My first week of teaching has come to a close, and things are falling into place for me over here in Kenya. Things are still pretty rough, as far as teaching goes, but that can be expected since it’s my first time teaching and using KSL. I’ve been blessed with a pretty awesome staff here, and the kids are absolutely precious. There’s still a communication barrier for sure, but it’s becoming smaller every day. I am excited to be able to understand everything they sign to me, and be able to answer them confidently.


So, I will be teaching Math and KSL to Class 2, Science and KSL to Class 3, and Creative arts to 2&6, PE to all. That’s the latest info on my schedule. We are having a meeting to reassign a few classes that a new teacher was supposed to cover, but unfortunately she won’t be joining us. So there might be a few others added, not sure quite yet. This week was very informal, since kids are still trickling in. In fact, we didn’t have a set schedule at all. The kids knew which classroom was theirs, so after morning assembly around the flagpole, they went to their classroom and sat in their seats regardless of whether a teacher was present or not. As far as the teaching goes, we just roamed and taught this class or that class, whenever it was open and we felt like it. At first this was really stressful for me, because I need a lot of direction. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything (I wasn’t) and I felt like I should be doing something… but just getting acquainted with the kids was enough. On Wednesday I taught my first lesson – math. It was harder than I expected, in a way, but model school had prepared me. My lesson was about matching the word with the number (seventeen=17). Harder than it sounds, and the kids were clueless, but I’ve been building on it ever since. We have math every day, so now about half of them are getting the answers right. In fact, tonight I Just made calendars for Jan-Mar, and I wrote the number in words and drew the numbers in each square. I’m hoping for more ideas for visuals in the classroom, but I was excited about that one.


I’m head teacher for class 2, which basically means homeroom. I’m responsible for ensuring they have pencils and such, taking roster, not really sure what else, but those are my kids. There are 8, ranging from probably 7 or 8 years old to maybe 16 or 17. There are two that have other learning impairments and probably should have been retained in class 1, but I was told that they would never pass class 1 (true), so they should be advanced to make them feel like they are progressing; a sense of accomplishment.


Speaking of senses, that was my first (and second and third) lesson for class 3 science – the five senses. It takes a while for things to click, and so it was pretty difficult to make it clear what the word for the sense was. The kids do not hear words, so words are really just a hodgepodge of letters, and memorizing the order of words that really don’t have much meaning is not easy (think of learning a new language, for example, a word that I struggled with: oyawore – hard to remember if you don’t hear people saying it – hearing the pronunciation helps it stick). So, they knew right off the bat what the senses were – they immediately gestured the eyes, the nose, the tongue, skin, ears… but the word for the sense – sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell… those words were missing. So after a while of drilling them, they remembered the words, so I had them draw this table where in one column they wrote the “organ” and the other the sense… supposed to be matching, you know? And none of them matched the sense and organ correctly. Tough. That’s why it took a few lessons. The kids are plenty smart, I just need to find better tactics for communicating the information. Exercises that are easier for them to understand. Time & patience, on my behalf.


Otherwise, I’m still pretty shy to “story” with the kids much. They call any conversation or leisure lecture a “story,” and are always begging everyone to “story.” There are two other new teachers here this term as well, two young men who recently finished secondary school (high school) and used to be students here at Nina. They are both deaf, which is a huge inspiration to the current students. They are appalled that the deaf guys actually finished secondary school – quite an accomplishment. Needless to say, they are both extremely quick signers, and have no problem communicating at all. It’s a little discouraging, but at the same time, even more practice for me. Sometimes I sit in their classes just to watch. It’s really good to see, because the techniques for getting the point across are different and it will help me learn how to become a better teacher here.


Otherwise, things at home are going well. This past week I was pretty sick with a chest cold, but it’s finally subsiding and I’m starting to rebuild my energy. I’ve been experimenting with the foods here and made my own noodles tonight! They have to dry overnight, so tomorrow I will know how it worked out. I can’t find any whole wheat noodles here, so I decided since I have an abundance of free time, may as well try making my own. I went to the local market with Dorine, the nursery teacher earlier this week. I bought avocadoes, tomatoes, onions, plantains and sweet potatoes. I love cooking my own food and trying new things. The plantains are really great, and I’ve been eating a lot of lentils lately as well.


Things that would be useful in my classroom: pencils, erasers, pencils WITH erasers, colored pens, kids books with pictures and words, coloring books, kids activity books (wordsearch, crossword, matching, etc), stickers, crayons, gluesticks, construction paper. The kids love looking at pictures, so one teacher made this book just from cutting clippings out of magazines and newspapers, so any old magazines would be awesome, whether it’s a kids magazine or adult magazine. The kids love that book, and it’s pictures of like, cars, Obama, buildings, shoes, just random stuff. Other things that I would find useful: lighters, yarn – lots and lots of yarn (any & all colors), books, crystal light, hot chocolate packets, flavored tea bags, splenda, water purification tablets, scented candles. I can’t think of anything else, but those are a few things that I thought of since I came to my own house. Thanks!


I have plenty of free time lately, without electricity you have to be pretty creative as to finding things to do. So, I have written quite a few letters that I’m hoping to send out tomorrow, and I’ve been crocheting a lot. With classes starting up, I will be able to spend some of my free time working on my lesson plans and visual aids. But other ideas are welcome, and keep your eyes posted for some mail heading your way!

One thought on “Teaching: week 1

  1. Kelsey, I love receiving your notes! I am curious about your access to technology. I work with a local STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) initiative and am aware of so many incredible technological helps to teaching math and problem solving. What is your technology situation like?

    Do you have a strong enough connection to watch
    – Vi Harts videos on math and doodling (great skills for when you have too much time on your hands)
    – Dan Meyer incredible TED Talk on teaching math
    – Montessori apps available on ipads
    – A phenomenal presentation on how one community used technology for students in Zambia to take piano lessons from a teacher here in the states.

    Have you thought of making a partnership
    – With the One laptop Per Child project
    – With Google Chrome Books
    – With IPAD

    I know you are in your first week of teaching, and I am completely unaware to your access to satallite or wired wi-fi signals. When my daughter taught in Africa 10 years ago, she only had access to one satallite phone that worked very poorly.

    I also realize that if you or the school have technology in your possession that is not readily available in the community, you become a target of crime and possible violence.

    I would be interested to hear in future blogs what your technology access is like and the local communities and schools use of it.

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