I knew when I decided I wanted to come to Cameroon I was signing up for some big challenges along the way. I thought I would be able to handle most of the challenges because I thought I was prepared for them. I had been to a school in Namibia before, and I didn’t think this one would be that different. The school here is much different from the school I had been at in Namibia. I was not nearly as prepared for what school was going to be like as I thought I was.
One of the hardest things for me at school is that teachers are able to use corporal punishment. The first classroom I observed I lost count of how many times the teacher would hit the students. She would hit them over the simple fact that they got an answer wrong. Coming from a country where hitting students has been illegal for many years, it is really hard for me to watch this happening in the classroom. The first day I was left alone in the classroom for a few minutes the children started running all over, hitting other children, saying mean things, and screaming at each other. I could not for the life of me gain control over the class. When the teacher walked in she saw the chaos that was happening in the classroom. Any student that was not in their seat was sent to the headmaster. I did not witness what happened, but all of the students came back sobbing. This just broke my heart.
The next day I talked with the teacher about what happened in the classroom while she was gone. She told me they are not used to people who are so nice. She said I should not try to change how the school handles children like that. She told me that I just need to show the class who is in charge by hitting them. I told her at home that is not acceptable. I will not be participating in this kind of treatment to the students. I will have to work extremely hard to change the classroom into a room where they can appreciate a safer environment.
Another thing I find really challenging for me is the classroom environment. Children laugh at each other if they get an answer wrong. The teacher will even point out a student’s work if it is wrong to the whole class so that the other students can laugh at it. I have told all of the students that in this classroom we are all friends, and we are here to learn with each other. It is not funny when someone makes a mistake. As a class we need to make sure everyone understands what we are learning.
I was correcting some math work the students had done. One boy had all three of the problems wrong. I could tell he just didn’t get it. I asked the girl sitting next to him, who understood the concept, if she could help him. She did such a fantastic job helping him. I watched as she talked him through the whole thing. I had to tell the whole class what a wonderful job she did. I also told the whole class that the other student was able to get all of the problems correct! The class seemed impressed. I’m hoping by pointing out to the whole class this one example, I will be able to start slowly turning the classroom environment into more of a team. This way everyone will help everyone to be successful.
The classroom environment and ways of punishment are the two things I am currently finding most challenging. I think with time I will be able to help make the classroom a nicer place for students to learn without the fear of being punished for wrong answers. Through behavior charts, positive reinforcement, and community building activities, I will hopefully be able to achieve my goals of a safer and more positive environment.