and so it begins!

Victoria Tran-Trinh - Senegal


November 23, 2009

My apprenticeship is with the PDEF – an organization (funded by the international NGO ChildFund) that runs many things in the community, including a preschool which I am supposed to “help,” or really just study. After a week of sitting in the secretary’s office with my friendly mentor – she is the secretary – typing lengthy Excel spreadsheets, I have finally commenced inside an actual classroom. Until this week, I literally had not even seen a child.

I’m rather wary of stating any opinions on the curriculum or pedagogy, since they would be based off my very first impressions. I will definitely elaborate further on these things when I’ve been observing a bit longer.

The preschool is one giant room divided into three sections – 3, 4, and 5 year olds. There are three teachers for over 100 children. They are all absolutely adorable. I handed out uniforms (one size fits all dresses or shirts), which for kids of this age meant physically putting them on, and they were all amused to see me wear my matching, ENORMOUS teacher’s smock dress. I guess that makes me official.

The teacher-student relationship is so much more intimate than in the United States. This not only means that the teachers get to hit the children (more on this to come), but also that they help them pee and share snacks in both directions. It is simply impossible for me to fathom an American teacher cleaning her students’ plastic potties, especially ones that are the size of dog food bowls and thus must be cleaned very, very frequently. Also, I smiled to see the normally rather fearsome directrice spend an entire day working with an especially fretful little girl tied to her back, as if she were her own child.

One teacher has been sick this week, and her misfortune has become my fortune. I get to do a lot more than I would if they were fully staffed, including teaching classes. At first I thought I would be wholly unqualified, but it turns out that I’m not. I will write more on this later. For now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and enjoying every minute of it!

Victoria Tran-Trinh