By Cadets Angelique Matusz and Amber Brewer
Tanzania is one of the African countries that is said to have a bright future ahead of it. However, the key to success is to have a very well educated youth population who can carry their country into even further success. One of those elements of education is the ability to speak and understand English.
English is a vital language to learn throughout Africa because it helps establish a successful career in an emerging marketplace that relies more and more on international trade. It is also a skill that will distinguish the speaker from their peers.
Dr. Thomas Smith, a professor and a high school teacher of English and history in Georgia, was the language instructor for the U.S. Army ROTC Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program that brought Cadets to Africa to help teach conversational English. While there, Smith organized the first ever English department teacher’s workshop for the schools run by the Tanzanian Defense Force in Dar es Salaam.
The workshop was held at Jitegemee Secondary school in Dar es Salaam and included teachers from local schools such as AirWing, and Makongo who attended in an effort to learn new methods of teaching.
Smith said that he served on one rotation as a last year as a CULP instructor but volunteered this year to do both rotations for the sake of continuity.
“By doing all the rotations, I have a better understanding of the needs of the high school students and how to best utilize the Cadets in meeting those language needs,” Smith said. “It also allows for a smoother transition from one rotation to another. No one has to start from scratch.”
Last year Smith conducted a mini Teach-the-Teacher class at the request of one of the schools so this year he expanded the concept and conducted a teacher’s workshop.
“Ongoing teacher training is always important,” he added. “I can share with the teachers my years of experience in teaching English as a second language and getting together like this encourages the Tanzanian teaches to begin having their own periodic professional development workshops.”
Smith arranged for several speakers to present educational and instructional material to the class that was new to them and that would help them in their roles as English teachers.
Rebecca Smoak of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, who is a former teacher herself, was one such speaker. She demonstrated various English teaching methods that can keep students actively engaged in a stimulating English learning environment. Her experience allowed her to illustrate to the Tanzanian English teachers new teaching styles and methods that would assist them in learning and teaching English in a more engaging manner.
One of the learning games Smoak introduced was called “20 Questions.” This game makes the students think constructively by asking questions to lead them to what animal or thing their teacher is thinking of. Her many years of teaching experience truly made an impact, and gave new ideas to these English teachers from the various schools.
Another speaker, Lt. Col. Ed Pethan, a professor of military education for U.S Army Cadet Command and mission commander for the CULP mission, discussed the importance of the workshop and the reason why they were all gathered. He said, “[Teachers] have a mission in life to educate our youth,” and he mention three points he felt made a successful educator.
First, “be a mentor.” Pethan discussed the way in which his mentor has been there for him all of his life and has made such an important impact, and that as teacher’s they should be there for their students.
He also said it is important to have “passion in order to be successful.”
“Would you still do your job without pay? If you answered ‘yes’ it means you have passion, which is a necessity to being successful throughout life,” Pethan said.
Lastly, he said that discipline is another trait necessary to be a successful teacher, adding “…our students watch us all the time and discipline is a contagious act that everyone should catch.”
Overall, the teachers said the workshop was a beneficial experience. Ruth Mvuioni, an English teacher at AirWing Secondary school, explained that it is difficult for the students to learn English because, “it is not their first language and they normally speak Swahili at home.” That means that the students do not have many opportunities to practice English other than in the classroom. She also mentioned that “teachers have a poor foundation in English which makes it difficult to teach.”
All of the teachers were given a book, donated by a local publisher of English education material, to enhance their English teaching resources.
Smith said one of the lessons he learned last year was that the students also needed books, so he made sure to bring enough this year so every student could have one. He said that books are the gateway to knowledge and they facilitate learning and provide resource tools for the Tanzanian teaches to use.
“It allows the teacher to introduce students to information in different ways rather than just writing material on the board and having them copy it,” he added.
He also helped obtain a router for one of the schools so the students could be educated on computer and internet.
“English is the trade language of the world. They need it,” he observed. “But computers have become almost indispensable in world communication and business and students need this knowledge. Computers are a big area of growth in Africa. Students not receiving this training will be left behind.”
The teacher’s workshop was a landmark in the history of the participating schools English departments. It allowed the English departments to come together as a whole and exchange ideas, all in an effort to better the English language learning of Tanzanian students. Not only were ideas exchanged, but friendships and bonds were also created and, in the future, the teachers in these communities will have the resources and knowledge to help their students become tomorrow’s leaders of Tanzania.