Tag Archive for 'sunburn'

In the mood for giving advice

Today was a particularly good day, mostly because one of my vocational school students didn’t understand multiplication this morning, but by the end of class, he did!

Things are otherwise becoming rather routine, which is why I’ve been less motivated to post updates, but I figured it would be a good day to reflect on some things that have been working for me in the classroom.  I have found the following to be a good structure for each lesson:

  1. The less time teaching “the class,” the better.  I find that in my most effective lessons, I am able to introduce a concept quickly, and then move to the individuals:
  2. After a short explanation in which not everyone pays attention, I immediately start challenging the class with example questions, really obvious ones at first, and calling students up at random to answer them.  This keeps them on their toes because they don’t want to be embarrassed.
  3. As soon as it seems like most (although I’ll settle for some) of the class gets it, I give more problems for them to do individually.  The real challenge is to design an assignment that no one will finish before class is over.  This can be difficult for math class because I have two students way ahead of the others, so I find that making them spell out all their math work keeps them busy.  Example: “3 * 4 = 12, three times four equals twelve” would be written in its entirety in their workbooks.  The English slows them down a a lot but it’s not time wasted— it’s good practice.
  4. I then start dealing with each student individually while the others work.  I take a lot of time with each one when I need to, even if it means not being able to help everyone.  A watered-down explanation is just as bad as no explanation.  I keep this up until the bell rings (at my school, it’s a real bell, rung by a child who can’t even hear it— an odd practice in my opinion).

The same basic structure applies to the art classes I’m teaching.

For English I’ve been a bit more experimental, because I’m finding it nearly impossible to “teach” reading.  I found a decent video game, Word Rescue, that teaches vocab, and I let them play it every other English class.  The remaining days, I use those words in sentences on the board, and challenge them to tell me which sentences are nonsense.  “The arm is crying,” for instance.  I sign the sentence, which is of course silly, then I let them change the sentence by swapping the vocab word until it makes sense.  I initially tried to teach sentence structure in a rigidly logical way (Subject-Verb-Object), but it seems like they just need simple examples before they can appreciate any logic behind it.

The one thing I wish I had started sooner, but I’m trying to do now, is to reinforce names.  I still need to get the rosters for classes two and three, but for vocational school I think I will write everyone’s names on the board, and rather than pointing at each student to call on them, I will point at their name.  This will help me remember, and (more importantly) it will help them remember.  For the younger kids I will probably need to rearrange the name order each week so they don’t start associating their name with a geographical spot on the board.  Since next week is exams week, I will presumably need to grade everyone, but in most cases I still don’t know names!

A few unrelated updates: I have heard from a number of people that what I had two weeks ago was not a sunburn—it was “sun poisoning.”  Scary, and I’m now officially shopping for hats to help save my poor skin.  Also, today, I visited the “chief,” aka the Mayor of Mombasa.  She visited the school yesterday and asked me to pay a courtesy call, so I did.  She seemed busy trying to manage the census that is done every ten years, but was very friendly.

Well, that’s about that.  I have a visitor from Peace Corps Tanzania who is riding his bicycle to Ethiopia who will be here until tomorrow, so I gave him the grand tour of Mombasa yesterday and tonight we’ll probably just sit around and chat.  He is trying to decide which route to take.  Apparently one way has man-eating lions, and the other way has bandits.  Tough call.

1 Response to “In the mood for giving advice”


  • so..what i learned from pauls advice:
    really? a deaf child rings the bell? ..and, im mean.

Back on Track

My sunburn has been awful.  I actually took three days off  because it hurt so much.  On the third day, when I thought things were finally improving, I looked down and thought, “Why do I have the feet of a fat person?”  Yes, apparently sunburn can make your feet swell.  I have never suffered from swelling of any sort, and was always the kind of person that thought, “yeah right” whenever people would complain about it in airplanes, but now I can empathize.

Recovery has consisted of a lot of sitting at home with no shirt on, and in that time, surprisingly, I made a new friend:

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He likes to eat my garbage, which I’m OK with as long as he doesn’t rip the garbage bag.  He also likes to sit under my ceiling fan for the same reasons I do.  We make a pretty lazy pair.

While confined to the indoors (it hurt to walk in direct sunlight) I have also been playing with Linux a lot more in preparation for my as-yet-undefined “big idea,” but then I switched gears and spent more time tinkering with the floppy disk concept because working with Linux was literally giving me nightmares.  (For the nerds out there who will understand, I was having nonsense-anxiety dreams about binary portability and dependencies.)

In any case, the revisions to the floppy disk have been a hit, and the kids are more engaged than ever while learning on the computers.  Once I tire of changing it around every day, I’ll post the files on the blog for all to enjoy.

Lastly, today I “taught” volleyball after school, not that I have any qualification to do so.  I must say that playing volleyball with small children makes me feel very coordinated.  I was always one of the worst when it came to sports in general, but now, against five-year-olds, I dominate!  They don’t stand a chance.  My height and motor skills put them to shame, ha!

Oh right, I’m supposed to be teaching them… Anyway, I think playing sports outside demonstrates that I’m finally back to normal, hence the title of this blog post.

0 Responses to “Back on Track”


Day Off

After an exhausting week, a day trip up to Kilifi (one hour north of Mombasa) helped a bit, but it created a new problem: I have the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life.  No, I wasn’t wearing sunscreen, and as a result I know your pity ends there, but it is a bit odd because normally I only apply sunscreen to my nose and shoulders with no trouble, but in this case, my feet are burnt!  So are my hands, and, well, everything, although my face is okay because it was shaded by the book I was reading.

I took this picture before I realized I was being slow-roasted:

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So today I’m not teaching because my knees hurt so much from the sunburn and it pains me to wear long pants.  So, while my students go neglected thanks to me, I thought I might as well update the old blog.

While I was in Kilifi I visited a volunteer who bought me a delicious mango and who also let me into her Deaf School’s computer lab, which has a dozen or so Pentium 4 machines, all donated by CFSK, putting my school’s library to shame.  I brought my laptop along and with a little help I was able to load up the computers with an array of educational software, and the one machine that wasn’t booting at all worked just fine with my custom DOS Educational Disk, which is pretty cool, as I designed it, after all, to be a “quick fix” for times like these.

From the sustainability perspective, the experience was less than ideal, just because running all the separate installation programs would have taken too much time for a non-IT person, but nonetheless the students can now do more than just “learn computers.”  They can use computers to learn all sorts of subjects.  I wrote to the NGO that donated the computers to ask if I could help arrange a better suite of pre-loaded software for future donations.

Here are some kids who wanted a glimpse of what the grown-ups were doing in the lab:

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Since I’m sidelined at the moment, I’ve been watching movies (I bought a war movie compilation a while back, so I don’t fall out of touch with violence while I’m in the Peace Corps) and I’ve been doing more research on educational software.  For those of you with the interest and the time, I have really been enjoying one particular site.  Here are a few pages from it that I found particularly relevant to what I’ve been researching:

This is the only site I’ve found so far that actually reviews educational software in a meaningful way.  It was a great find, because some 500+ educational softwares are released every year, so how the heck am I supposed to know which ones to look at?

In any case, I’ve started drafting a short design document for what I think will be best for teaching the kids here with computers.  It’s a ways off from completion, but it’s nice to be entering that stage.

In totally unrelated news, I recently noted in my far-less-prolific movie blog that The Mustachioed Bandit Meets His End now has an IMDB page.  I’ve submitted more info to them that’s not yet public, but even in its incomplete state, the page isn’t half bad.  Unfortunately my name is in IMDB in two different places, so I’m waiting for them to merge the entries so my giant moviemaking ego can be consolidated into one easy-to-read page.

1 Response to “Day Off”


  • i tell u to go the beach as an ejoyable activity and what do u do get urself miserably burnt…not the outcome i was hoping for..who knew u were so distructive.