Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week Three: The More I Learn, the More I Realize I Don't Know

By: Kumari Lewis and Margaret Prunty 

In our first full week in Namibia, we have enjoyed ourselves but are feeling the intensity of the semester as classes and internships begin. Although some days are busier than others for each and every one of us, we go to classes enthusiastically and enjoy our internships on days we are without class. Most students go to internships in the morning and return by lunchtime, however, I go after lunch and return just before dinner. It all depends on the organization that we work with. I work with Bernard Nordkamp Center (BNC), a center where children (grade 1-7) seek academic assistance after school. So far, I have worked with first and second graders, helping them with reading and on occasion, grammar. Students and I meet one-on-one and he/she reads to me. Education is not my college major and I have never taught anyone to read, which is more challenging than I anticipated. Some students have a strong start, making it through a fair amount of words without my help, whereas others need assistance with nearly every word. As an intern, I might also have the opportunity to work with other grade levels or provide math help. I have enjoyed teaching reading, but if the opportunity presents itself, I would enjoy working with another grade level or another subject.

I have only been at BNC for one week, and I understand how people are passionate about education. It’s endearing to work with children who are eager to learn and want to make improvements. From what my supervisor has told me, not all the BNC students are as interested as others, but for the most part, they are all there because they want to be. Working with children who want to learn is the best part of my internship, but leaves me in awe at the same time. I felt my mouth drop open when I learned that teachers sometimes hit the students with a branch or ruler and call them  “stupid” if they aren’t understanding. I couldn’t help but wonder how students could be enthusiastic about learning when they are punished for not understanding the material. Knowing this, BNC is truly a great place for students. They come after school, have a little bit of free time, eat, and learn. They are encouraged and taught with enthusiasm and respect, which is what they need. My supervisor, MaryBeth took over the organization and provides the students just that. She works hard to organize education for seven different grade levels and provide a safe, comforting, and encouraging educational environment. With Marybeth's hard work and dedication, the students seem to enjoy coming to BNC to learn and so do I. 

This past week we took a day off from class to travel just outside of central Windhoek to the Elisenheim Estate, a beautiful farm with guesthouses and animals on the edge of the mountains where we participated in a team building retreat. It is phenomenal how well we have come to know each other as a group in just a few short weeks, but as the activities revealed, there are still countless ways that we will continue to learn from each other. Every student and staff member here with CGE has a story to tell, and our retreat gave everyone an opportunity to share those stories and learn more about why and how each of us ended up here, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

CGE staff and students discussing topics surrounding
identity on our team building retreat . 
One of the first activities we did involved asking ourselves questions such as “this aspect of my life has had the most influence over my decisions…,”  “this aspect of my life is most new to me…,” “this is something about myself I would like to explore more…,” “this is what I am most proud of…,” and “this is what I would like to change most about myself…” We were given a set group of answers and had to choose from: gender, sexual orientation, political belief, spiritual belief, body image, family, and socioeconomic class. What I found most interesting was how I would have a gut reaction to certain questions, but I would also feel swayed by other people’s decisions. I was astounded that despite the fact that I feel extremely comfortable with this group of people, I still felt pressured as if there were certain ‘correct’ answers to these questions.

We broke off into discussion groups and spoke about how the fear of our answers being judged often made it difficult to give the answer we truly felt. And it is astounding how so many different students, professors, and staff can struggle with the same inner conflict despite being fantastically different ages and coming from greatly differing backgrounds.

The next activity that I found most impactful was one in which we formed groups and discussed how religion, race, socioeconomic class, and gender have personally influenced us. While it is one thing to say, yes being a woman has had a great influence on how I think and who I am today, it is quite different to elaborate and share with a group why I think so. Especially when that group is made up of people you met two weeks ago. If nothing else, these activities reinforced the importance of contemplation and the acknowledgement that many go through the same struggles regardless of gender, class, or race. We are one human race and while many of us look different and grow up with different values across the world, similarities can be found across all lines and boundaries.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at www.centerforglobaleducation.org.

No comments: