2013

Challenges in Cameroon

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.

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5 thoughts on “Challenges in Cameroon

  1. Your classroom sounds like a very difficult classroom to teach and work in. It seems like a HUGE challenge that you have to deal with in order to even begin teaching. I think it is a good idea of you sticking to what you believe is right and fair in classroom management. I wonder, it seemed like that example worked when you showed the class how well the one student helped the other student and they seemed to really like that. I wonder if you used a lot of PBIS type of management where you praise the good and the poor things or the teasing that you see if you ignore that and then maybe the students will catch on to your management techniques. Also, I don’t know if this is taking it too far, but i would almost be tempted to say straight out to them, back home our classroom techniques of teaching is very different than what is used here, so these are my expectations: and then list them off. And say when your cooperating teacher is teaching you follow and listen to what her techniques are and when I am teaching you respect my techniques. Would this work? It’s always easier to say what to do rather than be the one who actually has to do it. Maybe this will help and maybe it’s a bad idea, just a thought I came up with 🙂

  2. Pingback: Classroom of the Year contest! | local2global

  3. I’m hoping to incorporate a lot of PBIS type management into my classroom! I brought a lot of little reward items like stickers and candy to reward the positive behaviors happening in class! I feel like I can’t just ignore the bad behaviors because they can be pretty bad. So I have to find a happy medium where the class will be able to function. I hope with time the class will be able to appreciate my teaching style. I understand it is different from what they are used to, but I won’t believe that they will not be able to adapt to a better management style.

  4. Wow! Reading your post… I found myself feeling really sad and appalled at the actions of the teacher. It is easy to sit and look at others being quick to judge, but if in their culture it is acceptable- that is what they are inclined to use as classroom management… Even though we don’t believe in every implementing such things into our classrooms.

    I admire you for standing up for non-violent approaches and teaching the students a new perspective… I cannot imagine this is an easy feat! Especially against the norms of your cooperating teacher, other staff, and obviously the headmaster of the school. You should be proud in your effort to improve the school experience, and everyday lives of your students! I agree with Joy, praising students is an effective (and easy) way to guide students! Incentives are a great place to start!

    Best of luck! I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

  5. Rikki, even thought I mentioned the possibility of harsher techniques of discipline and management to the group before you all left, experiencing it first hand is tough. I assumed you would see such behavior in your classroom. I know you talked to Caroline about her experiences there; she did exactly what you are striving to do. I trust by now (I am very late in my reviews of the blog postings) you are seeing positive results. Be well.

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