This picture characterizes my experience at Shalom in a variety of ways. Firstly, the role of us Undergrads as student-teachers. Here Erin is sitting with her group (sorry I couldn’t get a shot with everyone’s eyes open…) listening to Katie, so that she knows what she is about to turn around and teach the kids in her group. So often I feel like we figure out what we’re teaching as we go, second by second as we sit in our group. Sometimes when I ask students a question: “What are the pros and cons of small-scale agriculture?” I am right there with them, trying to think of a good answer. I like this, though. I like that we’re thinking together.
Another thing that struck me as particularly telling in this picture is the teacher in the back of the room. The Shalom teacher who usually commands the classroom with an iron fist (read, with a wooden switch) is watching the students as they listen to Katie introduce the lesson. I have made a habit of asking each of the teachers we work with how the activity went after we teach in their rooms, and the responses have been very positive. The teachers appear very receptive to LTP, and to Americans teaching their kids and setting an example of how to teach. This was something that made me really uncomfortable (and still does, to an extent) when we started working in schools here, mostly because none of us are experienced teachers. Katie is an experienced professor, but in reality, we’re all new to teaching primary school students in Arusha. I think that one of the ways to make the best of the situation is to take advantage of the teachers’ openness and to provide them with new pedagogies of project-based/ experiential education, which we Americans do have great experience with as students in American schools (except for Aadya- a student in Indian and Singaporean schools). But my biggest questions are: Who are we to be showing teachers how to teach? Why aren’t experienced elementary and middle school teachers from the US here instead (or with us)? It’s worrying to me that I have never seen a Tanzanian classroom being taught by a Tanzanian teacher, and here I am, standing at the front of such a classroom, setting an example of how to teach. The support of the teachers at Shalom suggests to me that they see the value of the program, but I feel that I am largely in the dark concerning the life of LTP in Arusha. I know that it has an exciting life- I know that it’s a growing organism that has more energy and more sense of direction as it matures- what I don’t know is how it behaves, what we could best contribute to its growth and health, and why its so photography centric. In some cases, photographs seem to be the key to a successful activity, but in other cases, activities seem less enhanced by photography- it seems like LTP might more appropriately stand for “Learning Through Projects”, or the project-based learning I’m familiar with in the states. Pictures often seem to be the final products of these projects, but sometimes, they might not be. For example, when we taught about the reproductive parts of a plant (or the flower of a plant), we drew a picture of the plant and its many parts, and we then dissected flowers ourselves, and labeled the real flower’s parts. This activity seemed to teach better than any photograph, or picture, or book how plant reproduction really works. We were looking at the real thing, and we tried to understand something by looking at its parts. Is this Literacy Through Photography? Probably not. Is it Learning Through Pictures (the Arushan adaptation of the LTP acronym)? Maybe. Or maybe its Learning Through Dissecting (LTD), or perhaps, Learning Through Interacting With The Real World (LTIWTRW).