By Pat Kelly
In July 2012, Kalan Gott, Anastasia Gruper, Ann Yanchura and Mariann Zimmerman accompanied Mal Keenan to Zambia. The following post is another Q & A with these incredible teachers.
Q. Tell us about your favorite teaching moment.
K.G. My favorite teaching moment involved a group of older students teaching a group of younger students. It was in our second week of teaching. We were at Mango Grove community school. A missionary from a church was substitute teaching and had an idea to have the older students read to the younger students. The end of the school day was approaching so we all met outside near the water tower to talk about what was next. Walking out there I was exuberant. I felt like I was witnessing a shift in the reading culture right then.
A.G. Every time I prepared a lesson, I tried to create something that teachers could reproduce. For one lesson, the purpose was to have students explain a balanced diet. Faced with the challenge of teaching a balanced diet to malnourished children, I knew I needed to create a word bank of foods for them to use in their writing. I spent hours, by headlamp as we had no electricity, drawing and cutting out pictures of foods. After having the children work in groups to sort the foods into different food groups, they worked together to add foods to the list before they wrote their sentences. It was amazing to watch them work together to generate lists. At the end of the lesson, the teachers asked if they could keep the cut outs for their other classes.
A.Y. I worked with a young teacher who is also a pastor; David is enthusiastic, hardworking, well-read, and committed to living a life of service to others. When he asked me to help his students learn how to read hard words, we had fun practicing sounding out and taking apart multi-syllable words. Both he and his students took great delight in simple multi-sensory activities such as using a rubber band to “stretch out the sounds.” It was this pure delight and his deep gratitude (that far surpassed my due for the little bit of help I’d given) that will stay in my heart forever.
M.Z. The morning we spent at Chishiko School was quite memorable for me listening to Bornwell’s lesson for part of the morning and quickly planning how we can help him and the students learn and apply what he is teaching. It was a valuable morning and I often think how much more we could have done if we could have worked together for a week or two.
In 2010 I traveled to Zambia with Mal for “A to Z Literacy.” I had a couple of moments that still stand out as being very special. The first one was when I was reading to the upper level class. I had brought 4 finger puppets with me, as well as a book about the savannah habitat. I wanted to teach a lesson related to science and literacy. As I started to read the book, I slowly pulled out the first puppet. What I didn’t expect was the astonishment of the lovely children….practically crawling in my lap to see this strange thing on my finger. It never dawned on me that they hadn’t seen a finger puppet before. The students at Shine were delighted to see the 4 puppets and their eyes never left me or the giraffe, elephant, zebra, and lion. A magical moment of teaching.
The second special teaching moment at Shine…after reading a book on how plants grow, I took the children on a little “field trip” to the garden on the school grounds. These vegetables are not grown for the children to eat, and very few had contemplated the garden and its plants, even though they passed by it every day. As I talked with them and explained the fact that we eat the roots of some plants, while eating the leaves, fruit, or stalks of another, they looked at me with wide eyes…full of wonder. I loved those moments….truly inspirational and special to me.
Watching children grow with excitement as we teach is something that I truly love about our profession. Literacy and its connection to science and nature are particular favorites of mine, and it was a joy to share that with pupils in Zambia.