This week was my second week teaching at Shaanika Nashilongo SSS. Having a week under my belt made for a more confident, prepared Miss Dana.
My classes for the teachers began on Tuesday. I am teaching an advanced class and a beginning class. Both classes meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for one hour in the afternoon. Preparing for these classes are especially time consuming, but it was fun to interact with the teachers on a new level. My advanced teachers are pretty advanced, and we will begin with Microsoft Excel this week. My beginners are definitely beginners! I have some of the older teachers in the group, and it’s exciting to see them make an effort to learn about computers. The turn out for all of the classes has been great. Almost all of the teachers attended at least one of the classes. In typical Namibian style, many beginners missed the first day, so I scheduled a make up class on Wednesday.
Teaching my Grade 11 and 12 learners has been a combination of exhausting, rewarding, overwhelming, exciting, and frustrating. It is challenging, to say the least, to teach a class of 45 learners when there are only 20 computers and chairs. Many of my learners are standing in the aisles and do not even get to access the computer throughout the class. It’s hard for some of them to even see my demonstrations over the heads of their classmates.
Some classes are very encouraging, and others, not as much. Sometimes they are very engaged and ask questions, others give me blank stares. It’s so hard to gauge the comprehension of what I’m teaching them. I began all of the classes with a basic knowledge assessment and learned that a handful know a little bit about computers, but most of them know very little, if anything at all. Based on the results, I made the decision to start from the very beginning. My lessons so far have focused on the parts of the computer, the parts of the keyboard, and getting familiar with your computer (turning on the computer, logging in, learning the desktop/icons, how to minimize, maximize, close, etc.). It’s pretty incredible realizing that you have to start as basic as how to double-click on the mouse, how to click and drag to highlight, and use the cursor. These are all completely unfamiliar terms and skills to most of them. I do my best to walk around the computer lab to see if they can actually practice what I’m teaching. I find a lot of them struggle with the basics and really need more guidance and one-on-one instruction than I am capable of providing with such a large class.
In addition to the large class sizes, the classes are only 45 minutes long, at best. Many of the learners show up late, causing a delay at the beginning. They have a rotating seven-day class schedule, and so I only see each class twice every seven days. With the short amount of time that I’m here, I can’t help but feel like I will struggle to get beyond the basics and teach them all that they really need to know. They are so interested to learn more and I hate that I will leave before we can go into more depth.
Last but not least, often times the computers don’t work! Right now, there is a problem with the server and a window pops up that we don’t know how to get rid of. Hopefully the technicians from the Ministry can come out first thing on Monday, but I am learning that I have to be flexible and be able to teach computers without the computers…
All that aside, I’ve found a lot of success roping them into my teaching style by showing them how fast I can type! I project my screen onto the chalkboard and look straight at them while I type 70 WPM. It’s amazing to see their reaction. Learners run up to crowd around my computer, exclaiming in disbelief! This has been one of my favorite parts of teaching so far. Then, I begin by asking them if they want to learn to type that fast, and all hands are in the air. I tell them that if they listen to how I will teach them to type, practice using the typing skills program I put on the computer, then they will learn how to type, fast and the right way. This gets them very excited and all eyes are on me for the rest of the class period! I’ve been teaching them about the home keys, and walking around to each computer asking each learner to show me their fingers on the home keys. Even after the lesson, I have to correct many hands and fingers…it’s just such a new and foreign concept.
The last way I have found success is candy! Some things do not change, no matter where you are. Kids love sweets. I bought a few bags of candy and gave them out to learners who volunteers to give answers to some activities we worked on. This exponentially increased the number of volunteers for answers…shocking!
While there are many challenges, it is extremely rewarding to teach a subject that is so new to them and so useful. Namibia feels a century behind the US in so many ways, computers and technology one of the glaringly obvious areas for development. I’m excited to be part of Namibia’s Ministry of Education’s movement to improve this area in their schools, and really do feel like I’m making a valuable contribution to the learner’s computer literacy!