Sunday, August 03, 2014

Kenya: Teaching

Of the many roles I took on in my time in Kenya, teaching was one of the primary roles. I had two teaching situations: staff and students.
Staff Seminar. For the staff I conducted a 4 hour seminar on trauma and resilience. The purpose of this training was to help the Made in The Streets staff become more familiar with indicators of trauma as well as reinforce community processes that promote resilience in individuals. The focus on community processes was intentional because African culture is much more communal in its assumptions as opposed to individualistic.
The staff received the seminar well. I was not surprised that they were such quick studies on the material as it related to the MITS students, but what did take me off guard some was how readily they applied the material to their own lives. A decent percentage of the staff were once street children themselves. For some of the staff, along with the incredible work they do for the children comes reminders of their own difficult past. It was a great joy of mine to get to affirm what they are already doing right for the students and themselves as well as introduce them to some new and useful concepts.
Student class. I got spend several one hour class periods with the older students discussing their lives in the past, the present and the future. The goal was to get them to imagine a good and successful future, anticipating their success and potential challenges.
The students received the information well and engaged in the role play.

Teaching in a cross-cultural setting has its challenges. Even though the staff and children speak English, that does not guarantee shared meaning. One thing I learned is that English has a much more robust emotional vocabulary than does Swahili and also the tribal languages. So, when asking for emotional expression in words, what I am also asking is for the students and staff to go to their third language to find those words as I am monolingual (blush - shame). The problem is that when multi-lingual people express emotions verbally, their native tongue is most accessible to them, but the language most accessible is significantly void of emotional vocabulary. It is a challenge.

All in all, my teaching role went well and I was pleased with the outcomes. At the same time, if I get to go back and do it again, I believe I will make some changes and engage with more experiential opportunities.

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