Saturday, May 3, 2014

A day in the life...

I have been talking to some people who are interested more in what I’m actually doing every day.  To satiate their hunger for knowledge, I decided to let you join me on an average day.  This is what I did yesterday, May 2nd.  This post is really long, so I decided to forgo any pictures this time.  If there is something in particular you want to see pictures of, let me know in the comments section.  Also, if there is anything particular you want to know more about, let me know that as well!

Before we start, and because this is a long post, I want to say thank you to the people who made my April possible!  A HUGE thank you goes out to Bill and Doris Lucas, Riley Nielson, Bill Garlow, Pat and Connie Keller, the Stephens family, the Sunderlands, and Marilee Sorenson.

Now, on to my day!

6:30 am
I roll over and hit the snooze button.  The sun is up and barely shining without its full intensity.  Outside my window, I hear a cacophony of sound as the birds and insects announce the start of another day.  I roll back over and pull the covers up to my chin.  Mornings are not my thing, even in Tanzania.

I hear the telltale beeping of the school bus backing up.  I can tell by the sound of the metal gate crashing closed and the rev of the engine that it’s leaving to pick up students for the day.  Some days I miss this.  The bus lives on our compound, but I can sleep through anything.  It is not long after the sound that I begin to hear children at school.  Cheerful shouts and laughing are somehow contrary to my mood first thing in the morning. 

As I lay in bed a bit longer, pressing the snooze every 5 minutes until…

When I can delay it no longer, I get up and get ready for my day.  I change into a dress or a skirt with an appropriate top.  Bare shoulders and visible knees are out of the dress code most of the time in Tanzania.  It’s funny, but when I see pictures of people I know who would be dressed moderately for a western country, but with bare knees, I can’t help but think about how short their skirt is.  Nine months here will do that to you.   I fill a water bottle, gather my computer, its charger, and the power adapter, and head to school. 

7:30 am sharp
Staff devotions begin and woe to the person who walks in late.  One of my fellow staff members reads the devotion.  Today is from a website, but sometimes they come from a book of devotions, an email, or occasionally a staff member chooses to write their own.  After a prayer for the day, announcements are made.  Today is Friday, so announcements include a reminder about the secondary students who are spending the night at school tonight and an invitation for people to join in watching a movie in the evening along with reminders about getting term plans turned in by the end of the day and for primary teachers to remember to bring their merit certificates to Primary Assembly this morning.  We finish just in time for the bell to ring, letting students know it’s time to head to class.

7:40 am
My Standard 1’s line up outside the door to the classroom.  I just found out about 5 minutes ago that I’m getting a new student.  It’s a good thing it’s Friday, which makes it an easy day.  Monica, my Tanzanian assistant collects their homework folders.  “Head on in, put down the chairs, and have a seat on the mat.”  My instructions are the same every morning.  We head into the room and I greet my class on the mat.

“Good morning, Standard 1.”

“Good morning Miss Galagan and Miss Monica and God bless you!”  Their canned response in their tiny Tanzanian accents really is adorable.

I take roll and we begin our day.  This morning, it includes a shorter devotion and brief announcements.  We go over the schedule and I introduce our new student to the class.

 7:55 am
We line up and walk to the library for Standard 3’s assembly.  They did a great job!  It’s fun to see the kids get so excited to sing!

8:25 am
We return to the classroom for our weekly spelling tests.  I have three groups for spelling, and each group has a different set of 6 words.  It’s hard for them to sit quietly during the tests, but they do pretty well.  This week, 9 kids got all of their words correct!!

8:55 am
Standard 1 has been learning how to subtract from numbers larger than 10 but smaller than 20 this week.  We do a quick refresher and talk about the tools they can use to help them.  Some choose buttons to count, some choose cubes, others pick number lines or 10-frames.  I always get excited when someone who I thought didn’t quite get it answers correctly and can explain their answer.  Even more exciting is when they come up with a way to find an answer that I haven’t taught!  After we review, I give them a little quiz.  Most of them finish in a few minutes, but a couple of them take longer.  When most of them are done, we read “My Rows and Piles of Coins,” a book about a Tanzanian boy who helps his mother at the market every week and earns 5 coins each day he works.  He’s saving for a bike, so we use the opportunity to practice counting by 5’s to figure out how many he has earned.  The kids ask to hear it again, but we are out of time.  “I’ll leave it in the back of the room so you can look at it when you have time,” I tell them.

9:55 am
Morning break starts!  I help our new student find a friend to play with and show him around the school at break time, then I head to the staff room.  Most teachers enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some goodies baked by Rosina, the Tanzanian who cooks things for staff to buy and is in charge of cleaning up the staff room.  I skip the tea and coffee.  I’ve never liked coffee and only like my tea with milk, which I am too lazy to bring from home.

10:25 am
It’s off to Standard 4 for the next two periods.  First, I teach them literacy.  We start a unit about persuasive texts.  First I have to explain what “persuasive” means and we talk about what you can do to persuade someone to do something.  Then I assign them the task of thinking of something they would like to see changed and to write a letter asking for it to change.  I can’t help but laugh at some of their answers.  Primary students don’t have to wear uniforms at CAMS, but one student thinks it would be fair if TEACHERS had to wear uniforms.  He’s planning on writing a letter to the principal to let him know how he feels.  When literacy is finished, I continue to hang out with them.  Their regular teacher is busy today with interviews of some potential teachers for next year, so I agreed to spend my regular free period with them doing “golden time.”  Golden time is their reward for a week’s worth of good behavior.  They lose time for being stinkers.  Most of them got the whole hour.

12:25 pm
Second break!  Once again, it’s into the staff room for lunch.  Rosina has made her usual pasta and coleslaw for Friday.  YUMMY!!

12:55 pm
Last period starts.  The end of the day on Friday is a hard time for little Standard 1’s, so this is when we do our “Fun Friday.”  I set learning centers up around the room and the kids get to choose which ones they want to do and we switch centers half-way through the period.  Today they can choose from Legos, puppets in the reading corner, pegboards, play dough, puzzles, and plastic construction sets.  They are so creative!  Some of them practice writing their names by rolling play dough snakes.  The boys LOVE to build cars with multiple wheels with the construction set.  I’m always impressed with how they work together and love to see when more capable students choose to partner with students who struggle.  While they play, Monica and I talk about the lessons she is teaching next week. 

2:00 pm
The bell rings signaling the end of the school day and I’m ready to go home.  Today was a busy day!  Instead, I head to the computer room to print out my term plan in order to turn it in and am reminded of music practice.  I have been playing my flute on Sunday mornings at the cathedral.  I have to run home to get it.  It’s a good thing that I can go home and be back to school in less than 5 minutes.  I really enjoy playing and am glad I brought my flute half-way around the world.

After music practice, I head back to the computer room to print out some lesson plans for Monica.  I stop for a brief talk with our head of primary and head home.

3:00 pm
I’m finally home after a long day.  I spend some time checking my emails and Facebook.  I also spend a little time reading and just vegging out.  It’s funny because a school day at home is much longer than this.  Sometimes last year I wouldn’t leave school until 5pm with tutoring after school.  Something about teaching here is tiring. 

6:00 pm
Some of the teachers have planned to go out to dinner at the new restaurant that is located at the Railway station.  I walk down with Maria and we are stopped along the way by a man selling trinkets.  Maria buys some candle holders and agrees to buy some nice paper from him tomorrow. 

I have the closest thing to Mexican food I’ve found in Dodoma.  The chef has found some very Mexican spices somewhere and has cooked up some ground beef with beans.  These he wrapped in a chapatti (which is like a think fried tortilla, sort of) with a little guacamole.  As most things are her, this is served with French fries and a vegetable salad of sorts.  It was tamu sana!

I’ve now lost track of the time.  After dinner (I suspect somewhere around 7:30 or 8:00) Maria and I go to school to visit the secondary students who are there for the overnight.  I don’t have much to do with them normally.  They are so much bigger than the ones I normally deal with!  I stayed, watched, and took pictures of some of their games.  We also showed them the movie “Cool Runnings,” which was amazing.  None of them had seen it before and they were grumbling and complaining about it before we started.  They thought it was going to be a waste of time.  At the end of it, though, they were laughing, clapping, and cheering (and crying?) along.  It’s amazing to watch movies I grew up with for the first time with teenagers.  I also had a new perspective watching it this time.  I can now better relate to people coming from a warm place and freezing when they go somewhere cold.

I left the party at about 12:30 am and headed to bed.  This has been a long day!


  1. Who are the MINOR CHARACTERS that have had the greatest influence on your life in Tanzania?

  2. Ok Mom, (even if you post "anonymously" I this question has you written all over it!) you know this question is difficult for me to answer. I don't see "minor" characters in my life. Everyone has an important role to play and the people who I would see as "minor" are most likely the ones other people would see as key players. Can you help me out by giving me an example of what you think a minor character would be?