By: Caroline Rintoul, ’17
As I was sitting in the classroom at Kigali City School where a majority of the boys in the class sat, I noticed the difference of work ethic and voice between students. As Alex, the P-6 classroom teacher (where the oldest kids in the school learn), taught about conjunctions, which was even some new information to me, I noticed that what seemed like perfect attentiveness through the class on a hot and dusty day seemed to dwindle. Some of the students did not have the same drive to work to completely understand the concepts as I saw in the other kids. It seemed some of the boys and girls cared more about doing work for the basic memorization than understanding why the concept was needed. Every time I walked by a bench of three students, they all immediately looked down and started writing. It seemed as though they thought I was the big, bad teacher ready to punish them rather than help them, or as if some of the students were scared of failing in front of their peers and would rather sit back and watch the others than challenge themselves to understand what was being repeated over and over again. When we split into smaller groups of 5 or 6, I asked the kids questions and they spoke quietly and looked down, afraid of being judged by their friends. I was surprised by the giggles that arose after some of the students’ friends tried tackling an exercise. I understood most of these giggles must have been from the excitement and nervousness of new, American visitors, but I couldn’t help wondering if the giggles could also be a lack of support. When I asked the boys what girls in their class were good at, they replied “nothing” or “sleeping.” I was stunned by the answers. The girls seemed to feel this was nothing new and were reluctant to scold the boys for putting them down. It seemed to simply be second nature to them. When we came back to our homey guesthouse, we reconvened and shared our experiences and ideas for how we could apply our knowledge to the lessons we would be creating for the next day. Many of the experiences had to do with the passion students have for class or the unexplainable look in their wide eyes as we showed the pictures we took of them playing soccer or dancing to Nicki Minaj. Most of the ideas we came up with led to the theme of “voice.” At Greens Farms Academy, we are blessed with an unexplainable bond and relationship with our teachers. Time for one-on-one instruction is a given and teachers invite students to share their thoughts and ideas when covering new concepts. At the Kigali City School in classes of up to 54 students, one-on-one teaching is close to impossible as there are so many needs to juggle. Students’ voices can be suppressed in the midst of the lesson, while their aspirations for the future rarely come to surface. Many of the boys wanted to be doctors or engineers, whereas the girls seemed to resort to the social norms of their society, such as mother or storeowner. In tomorrow’s lesson, we want to highlight the importance of students hearing and supporting one another with their own voices and aspirations. We plan to have students share times in their lives where they felt like leaders or in control of a situation and then we will tell them about our own stories and about finding our voices. As we talk to each other, we hope that our passions for learning will grow.