Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The first week of school

I know it's only Wednesday, but the first week of school is over (we think.)  It is so nice to have a short week this week.  Now that I've met the kids, I have a few days to plan! 
First of all, I'm sure you are all wondering why we only think this is the last day of school this week.  The answer is simple, even if it is hard understand.  Let me explain:  Tomorrow is a holiday called Nane Nane, which is a sort of agricultural Tanzanian holiday celebrated on the 8th day of the 8th month.  Nane (pronounced nah-nee) is Kiswahili for 8, so the name really isn't very original.  It is, however, a day off from school and an excuse for us to visit an agricultural fair and take in a bit of Tanzanian culture in the process. 
What about Friday?  Great question!  At some point in the near future, we are reaching the end of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday which lasts for a month and is celebrated by fasting during the daylight hours.  Ramadan ends when the new moon is spotted, so it can't officially end until that happens.  There is also a 2-day celebration that goes along with it.  There is a large Muslim population in Dodoma, and indeed in most of Tanzania, so this becomes a public holiday.  So, even though we are pretty sure this will happen Friday, we won't know officially until Thursday night.
So, now on to my first days of school:
Monday was the first day back, and the first day of the new school year.  It is winter here now, so the kids just came back from winter break.  There are a lot of changes at the school this year, including a new principal and deputy principal, so it was exciting for everyone! 
Every morning starts at 7:30 with staff devotions and announcements.  This is the first chance we have to see everyone each day and only lasts 10 minutes.  Someone rings a bell at 7:40 to announce to the kids that it is time to line up outside their classrooms (little house on the prairie style.)
I start my day with Standard 6 (S6) devotions and attendance, then move into S6 reading.  I have the benefit of a great working knowledge of reading-level-based reading groups.  This is new for some of the teachers.  I really had it easy!  I was given a list of students from last year and their reading levels.  I am very excited to not have to assess them all at the beginning of the year! 
At other times during the week, I also teach reading to Standard 4.  I actually spend most of my time in S4, even though I'm semi-officially the classroom teacher for S6.  I also teach literacy (which includes grammar, writing, handwriting, and spelling) to S4, science in both classes, S4 PE, and Topic (social studies and geography) to S4.
The kids in my classes are great!  Most of the students are Tanzanian, but there are several expat kids as well.  They are just like the kids back home.  There are the ones who can't stay in their seat, the ones who like to chat, the ones who are quiet and don't say much, the sweet ones, the smart ones, the sassy ones.  Every day when I tell them good morning, they reply in unison with "Good morning Miss Galagan, and God bless you" in their cute Tanzanian accents.   
Our day is over at 2:00 when the kids go home, then we have a half hour of wrap-up time at the end of the day.  It seems really short coming from a 7:30am to 4:30pm day.  We also have 2 30-minute breaks each day.  The first one is in the morning after 2 periods and the second one is around noon for lunch. 
The school doesn't provide lunch, so the kids bring their own.  There is a student canteen that has little snack-type items they can buy, but doesn't stock much.  We also have a Tanzanian woman who makes things for the staff to buy for lunch.  Each day this week, she has had a type of soup and some other item to purchase.  We've had mince pies (kind of like a cupcake-sized shepherd's pie with a crust,) pizza, and pasties, all of which have been delicious!
On Monday, the bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika is coming to CAMS to dedicate the new unit that was just finished last week.  It currently holds a set of bathrooms and the Standard 5 classroom.  There is the foundation for another classroom, but CAMS doesn't have the money for it yet.  Today, we had a practice for the event and brought all of the students and staff out in front of the unit.  We also had a group from a church in South London who came to sing a couple of songs for us.  They are working on building another school in the area so our principal invited them to sing for us. 
Anyway, here are some pictures from around CAMS.  Enjoy them and let me know if there is anything you want more information about!
The Standard 4 Classroom
(I was still prepping when I took this picture, so it's not completely set up.)

Standard 6

The entire student body at the rehearsal today.  My S4's and S6's are on this side of the 2nd and 3rd rows from the front.  
Our chaplain, principal, and deputy principal (pictured in that order) talking during a break in the assembly.  
 Part of the playground with the new building in the background.  The building on the right houses several classrooms including the computer lab.
Looking toward the student bathroom, Staff Room, and there's even a classroom there!  The Staff Room is the doorway in the corner.
The offices and Staff Library
The veranda outside the S6 and S4 room.  The doorway is to S6 with the windows on the left of the door.   The windows on the right are for S4, 


  1. Heidi! I love that you are keeping a blog during your adventures in Tanzania! The compound where your school is located at is AMAZING! Thanks for sharing the pictures! How many students do you have in your class? S6 or S4 (Is that 4th and 6th grade?) Prayers and many blessings to you friend! Hope you have a wonderful year and look forward to many more updates! ~Liz

  2. How cool, Di!! So excited to keep hearing more and seeing more pictures!! It is so cool!! As always, I am thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way! Hearts follow you!!

  3. Liz, they start with Standard 1 in what we would call kindergarten, so S4 is like our 3rd grade and S6 is like our 5th grade. We are still getting a few straggler kids, but there are about 22-23 on the class lists for each class. I think the most either class had this week was 19.

  4. That really doesnt sound so different!

  5. That is sooo cool Heidi! It looks wonderful.

  6. Hi Heidi! Enjoyed your pix! The school looks great and I loved seeing the kids. You've got a good class size, too. Are you feeling more settled in? I was wondering about the weather. You mentioned it is winter there. I entered your location in my weather app and the temps look pretty warm for winter which makes me wonder what summer is like. Will you have the chance to see some of the sights while you are there?

    God Bless you and know you remain in my prayers!

    Bobbie Hostetler

  7. Bobbie,

    Thanks for checking in! I'm really starting to feel settled. I have a great community of teachers around me that is helping me out a lot!

    Yes, it is winter now, but it feels just like it did at home. I have heard that there is a rainy season coming up starting in a couple of months and it will get warmer as December and January approach. From what I can tell, it will get up into the 90's (Fahrenheit) in the summer.

    I am hoping to be able to see some of the sights in Tanzania while I'm here. One of the other teachers and I have already talked about wanting to see some animals somewhere. We have a 2-week break from school in October and will hopefully get to go somewhere then. I also have tentative plans to go to South Africa over Christmas.