My Little Ones

Typical Education Major Conversation

(Insert name): So what are you majoring in?

Kelly: Education

(Insert name): Oh good for you! That will be so fulfilling!

Day 4 of teaching in Tanzania has proven that education is indeed fulfilling! My students have taught me more than I could have ever suspected. They are so wise! How can such small little beings be SO wise? In addition to being brilliant, they are funny, tender and giving. In just a few days, my students have taught me so many life lessons. Below are just a few of the lessons that I have learned from my Tanzanian first graders:

1. Most major life problems can be solved with a hug.

2. One example of a major life problem is sharing. When a friend shares paper with one friend but not you, it is hurtful and deserves a hug from Teacher.

3. It is hard to give any child attention when there are 12 more students tugging at your shirt and yelling “Teacher, teacher!” The excitement in the students’ voices is worth the ringing eardrums though.

4. Sometimes children know more than teachers. In Tanzania, this is often the case with languages. Today my student, Bernit, had to serve as an interpreter for the administration of my school because a new student did not speak Kiswahili or English (There are over 120 tribal languages in Tanzania).

5. Students who are used to a structured class environment DO understand the color wheel, but they CANNOT always handle the adjustment of a foreign teacher with much looser classroom rules. Crayons, stickers and group work MIGHT have been too much difference to combine into one lesson.

6. When you tell a child something that they can relate to, they listen. Five days after I told my students I was going to the Serengeti, they almost all asked me if I liked the Serengeti. What thoughtful children!

7. Parents are thrilled when their child’s professional photos turn out “good”. Tanzanian children are thrilled to see themselves in a camera. The thought of getting a printed picture is beyond belief!

8. Thoughtful gestures are freely given from children through smiles, hugs and handwritten “thank you teacher” notes.

9. Allowing students to touch your hair might be tiring, but it is an unique form of student exploration.

10. No child should ever be scared of being hit by a teacher (even if that teacher is loving and caring).

11. When school is not considered a prerogative, students care so much more about it.

12. When students are truly invested in their schoolwork and understand that education is the key to overcoming poverty, they ask for additional homework.


Although some are silly, each of these lessons has changed my thinking as an individual and educator in only a few days. The students here are so sweet. They are ornery, but so tender and fragile. Also, if students are invested in their education, they will accomplish much more than I would have ever imagined (my first graders know multiplication and division through the number 3). So as a teacher, I have to figure out how to engage my students and make them strive for that incredible success.

I hope this post makes my time here sound warm and fuzzy (because it has been wonderful)! It hasn’t all been glamorous and positive though. There have been many struggles. My host teacher, Mrs. Dawood, is one of those difficulties (I like to think of her as a challenge to overcome). She is a very sweet lady, but we are working to overcome the cultural gap. I have had to fight for every lesson that I’ve been allowed to teach and today was my first lesson where I was given creative freedom. Needless to say, my first few days in the classroom were very disheartening! With that being said, I am learning from my teacher in ways that I never intended to. I am slowly gaining her trust (and she is slowly going down on my intimidation scale!) Mrs. Dawood has taught me some wonderful teaching strategies and has taught me some strategies that I do not particularly want to bring into my classroom. I am so thankful for her allowing me to come into her classroom.

Together, we are learning. I am learning from my students. I am learning from my host teacher. I don’t know if they are learning from me, but I hope to be influencing their thinking of Americans, education, life and dreams (and maybe a little of the classroom content too). I adore my host teacher and students and can’t handle thinking about tomorrow being Friday of Week 2.

~ by kellyheins on May 10, 2012.

One Response to “My Little Ones”

  1. Kelly wonderful to read your post. Love the lessons you are learning from the students. Especially lesson # 1. I know that by the end of your time there Mrs. Dawood will understand what a great gift you are. – If not, refer to lesson # 1! : ) Can’t wait to hear more.

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