. I learned that smart boards, computers, and other teaching supplies do not teach children or teachers. ( enhancement yes- I do appreciate my smart board!) Through the weeks, I evolved as a teacher in a foreign country. For instance, understanding the educational culture of the host country and adapting lessons to match their interest was a creative endeavor-I organized a staff workshop around the African Bush or the African wilderness where the elephants, giraffes, lions …roam.
I never saw a stapler or a paper clip on a teacher’s desk; compare this to an American classroom. Due to cost, copy machines did not produce mass copies for students’ convenience, rather, students copied all their assignments in exercise books that were graded daily for immediate feedback. Even the busy headmistress, Gil Martin, left school with a stack of notebooks to read and make nightly comments.
Students wore red uniforms and lovely floppy hats. I appreciated the customary tipping of the hat when greeted in the hall, or the” Good Morning, Mrs. Paul” as I entered the classroom.
Every day at 10:30 the entire staff congregated in the teacher’s faculty room for a civilized cup of tea while the students were out for recess. I was startled to find the entire faculty gathered around a table sipping on tea and eating biscuits. Thinking as an American, from a liability standpoint, I blurted, “WHO’S WATCHING THE CHILDREN!” A voice called out, “They watch themselves.”
My new mantra: ” Relax and enjoy a cup of tea!”