It’s see you later…

My time teaching in Yaounde, Cameroon is finished for now.  During my eleven weeks at Central Government English Primary School I grew as a teacher, and as an all around human being, in so many ways.  When I first stepped foot in the school compound I had goals of classroom and behavior management.  I had dreams of different pedagogic techniques to try out, and a never ending list of materials I wanted to make.  I was really able to dedicate myself 100% into my teaching and work towards my goals and dreams.

When it came to trying things in the classroom, my cooperating teacher put full trust in me and allowed me to try anything I wanted.  Wow!  What student teacher can say that, I was really lucky to have the opportunities I did.  My goals and classroom and behavior management were deeply researched through trial and error during my eleven weeks.  There is no one classroom management technique that is going to work for all 35-40 young children in the classroom.  I had my overall green, yellow, red system I wrote of before, but then I also developed and used more individual techniques for students who needed more “teacher love and attention,”  :).

One of my biggest areas of growth while I was teaching, was my practice in regular education whole class instruction.  This was the first time I had my own regular education classroom to myself; before I had either had the support of a peer clinician, or relied heavily on my cooperating teacher.  At CGEPS I was challenged to be on my own from the start, and I surely enjoyed the journey.  Creating my own curriculum everyday, in all subjects, was brand new to me.  I really got the chance to be creative and integrate many different types of lessons.  I really enjoyed planning Physical Education, Health Education and Art because I got to integrate subjects like English and Math; which is what we learned how to do successfully in all those millions of methods courses at UWO!  Ha, I was actually glad I had to take those two different teaching elementary art methods courses that I use to curse back in 2010.  :)

My final moments with my students, the faculty, and my many new friends were very tearful, but at the same time full of hope.  I’ve never been apart of such an amazing experience where I got to give as much as I received.  I cannot put into words fully how I feel living my new home behind for now.  All I know is that it is not goodbye, but see you later Cameroon.  I fell in love with your country, your people, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for our relationship.

Image

Image

^The 2 photos above are from a workshop at the Ministry of Education.  I was fortunate enough to be asked to present on teaching young children to read using the Phonics method.  The presentation went great and I really enjoyed strengthening my relationships at the ministry.

Having too much fun before school :)

Having too much fun before school :)

Checking out the holiday chain they made!

Checking out the holiday chain they made!

Me and MOST of my class :)

Me and MOST of my class :)

The best way to arrive to school, "Madame ENSOR is here!!!!!!!!!!"  Ah...I love them!

The best way to arrive to school, “Madame ENSOR is here!!!!!!!!!!” Ah…I love them!

Abiguel, Monique and Raschnelle :)

Abiguel, Monique and Raschnelle :)

Doing some work :)

Doing some work :)

DSCN0709

Come check out our awesomely decorated classroom!

Come check out our awesomely decorated classroom!

Last day of physical education in 2012!

Last day of physical education in 2012!

Me with Agnes and her daughters home from boarding school.

Me with Agnes and her daughters home from boarding school.

In Class Two we wrote Santa Claus (Pere Noel) and he wrote us back and wrote the good girls and boys Christmas presents!!!  Christmas party day was the best!!

In Class Two we wrote Santa Claus (Pere Noel) and he wrote us back and wrote the good girls and boys Christmas presents!!! Christmas party day was the best!!

And no one had to wear their uniforms to the party!

And no one had to wear their uniforms to the party!

Santa brought sunglasses and bubble gum, woo hoo!

Santa brought sunglasses and bubble gum, woo hoo!

We made awesome Christmas crowns!

We made awesome Christmas crowns!

Every party needs balloons!!

Every party needs balloons!!

Tearful goodbyes...

Tearful goodbyes…

Host mama!

Host mama!

Receiving gifts at my staff goodbye... imagine everyone chanting goodbyes songs at the same time.  It was wonderful...I cried of course.

Receiving gifts at my staff goodbye… imagine everyone chanting goodbyes songs at the same time. It was wonderful…I cried of course.

Some of the staff and myself.

Some of the staff and myself.

Almost everyone on the staff! :)

Almost everyone on the staff! :)

Franklin, Me and Asongu on my last day.

Franklin, Me and Asongu on my last day.

Me and Asongu,  my best friend in Yaounde, I miss him!

Me and Asongu, my best friend in Yaounde, I miss him!

 

Challenges and Biggest Surprises!

I am coming down the last leg of my overseas placement in Yaounde (Yaw-oon-dey), Cameroon.  I have been at the Central Government English Primary School for eight weeks now, and I have three left.  Every day I encounter challenges; whether it is class interruptions, student behavior, or even live animals wandering in to visit us!  I try to meet every challenge with a positive, overcoming mindset. 

            My school is set up like two U’s, one inside of the other.  The buildings are made of cement with tall open windows, that have metal shutters that lock at night.  I initially loved the big windows, they created a lovely cross breeze in the morning.  They also serve as people’s perch to stand at and start talking to me.  This would not be a problem if it was not in the middle of my teaching every day.  And it is not just other teacher’s coming to talk, it’s random people from around the community that have heard that I am teaching.  I cannot ignore people once I see them, because that is considered extremely rude to the Cameroon people.  In the first few weeks of my teaching this was a constant challenge.  I would be teaching and someone would come and start talking to me and I would lose the class’ focus all together.  Behaviors would then begin and I’d end up wanting to pull my hair out.  As time went on, I began to feel more confident as a teacher and as a member of the community here.  Now when people begin to interrupt my teaching, I quickly say my greeting and inform them that I am in the middle of a lesson but I would love to talk to them on break or after school.  This way, the disruption is cut short and the person still feels valued. 

            Another disruption that I continue to struggle with is my cooperating teacher.  I have been teaching full time since my first week in the class.  My cooperating teacher is a kind woman I really do get along with, even though I do not agree with her teaching methods.  She randomly is in the classroom to grab some paperwork or take a nap.  When I am teaching she will randomly watch to see if someone is not paying attention and then she will yell, at a very high decibel, “ATEBA IS NOT IN CLASS!!  ATEBA TURN AND PAY ATTENTION!!  NOWWWW!!” I am always thrown off a little by this.  It actually seems to affect me more than the students.  I finally had a conversation with her about it a couple weeks ago.  I told her that I appreciated her helping keep the students on track during my lessons, but that volume of the “prompting” was disturbing my thought process some, and asked if she would continue to prompt the students, but more quietly and on a one to one level.  She understood, and I can see her trying to remember to do this, but it is still a work in progress.  

            The class sizes are huge here!  There are so many students, with not enough classrooms or teachers.  I am blessed with the smallest class of 40 five, six and seven year olds.  It is a challenge to manage a classroom of that size with such young children.  There are so many environmental elements in the classroom that result in management difficulties.  The way that the school setup allows for a lot of shared noise.  Some classes let out at different times, so when other children are in the yard, it sounds like they are in the class with us.  This is really distracting for students.  When they see and hear this, they want to go to the bathroom, they are trying to communicate with students outside, or they start disrupting other students in class.  When this challenge arises, I look to my list of “noisy day activities.”  I created this list a couple weeks into my placement.  It is full of educational activities, songs and games that are loud and attention grabbing for my students.  I’ve even divided it out to subject areas, so if math is interrupted, we can still be doing something mathematically related. 

            Individual student behavior has also been a challenge.  At the beginning I created a green, yellow, red system that I blogged about before.  That has continued to work well for my students.  If students are not paying attention, or doing something they are not suppose to be doing, I simply have to walk towards the chart, and say, “I am looking for a student who is making a good choice.”  They instantly snap back into a good choice behavior, which we have discussed.  Sometimes I am helping a student or two at their desk and I don’t want to leave them to walk across the room if student are misbehaving.  At that point I look around to find a student making a good choice and sing, “I like the way Sonia is working, S-o-n-i-a spells Sonia.  Good job today!”  I got this idea from Cheri McAllister, my cooperating teacher from New Holstein Elementary.  The words and tune are constantly changing, but the student ALL love it, and work hard to get their name sung.  My students all tell me, “Madame Ensor, you sing so beautiful!”… that is a first for me…I may stay here forever : ). 

            Every day is an adventure at school!  There are many things that have surprised me.  My first week I was doing a lesson of the /d/ sound, and all of a sudden a small goat ran into the classroom!  Soon to be followed by two more!  They didn’t stay for long, but they succeeded in surprising the hell out of me!  Haha, the students thought my reaction was hilarious!  We even ended up writing a sentence about it with a picture, “The goat scared Madame Ensor.”  The pictures were priceless. 

            One day I smelled something very foul, only to find out the man selling fresh cow legs and cow tail was right outside my window.  Agnes, my cooperating teacher, proceeded to buy some and bring them in the classroom.  The smell actually made me sick to my stomach the first day.  Now this happens weekly and I am A LITTLE more use to the smell.  I hate cow leg days. 

            The challenges and surprises here at Central Government keep me on my toes.  I am learning so many things, and practicing different teaching methods daily.  I could not have picked a better regular education student teaching experience for myself.  Three weeks left, and I am going to make them the best!

Image

^The school supplies donated from New Holstein Elementary arrived and we finally got to have the presentation ceremony with the delegates from the Ministry of Education!  This is my class with the supplies!            

Image

^Learning about traditional Cameroon dancing can only be done by first hand experience! :)

Image

^Andela showing off his awesome sentence writing skills!

Image

^On Friday’s we do SPORT! Very fun/scary because we do it on a 45 degree angled hill.  Sheesh!

Image

^We made pattern hats in math on Friday! :) Yay, so fun!!

 

Image

^Me and some of my favorite Chief’s after the governor’s lunch in the Village.

Image

^Two of the girls that live on the village compund.  Caren and Lovietta!  I really enjoyed spending time with them around the compound, learning about life in the village.  Oh yeah, and I got Caren addicted to Angry Birds :)  Smart beautiful young ladies!  

Image

^Beautiful view to wake up to :)

Image

^  I went to a colleague’s house for supper the oher night.  Achoo filled with yellow soup!  Achoo is ground coco yams mixed with hot water and spices, and then is molded into a bowl (not baked).  Then the yellow soup is some mixture of palm oil, seasonings and something else I forget.  You also see a grilled garden egg on the plate, some beef, and what I thought was some kind of cook fruit or veggie.  I took a bite of it and it was tough, and chewy….I ask Aggie what it was.  “Oh! It’s a delicacy, so good for you! Yes, good for you!”…..WHAT IS IT AGGIE?????  “…. OH it is cow skin.”  EWWWWWWWWWWW, I screamed in my head, almost revisiting my most recent bite.  I politely said, “Well, I tried it, that’s good enough for me, thanks….”  Argh Ah EW!  Cow skin, not my favorite part of Cameroon haha. 

The meal was over all okay and verrrry interesting to eat due to the fact that you do NOT get to use utensils since it is a traditional meal.  Hmmm… Soup with no soup, so interesting!

Image

^Our lovely host Julie (on the right) and her friend Cynthia.  

Image

^I’m working on the soup no spoon thing, haha :)

Image

^After dinner at Julie’s we went down the street for some beers.  Cameroon beer is great!  People here are always so surprised to hear that I like beer and I drink it here.  But they love it, and always try to buy me more!  Ha, I’m getting very good at saying, No, no, no, nooooo thank you!  

Image

^Two of my favorite students, Assaga Monique and Raschnelle!  

Image

^Improper use of chalk Atud and Ibrahim!  I can’t help laugh everytime this happens though :)…it’s always a funny part of my day.

 

 

Aside

Continued Post…

Image

^Beautiful view in The Village. :) You haven’t seen rolling hills till you’ve been to Cameroon!  Trust me, these pictures don’t begin to capture how beautiful it is here!

Image

^Houses in the village.

Image

^Fish for lunch! Village market.  

Image

^Another view!  Sorry its on its side!  Beautiful!  Lots of hiking done while I was there! Lotssss! :)

Image

^Some homes in the village.  

Image

^Sigh*  Love Cameroon :)  

 

More to come from the trip but I am running out of internet time! 

Long time no talk!

Sorry it has been so long since my last post.  I tried posting last week before my trip and it would not post for some reason!  I am going to write smaller posts from now on to make sure it works.  :)

Life is going great in Cameroon!  I just got back from a 6 day trip to the NW region and then the village where my host parents are originally from.  It was absolutely amazing!  The village is way back in the mountains.  So beautiful and so peaceful!  It was a more traditional West African experience being there for 5 days :).  

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks! 

Image

^ The view from my hotel room in  Bamenda!  Beautiful!  

Image

^Scary hotel bathroom.  I was so excited for a warm shower but the water was off in the hotel so that bucket was my shower in Bamenda.  Oh well ha!

Image

 

^My hotel room in Bamenda!  Something I found interesting… Along with my complementary Bible on my bed side table there were two condoms.  Haha…Smooth move Bamenda.

Image

^Olivia and I at a bar in Bamenda.  She took the day off to show me the city last Saturday! :)

Image

^I went to the Handicraft Fair Trade Store in Bamenda.  Amazing!!!!!!  Here Oliva and I are with the owner and the guard that toured us and explained all the art and crafts to me!  

Image

^Just PART of the Handicraft store ::)  All Fair Trade!

 

Home Compound and some of the city :)

Image

^The driveway into the house

Image

^Right inside the gate

Image

^The main house.  My window is right above the blue barrel.

Image

^My door on the left :)  The stairs lead up to the kitchen.

Image

^The garage, Victors room, and the night guards room.

Image

^One of the gardens

Image

^Another view of the back section of the compound.

Image

^Another garden.  Sorry these wouldn’t stay turned.

Aside

School culture within the context of the national culture

 

Two weeks in…

The school culture here in Yaounde, Cameroon is very different than anything I have seen before.  I tried to come prepared knowing that the school would be using corporal punishment still, but after spending two weeks here so far it is far worse than I expected.  The threat, “Do this or I will beat you!” is used frequently throughout the day to gain student compliance.  Each teacher has a rubber hose that is about 16 inches long that they use to “beat” the students “when needed.”  I’ve witnessed about half a dozen full out “beatings” since I arrived at Central Government English Primary School.  It’s incredibly painful to see or hear.  I try mildly to hide my emotions during these times, but not completely.  I think it is important for the teachers and headmaster to see how that affects me, teacher from a higher functioning education system. 

I have told my cooperating teacher and the headmaster that in my culture we do not believe in the physical punishment of children, and that I will not be partaking in that form of punishment while I am teaching at their school.  They both responded warmly saying, “Of course not!  And maybe you can teach us new ways!”  YES!!!  I hope to do just that.  I really do enjoy the teachers at my school, but I really struggle with their classroom management strategies.  I just keep telling myself, they have never known any other way…yet!  

Shame and humiliation are constantly used to attempt to modify student behavior.  For example,  my cooperating teacher had the students put their heads down to rest while she set up the classroom for a physical education exam.  Many of the students fell asleep briefly, and Cynthia had wet herself while she was sleeping.  She was called up to do her exam in front of the class, which consisted of jumping two footed from circle to circle to circle.  She had her jacket oddly wrapped around herself.  I went to help her remove it and as soon as I approached her I could tell what had happened, and so could my cooperating teacher.  I quickly tried to pull her out of the room before anyone else saw, but my cooperating teacher grabbed her first.  She announced, “Class look, she has peed herself!  Look at this, it is disgusting, ha!  We shall wish shame on Cynthia! Everyone, SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!”  And she literally had the class yelling SHAME at her.  I wanted to die right there for poor little Cynthia.  I couldn’t stand it, so after the “shame wishing”  I just grabbed Cynthia and walked out of the class. 

We went around to the tap on the side of the school and I rinsed out her jacket and dress stains as best I could.  All this time I was telling her that it was okay and accidents happen, and telling her what a beautiful, good girl she was.  Trying to counteract some of the damage that had just been thrust upon her.  As we returned back to the classroom I help her clean up her bench and cleaned it with hand sanitizer.  Some children continued to laugh at her, and I immediately shut them down saying, “No!  We do not tease our friends.  This classroom is a safe place and we do not tease.  We are safe here.”  I explained my feelings to my cooperating teacher and she seemed to understand actually.  That gives me some hope.  Humiliating students is no way to modify behavior, especially behavior that cannot be controlled, like wetting yourself when you are sleeping. 

I want to assure you that school is not a negative place for me, it may be upsetting at times, but I am challenged to do better every day.  Everyone is so welcoming and kind to me, I feel comfortable teaching my way and sharing it with others.  The students love to learn!  The class sizes are huge!  I have an unusually small class of 37.  Most class sizes are 50-60.  Yikes!  It can be hard at times with a 1:37 ratio but I am trying some new classroom management strategies.  I have made a GREEN-YELLOW-RED System with clothespins.  Each student has a clothespin with their name on one side, and picture on the other.  If they are being “good listeners” they stay on green.  If they need a warning to listen then they move to yellow, and if they really can’t listen, or they are fighting they move to red, and they have to work REALLY hard to move back to green.  At the end of the day if they are on green, then they get a sticker on a chart I made.  I have included pictures of these tools.  On Friday if they have three stickers to count they get an American candy treat!  I started with the low expectation of 3 out of 5 stickers because I wanted all children to be successful to start, so they could experience the positive reinforcement.  This week went great!  Everyone got three MnM’s on Friday J!  Hopefully this stays positive, I have to keep reminding my cooperating teacher not to use RED as a threat, oh boy! 

            There are some positive cultural aspects I see reflected in the school.  In Cameroon everyone takes care of everyone and most everyone is considered family.  No one is to go hungry, and people don’t think twice about sharing their home, food or supplies.  I see this in my students.  They naturally share their supplies with each other.  Those who have more supplies know of those who don’t usually, and they go straight to them to support.  When lunch time comes many students pull a baguette sandwich out of their bag or a few coins to buy something.   Those with a sandwich will look around to see who does not have food and they rip off a piece of their sandwich to share, sometimes with as much as three other students.  Students don’t even have to ask, it is heart warming to see.  A variety of students from all the classes will come and “borrow” money from my cooperating teacher to get something for lunch.  She says, “They need to eat to learn!  They can borrow 25 F to get a sandwich and someday they will repay me.  It may be with Francs, or maybe they will repay me in a way I can’t understand yet.  It all comes around in the finish!”  She does love these students very much.  25 F is comparable to 5 cents in American.  Cheap food here, wow! 

            I am challenged daily here and growing as a teacher and as a human being.  I am so thankful to be here and so happy! 

 

Happy Day! Caroline Ensor 

 

Image

 

^Red, Yellow, Green :)

 

Image

^Sticker Chart :)

Image

^Part view of the classroom.

Image

 

^Agnes (my cooperating teacher) at the board.

Image

^Abbissi working hard!  She is so smart!

Image

 

^Little Essick :)  He’s always trying to keep up! 

Image

 

^Diane breaks her pencil about 10 times a day!  Always sharpening haha :)

Image

 

^Bored during their extremely long lunch break :-/….but so cute still :)  You can see the name tags I made the students in this picture.  Just on a green sticky note, with a color and shape sticker reinforcer.  They love them!  I am glad they are finally starting to recognize their own names! :)

Image

^Beautiful drawing Angel!

 

Image

^Good work Fotabong! 

Image

^My little teacher’s pet Nfor Carer.  He’s such a people pleaser! :)

Image

^Franklin :) Nice Coloring!

Image

^Showing off their drawing skills!

 

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.