Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mom, there are gross wormy things in my bathroom drain. Do they live there I have worms and are they falling out of my booty? Is that possible? (Please say no.)

Umm, hey mom, you didn't email me back. It's been nearly a week. What's up? Are you okay? I'm calling you tomorrow to make sure you didn't slip on the ice in a dramatic way. You didn't did you? And, if you didn't, why did you not email me back???

I've been wanting to write you at various times so I've previewed them in my notebook in preparation.

Man, now I'm all worried and can't even concentrate on emailing, moooooom.

First, in brief, things are going well. Vomit count is still steady at 3. Saturday I went to visit Elom at his house in Kasseh and we ate coconuts with a cool lady named Beauty. Saturday she's teaching me a fufu cooking class. Fufu is like the national delicacy. It's...umm...not very pleasant. It's a gooey lump, like a sticky dumpling, composed of plantain and cassava that you pound for a long time. Sunday I went on a walk with Nicholas and Lawer and it was really nice. We mucked through bogs and ran into foxy farmer who we caught farming in his boxer briefs. He quickly put his pants on as soon as he saw me (what a pity!) and proceeded to dote on me while consistently calling me "white man!" Then he gave me a ton of sugar cane to bring home. Delicious!

Today I led my first teacher training workshop. I taught them 4-mat class construction (per Rebecca, of course) and I think it went well. They all took notes and I am excited to see what they have to show for themselves next week. Next week I'll teach them sensory integration. Good stuff since I know what that is. :)

Caning is...well...driving me crazy. I can't explain how much I fear bursting into flames of ire. Actually, I wrote about it in my notebook, just wait.

Grade 4 is still in English boot camp. Grade 5 starts poetry tomorrow. All is well with the kiddos. OH! Guess what? Grade 5 moved into the new building. it's not done-done, but it's done enough and, lordy me, it's wonderful! I can hear students when they talk and they can hear me too!

Anyhow, per my notes:


Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning.

Seriously. Stop hitting children.

Teaching here and having the opportunity to watch others do the same has caused me to reflect on my own education. I'm incredibly grateful for the education you provided for me, both in terms of my formal schooling and my informal education.

I'm grateful that my teachers in grade school believed in fun. To Ms. Opitz in grade 1 for playing guitar. To Ms. Krebsbach in grade 2 for having such a loud, easy laugh. To Mrs. Kuennen in grade 3 for being such a good sport in dealing with our whoopie cushion exploits on April Fool's. To Mrs. Scott in grade 4 for...well, I don't remember much of grade 4, but I do remember that she had no eyebrows, only a line drawn in and that fact was both hilarious and incredibly strange. To Ms. Younger, grade 5, for letting us giggle throughout the Family Education section of class upon every uttering of the word "penis." To Ms. Neiber in grade 6 for the cool science experiments.

I'm grateful that I adore reading. For this I thank you. I remember you reading me stories at bedtime from my earliest years. I remember feeling myself doze off and cautioning you, "Mom, I'm closing my eyes, but I am not sleeping, so don't stop reading, okay?" Followed by your, "Yes, of course."

I'm grateful, of course, that, other than my time in France, I never worried that I might be hit at school. Though we weren't in Cannes long and I was quite young, I still remember the fear of getting slapped with a ruler or seeing my classmates yanked off the floor by their ears. I remember the black hair, red lipstick, and oft worn black cape of the teacher (how I thought she was a witch!). I remember how hard it was to lose yourself in learning when already completely preoccupied with thoughts of self-preservation.

The kids skip school here a lot, sometimes because they are sick, working, or just uninterested, but I don't blame them too much. As an adult, there is no way you could convince me to go to school if I knew I would/could/might be caned.

Heck no. Seems to me that my time would better be spent making ant cities in the sand.

On that note, I'm grateful to the teacher/s that taught me (in junior or senior high, perhaps elementary as well) about ethnocentrism. I'm guessing many teachers taught it because it's a term so strong in my mind. Ethnocentrism: looking at other cultures' thoughts, beliefs, and practices without the immediate conception that your own are better.

Many things here are different, of course, and I'm grateful that I've been trained to approach most of these differences with an immediate reaction of "Whoah! That's totally different!" without labeling them as good or bad.

Even with caning, I've been deliberating whether my disapproval is based on ethnocentrism and, after consideration, I think it's not important whether or not it is or could be - caning is wrong. I say that not just as a white American in an African country, I say it as a woman and as a human.

Children are pretty perfect. They're still free to dream and think without too much fact bogging them down. They're still housed in bodies overflowing with energy that sometimes they can't possibly stand to sit still or slowly walk somewhere, else they might explode. They are still so open and vulnerable that every moment has the opportunity to change their lives as every moment they experience now is aiding in the creation of their adult minds.

So, no, it's not okay to cane. It's never okay to cane. I don't care if it's "part of the African culture." It's wrong.

Stop caning. Stop caning. Stop caning. Seriously.

Love you.


  1. Differentiating Instruction: Meeting Students Where They Are
    No two students enter a classroom with identical abilities, experiences, and needs. Learning style, language proficiency, background knowledge, readiness to learn, and other factors can vary widely within a single class group.

    Regardless of their individual differences, however, students are expected to master the same concepts, principles, and skills. Helping all students succeed in their learning is an enormous challenge that requires innovative thinking.

    What is differentiated instruction?
    Differentiated instruction is an instructional theory that allows teachers to face this challenge by taking diverse student factors into account when planning and delivering instruction. Based on this theory, teachers can structure learning environments that address the variety of learning styles, interests, and abilities found within a classroom.

    How does differentiated instruction work?
    Differentiated instruction is based upon the belief that students learn best when they make connections between the curriculum and their diverse interests and experiences, and that the greatest learning occurs when students are pushed slightly beyond the point where they can work without assistance. This point differs for students who are working below grade level and for those who are gifted in a given area.

    Rather than simply "teaching to the middle" by providing a single avenue for learning for all students in a class, teachers using differentiated instruction match tasks, activities, and assessments with their students' interests, abilities, and learning preferences.

  2. taken from:

  3. Students, in fact all individuals, are most effective when they are taught in their personal learning style. In fact, there are three major types of learners: visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. While most individuals without disabilities can learn using any one of these styles, most people have one for which they show a stronger affinity.
    A Look at the Three Learning Styles

    Visual Learners - Visual learners are those who generally think in terms of pictures. They often prefer to see things written down in a handout, text or on the overhead. They find maps, graphs, charts, and other visual learning tools to be extremely effective. They remember things best by seeing something written.
    Auditory Learners - Auditory learners are those who generally learn best by listening. They typically like to learn through lectures, discussions, and reading aloud. They remember best through hearing or saying items aloud.

    Kinesthetic Learners- Kinesthetic, also called tactile, learners are those who learn best through touching, feeling, and experiencing that which they are trying to learn. They remember best by writing or physically manipulating the information.

    Learning Style Assessments

    There are many tests available to help you and your students discover your best learning style. Generally speaking, however, if you are someone who is more likely to think in pictures, prefer to meet with someone in person, and are more likely to want visual diagrams when completing a project you have tendencies towards visual learning. Similarly, if you are more likely to think in terms of sounds, prefer to speak on the phone with someone, and want verbal instructions then you tend towards auditory learning. Finally, if you are more likely to think in terms of moving images like mini-movies in your mind, prefer to participate in an activity when you meet to speak with someone, and tend to jump right into a project without reading directions you tend towards tactile/kinesthetic learning.

    How to Effectively Use Learning Styles in Class

    In the best of all possible worlds, you would incorporate all three learning styles into each of your lessons. However, this is just not possible in the real world of teaching. In truth, it is often not hard to include both auditory and visual learning styles in your lessons. For example, you can have instructions written on the board and say them out loud. However, it is not always as easy to include the tactile/kinesthetic learning style into your lessons. The sad truth is that many students have this as their strongest learning style. It is best to not force the issue but instead find natural places to include kinesthetic learning. If your class warrants it, you could include simulations, role-playing, debates, or the use of manipulatives.