Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ethiopia: Nazret: Third Day at the English Alive Academy

Ah, having the fan last night was wonderful!

No running water this morning.

Azeb made me a nice bowl of oatmeal, plus I had a cup of Nescafe coffee for breakfast. Azeb, a very gracious hostess, also washes my clothes, for which I am very appreciative. She does it in buckets of soapy and clean water from the yard faucet.

There is a family who lives in a good-sized, adobe outbuilding in Azeb's yard. They cook their meals outside in a brazier with wood or charcoal. They fell on hard times and Azeb lets them live there at no cost - parents, two children (and one on the way), and a relative who serves as the family's maid. Very nice family, and the two children go to the Academy.

I spent the morning at the kindergarten-nursery campus (GC campus). First I worked with KG2 on the word of the day ("four") and making a sentence with "find" as in "find the yellow paper". The KG2 kids are about 5 or so, though this can range upward.

Then I worked in KG1 (about age 4 or 5) drawing spider webs, and I finished out the morning in the nursery (approx. 3 years old), playing songs from my mp3 player and speaker, getting them to listen for the beat, and using ordinary things (such as spoons) to make music.

Another delicious lunch at Azeb's (cabbage/tomato/beet salad, mixed rice, some leftovers of various things + bread). I finalized the lesson plan for the teachers' English class and then went to the Grade 1-4 campus. There I taught 1st graders about when to use "who" and "what" in questions.

A challenge at the Academy is that, though it is MILES ahead of the typical Ethiopian school in NOT relying on rote learning, such learning does still comprise a large component of the Academy's teaching style. Stephanie and Dawit strive to move away from this, but it is so ingrained in the educational system, it is a struggle for the teachers (though they try) to move away from what they know best.

Rote learning definitely has its place in, for example, memorizing multiplication tables and the alphabet, and important historical dates, but otherwise, it runs counter to creative thinking, questioning, exploration, and analysis.



So there are incongruous gaps of understanding I encounter at times. A basic example might be that even the youngest students can recite the months of the year in English - IN ORDER - but if you ask what month it is now, they might really have to think about it. Students can sight-read many, many, many words, but may be clueless about the meaning of lots of these same words.

We had a raucous afternoon in the 1st grade, so much so, another teacher came in to quiet things down a bit. I'm guessing this is pretty common when the volunteers come to town. I wasn't too worried about it myself, much in the same vein that a favorite auntie blithely indulges the little ones with goodies and privileges and lets the parents suffer for it later.

Well, no, I did get out my whistle once. THAT got everyone's attention.

This afternoon's English lesson for the teachers used Johnny Cash's "Wayfaring Stranger" song as its basis. A listening/speaking class.



Afterward, I hopped the minibus taxi for the Dire International Hotel where, disappointingly, I couldn't access email or Facebook. So straight to my Ambo and lemon on the hotel terrace for my little hideout time.



So luxuriously cool and breezy here in the evenings. I lament the lack of window screen in Nazret!

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