Fifteen future teachers gain experience and confidence teaching in Tanzania
In May 2011, Drs. Lisa Kasmer and Rebecca Walker led 15 Grand Valley students in a trip of a lifetime to teach in Tanzania. This trip gave the future teachers a chance to experience a different culture, gain confidence in their teaching, and complete their capstone course (MTH 496) while building a learning community and gaining a great experience to put on their resume!
While in Tanzania, students taught at several elementary and secondary schools from 8am to 2pm each day and planned and completed coursework for MTH 496 in the late afternoon. They also visited a Maasai village, hiked in the Arusha National Park, worked at an orphanage, and experienced a 4-day safari in the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.
In Tanzania, the students truly became part of a learning community. They lived, ate, planned, and played together-gaining many shared experiences and many chances for reflection and debriefing about their teaching. Dr. Kasmer also shared that the students were pushed out of their comfort zones on the trip. They taught large classes with little support (no materials, texts, or technology) and many students were asked to teach topics besides mathematics including physics, chemistry, English, and reproductive health.
Since returning from Tanzania, the students have shared their experiences in a variety of venues and many of the students have gone on to complete their teacher assisting and, in some cases, their student teaching. Drs. Kasmer and Walker are in the process of interviewing these students to determine the students' perceptions of how their time in Tanzania has affected their work in the classroom. While the interviews are ongoing, Dr. Kasmer states that the students felt more confident going into their teacher assisting experience because of the time they spent teaching in Tanzania. Dr. Walker adds, "The students report that after almost a year they still turn to each other for support and encouragement during their teacher assisting and student teaching semesters. They also share their successes and develop new ideas about how they might teach a certain topic to their students."
The students who were interviewed also shared that they thought of themselves more as teachers after their time in Tanzania and that they have learned how important planning and being reflective are in order to be a successful teacher.
Cassie Becker, one of the trip participants reflected about her trip, "I strengthened my love of teaching and feel certain that I am going into the right profession. I loved going to school to teach my students each and every day. It was rewarding to teach a lesson that I created, which then allowed me the opportunity to evaluate my lesson and adjust in order to fit the needs of the class. I also learned how strong I am as a person. I climbed a mountain, I taught a standard III class [equivalent to junior year in high school], I tried new foods, I survived a month without a hair dryer, and yet I still woke up happy every morning."
Another trip participant, Cody Becksvoort adds, "I have a new confidence in myself and now believe that I have the ability to run and manage a classroom effectively and be a quality teacher...there would be no way for me to feel comfortable walking into teacher assisting without this trip at my back."
If you would like to read more about the students' experiences while in Tanzania, you can read the blog they kept while they were there. For another view of the Tanzania trip, check out this YouTube video.
In summary, Dr. Kasmer states, "I'd like to thank the Mathematics Department for their continued support of the Tanzania program. I'd also like to thank the students who helped make this such a memorable experience and Rebecca Walker for all of her help on the trip."
Grand Valley and the Padnos International Center has a long-term commitment to the Tanzania program. This year Dr. Kasmer and seven students from Grand Valley (5 of whom are in the mathematics education program) are travelling with 8 students from the University of Missouri to teach in the same Tanzanian schools. We wish them safe travels and look forward to hearing more about their experiences!