July 14, 2010 was our first official day volunteering at The Dalubuhle School…and what a day it was. It’s about 45 degrees, pouring rain, and needless to say, very cold. Nick and I neglected to pack and dress appropriately for the occasion. We began the day in a reading program, which is much different from what we do in the states. There are no guided reading groups, no morning meetings and zero literacy programs. Basically, the teachers have books that are way too advanced for the students and nowhere near their reading level. Though the students can read the English words, their native language is Xhosa and do not begin learning the English language until the third grade. These children are reading; just nowhere near where they need to be in terms of comprehension and vocabulary.
We taught in two math classes before a 20-minute break and went to an “EMS” class, which stands for Economics and Management Skills. The teacher of this class dived into conversation about how it’s not enjoyable to live in poverty and constantly repeats the phrase, “Time is money and money is time.” The textbook tells ways of how to become an entrepreneur and manage a business, and any other way these children can have “sustainable living conditions.” I understand the mentality in teaching these children to want a better life, but the manner in which this curriculum is taught is ridiculous. In a group assignment, fourth grade students have to create their own business plan for an imaginary business they will have when they grow up. These kids cannot even multiply yet and they’re expected to come up with a proposal for a business plan? Makes no sense to me.
Today we spent our second day volunteering at the Dalubuhle School. My first class was English and just after I walked into the room and was greeted with smiling faces saying, “Good morning Miss Jen,” the teacher hands me a book and says, “Okay, choose a story and read.” I start flipping through this “text book” that has stories pertaining to every part of the world. I ended up choosing a story called “Lost in the Louvre,” since it was the only one I could throw some random personal experience tidbits into. I started my mini lesson asking the students if they have ever heard of France. Silence. Then I asked if they have every heard of Europe. Silence. So I go into a rant about where France is in relation to Africa, and hurry on my way. By the end I fell into a groove, and realized I should ask comprehension questions. Much to my surprise, a lot of the students were raising their hands and answering what they knew. Beautiful.
Nick and I then went to spend the rest of the day teaching “Maths” and to our surprise were slightly ambushed by the teacher when he basically told us he wasn’t going to teach that class and we had to. After a quick brainstorm, we decided they needed multiplication practice and came up with a game where they had to write down as many facts as they could in ten minutes and the group with the most facts correct would be the winner. Lucky for us, the kids did not ask any questions about what they would get if they won, like some of my old students used to. The lesson seemed to go well, and the kids had fun.
At the last period of the day, our teacher went missing, and the sixth graders refused to listen to Nick and I. Wanting to bring the methods of the Responsive Classroom to Africa, I decided to teach the class of 57 how to play “Buzz”. They LOVED it, so much so that they stayed after the final bell to finish the game. I hope we can play again with all of our classes tomorrow.