Day 7: Strive for Academic Excellence
Updated: Aug 16, 2019
As we pulled up to Oysterbay Secondary School the first thing we saw was their motto painted on the school fence: "Strive for Academic Excellence". This public school was by far the largest school we have visited yet with over 1000 students from grade 9-12 (or form 1 to form 4 as they call them), with around 600 students in grade 9! Getting off the bus we witnessed corporal punishment at a school for the first time. This has been one of the biggest differences I have noticed so far between the Canadian and Tanzanian education systems; in Canada we cannot even give a student a hug, in Tanzania you are entitled to hit a misbehaving student with permission from the principal.
Because the school was so large we were able to break up into groups of 2 and visit a couple of classes each. I finally got the opportunity to sit in on a math class and a physics class! I even had the opportunity to teach a little bit of a grade 11 sequences lesson (and completely embarrass myself because it has been so long since I last thought about sequences!!). I noticed that the curriculum in both classes was on par with what we teach in Canada. The teachers were excellent, involving students in the learning process through questions and time to work in groups. Students were encouraged to write their solutions on the board in math class. If the solutions were incorrect they were not dismissed, rather the teacher walked them through where they went wrong and had the class clap for them for being brave and attempting an answer ("keep it up" the whole class would chant together). I learned so many positive teaching strategies that I am eager to implement in my own classroom someday.
It was also inspiring to see so many students in a physics classroom! There were so many students in the classroom that I wasn't sure how they were going to get back out of the class again. Chairs and desks were shared between students and there was no way the teacher could circulate around the classroom. It felt how I imagine sardines would feel crammed into their tiny tin!
The students also blew me away with their mental math skills. When they were required to multiply or divide 2 difficult decimals together, they began scribbling out the math on their hand or the back of their notebooks to find the solution. They did not have access to calculators. There was no technology in the classroom (except for the teacher's phone). I kept thinking "how can I get my students in Canada to be this proficient at math? How can I get my students this motivated to do their work and learn?!".
After observing some classes we collected in the shade of a tree with several teachers from the school. We discussed aspects of pur visit that we found to be great learning experiences, discussed similarities and differences between teaching and schools in Tanzania and Canada, and answered questions posed by the teachers.
Despite several teacher candidates missing the visit due to illness (thank you antibiotics and water!) and the extreme heat, we learned a lot from our visit and thoroughly enjoyed the experience! Asante sana (thank you in Swahili)!