Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, May 12

Teaching in Senegal

I’ve begun teaching non-English related classes. It started with computer and software related ones, but more recently has transformed into larger scale business concepts. I’ve been doing this at the local NGO, Project Help (I believe I’ve mentioned them quite a few times already now…).

I was really nervous for the first class I taught: introduction to computers. Sounds pretty dumb looking back on it; I could’ve just spend the whole class answering questions and showing them how to use the mouse. Instead, I wanted to be professional and organize my thoughts. I created an outline to keep myself on topic, complete with fun computer facts and notes on things I could explain during practice exercises. I even went so far as to wear a dress shirt and my nice black pants (on a particularly hot day in the “cool” season). The class was fine, and the outline helpful. I was able to teach more than they thought they wanted to know. I was asked to continue teaching.

So I made it a habit to organize myself like this. I’ve taught a few more classes there, on using the internet and a series of Microsoft Word, with accompanying outlines. But no amount of planning can aid the problems I’ve had keeping class schedules and starting said classes on-time. It got to the point where I woke up early one Saturday morning, walked across town in my dress cloths, only to wait around for students that never came. Well, to be fair, the man who organized the class came in 15 minutes late, greeted me, and left without mentioning class or saying goodbye. Needless to say, I was a bit upset, and I took a break from teaching computer classes.

As of late, I organized a GERME (system for teaching business in Africa) class to serve as a pilot, after which we’d evaluate the possibility of creating a series of classes specially tailored for my town and taught by yours truly. I spent days working on the outline, which would cover two different GERME topics of “finding your business idea” and “creating your business,” taking the meaty portions and creating a kickass hybrid for budding entrepreneurs. When I finished I figured my class would take two whole days to teach, and that I probably shouldn’t go it alone. So I called in reinforcements, in the form of a Senegalese trainer for the Peace Corps who is well versed in GERME practices and owning successful businesses.

From there I was well advised to sit back and watch his methods. I sent him my outline, but he’d taught the class before and had his own ideas. He didn’t need my silly notes, though I’m mildly confident most of my topics were covered in the end. He spent more time on areas of interest I would’ve never thought important, and less on the ones I thought would be rather difficult to get across. He brought print outs… making me wish I had the budget to do so for each of my classes.

The students loved it. My trainer was so charismatic and entertaining. They sang Wolof songs at every break. And by the end I’d never seen Senegalese people so excited to continue this learning method. They scheduled a follow up meeting for the next business day. And then they didn’t show up for it.

I asked one of the coordinators what was going on, and they said maybe in July. I told one of my friends that the next time he asked me to a meeting, that he himself didn’t show up for, I would make him pay me cab fare for the trip across town and back. I have no lessons learned, judgments, or purpose to this story. I’m merely describing what I’ve been doing lately; how I fill my days and what it’s like teaching classes in Senegal.

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