The project that I chose to do was teaching computer classes at the cyber café in Farendé. The main reason I chose it was because I was worried about my French, and I assumed that I could teach a decent amount non-verbally. Also, I liked it because the skill of using a computer is incredibly useful, making that choice for my program pretty fulfilling.
At the first meeting for all the kids who wanted to sign up for our projects, the computer classes were the most popular, as we had expected it would be. With the list of about 45 kids, I tried to divide them into three classes based on age. But then at the second meeting, the interest meeting for the computer classes, only about 20 of them came. I was a little disappointed that more didn’t show up, but it was fine. Fidèle, our site coordinator, helped me split them into four groups, Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each class had a reasonable amount of kids and I was satisfied. I ended by introducing myself, saying that I was this year’s “informatique” teacher. I made sure to say I had been using a computer for ten years (made up number) so they knew I knew what I was doing, even if I didn’t know French very well.
The first week or so I spent just shadowing Mary Elizabeth, a Duke student who had run the DukeEngage computer classes back in 2014 and now had returned for her gap year. She gave me some tips and advice and through watching her I was able to learn what the kids struggled with and what they picked up easily.
None of the classes in the first week were successes, except for the fact that they were learning experiences. At the beginning I was struggling because I didn’t know exactly what to teach and hadn’t yet developed my teaching style. Since then I’ve realized that even though my personality type is quiet and reserved, that personality just won’t cut it in the classroom. The kids need someone with energy so they can get excited about what they’re learning. They also need someone who’s able to engage them.
After a couple of weeks, I started to hit my stride. I stopped having to making lesson plans and instead just came in with two or three new things I wanted to teach. The general pattern is always Review, Learn Something New, Exercise, Review. And then the hour is up. I can’t say I know most of the kids’ names, but I do know how to make them laugh and smile and participate in class. I’ve very glad I decided to pick the computer classes because I definitely think it was the best fit.