Kenya, Teaching

I’ve been back in Tala for a little over a week now. School was supposed to open on January 5th, but I was still in Ethiopia. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice, but last semester I noticed that neither the students nor the teachers report on time for school. Last semester we started two weeks late, so this time I stayed away for an extra week; nobody cared that I was a week “late” because most of the students and teachers still weren’t even around. Nonetheless, we finally sorted out the class schedule and time table and started today.

I’ll be teaching four classes this semester. Four! Count ‘em:

  1. Two units of Introduction to Programming and Algorithms
  2. One unit of Network Essentials
  3. One unit of Object-oriented Programming

I’ve taught the first two for the past two semesters so it’s not really a big deal, but the last one is a bit new. The course content isn’t so different from the other programming class I teach, but the students are two semesters ahead, so I have to try to cover the topics deeper. I’ve had to create my own notes for these classes so far, which is a pain in the ass, but I guess I did a good job because my students always pass.

Each class is supposed to have four hours per week, but there’s no way I can talk that much. Today I had two classes and I talked for one hour in each class. Two of the classes are with students who I already know from past semesters, but for the new students I always start by telling them, “Hi, my name is Alan. Not ‘Mr. Orth’ or ‘Sir,’ just ‘Alan.’” They like to add titles, but it bugs me. Although I found a gray hair on my head the other day, I don’t have a Ph.D and I’m not fifty, so I’d actually rather they called me “dude” than “Sir” or “Mr!” Hell, most of the students are around twenty years old, and I’m pretty sure at least two or three are older than me.

In other news I bought some new sandals in Tala market the other day. They’re made from recycled tires and they cost me a little less than a dollar. Haha. I had also bought a mop so people were laughing when I was walking home; I was wearing the “new” sandals and carrying my old ones in my hand along with the mop. I guess it’s pretty funny for a couple of reasons, chiefly because the tire sandals are very “local.” I hear that they last forever, though, and they’re tough so no thorns can poke through them. Alright!

Kenya, Teaching

Two of my three classes finished today and they’ll take their exams next week. I didn’t have any failures last semester but this time around we had some irregularities. For instance, the students reported to school two weeks late! I don’t know why, but they did. The IT instructors had assumed this meant we’d have two weeks tacked onto the end of the semester but we were wrong to assume. When I thought we were halfway done with the semester we learned that we only had two weeks left. Ahhh! So I had to rush my last assignments, tests, and lectures, but I think I managed OK.

One metric I have is the number of students who correctly answer a certain question on my final test; last semester every student got it incorrect. I’m not sure what I did differently this time, but everyone got it correct. Woohoo! It’s a simple logic-based programming question and I ask them what the following code should print when it is executed: Continue Reading

Kenya, Miscellaneous, Teaching

Everybody knows I’m a teacher, but there’s so much more to my every day life than teaching! Here’s what a typical day looks like:

  • 7:00 AM: Wake up, make tea, revise notes for class (if I have one that day).
  • 8:00 AM: Walk to school, stopping in the staff room to greet the secretary and drop my books off. After greetings I head to the computer lab to turn on the servers, routers, and computers. I usually don’t have class until 10:30, so I will check e-mail, catch up on news, and work in the computer lab until 10:00.
  • 10:00 AM: Tea break. I’ll spend a half hour or so drinking tea and chatting with other teachers. Sometimes I bring a book and read that instead of chatting.
  • 10:30 or 11:00 AM: Class for 1 or 2 hours, depending on how my mood is and how much material I have to cover.
  • 12:30 PM: Lunch. On MWF it’s githeri (corn and beans, staple food around here) and TR it’s rice and potato stew (blah). We chat and eat until around 1:30 or 2:00. Sometimes I go home and do laundry at lunch too.
  • 2:00 PM: Work in computer lab, either researching class notes or maintaining the lab computers and servers.
  • 4:00 PM: Ride bike to Tala market (1.5 km).  I usually do shopping for vegetables on Tuesday and Friday, but there’s plenty of other things to buy in the market.  Drinking tea and eating a chapati is a must in Tala market, I do it almost every day without exception.  Other days I go visit the barber and have him clean up my beard.
  • 6:00 or 7:00 PM: Ride my bike home and change out of my work clothes into my cultural dress (shorts, sandals, no t-shirt).  Only after I’ve done that can I start thinking about preparing dinner.
  • 9:00 PM: Dinner is usually done by this time (sometimes I get a late start!) and then I can sit down to do any combination of the following: check e-mail, watch a few episodes of Arrested Development, read a book, prepare notes for the next day’s class.
  • 11:00 PM: Bed time!

So there you have it, that’s my daily routine.  It’s nice that I’ve actually got a routine now… my little, lonely house is starting to feel like home to me now (though it’s a bit lonely!).  Post a comment if you have any questions!