Our exchange student Kari Håbrekke just returned from Namibia. Here she offers a glimpse into the experience.
The meeting of different teaching cultures and methods available to our exchange students is an invaluable component of their development as future teachers. This interview offers a glimpse into the experience of a teacher in Namibia.
During my experiential learning in Namibia, as part of my teacher education, I have met many great teachers, and was introduced to new ways of teaching. One of the female teachers, called Penda, used a lot of music and singing in her lessons – to engage and motivate. I became curious regarding her background, and decided to interview her. Here are some of her answers from our session at Onethindi Primary School.
Would you tell me a bit about yourself? What classes and subjects do you teach?
- My name is Martha Pendapala Tangeni. I am 39 years old, from Ondangwa. I am a class teacher for grade 3B, and teach all subjects.
What is your educational and professional background?
- I´ve been in the teaching profession for about 15 years. In 2002, I started teaching at Amilema Combined School and stayed there until 2011. I then transferred to Oshilulu Combined School. Last year, I joined the staff here at Onethindi Primary School, which has been a privilege.
Why did you choose to become a teacher?
- When I completed grade 12, we were only aware of two professions at the time: teachers and nurses. I chose to become a teacher, since I didn´t want to be a nurse. Growing up in the village, we used to play and act as teachers and learners, so I guess my love for children and teaching has been growing from a young age.
What is exciting about being an English teacher?
- To be specific, I am a class teacher, not a language teacher, but I still believe that every teacher is a language teacher. In Namibia, we use English as a medium of instruction, so you have to promote English language teaching and reading culture in your class every day. When you sing to them, motivate and encourage your learners, and make them communicate in English, their vocabulary is always improving.
What preparations do you expect the learners to do before attending your lessons?
- Learners have to prepare their materials, for example a project from last lesson; you expect them to be ready for class with their materials. Apart from that, I also think they should have the pre-knowledge of what they are going to do. Also, I expect them to bring their own pencils and books to class, so we don´t waste time looking for things and disturb others. The learners use pencils from Grade 0-3, so we encourage them to sharpen their pencils before the lesson. The difference between Junior Primary and Secondary Primary, is that we keep all of their things in class to save time, since they are not so responsible yet.
What is a successful lesson to you?
- It is when I have met my lesson objective. If 90% of your learners are able to do their work and the activities you give, it also means that they are able to perform well. However, if 10% of your learners are following, it means you have to repeat that lesson. Also, one can do remedial work during the hour after school, when you can help your learners understand and make progress.
What kind of activity do you expect from the learners during your class?
- I expect them to participate in class, either by discussing, responding, reading or writing. Of course, they have to assist each other by using their learning partner, that way they can understand faster and explain in a different way than the teacher. It helps a lot to learn from each other and learn new methods. After asking “How did you make your learning partner understand?”, you make the learner assess his learning abilities. As a teacher, you are not just teaching them, you also learn something from them.
Why should learners prioritize attending lessons?
- For me, I understand it as a must! It is the main reason why they are coming to school! Teaching and learning takes place during lessons. Most of the activities are done during lessons, therefore it will be hard to follow if you are absent. We have to assess the learners in pre-primary, since they don’t write an exam in pre-primary, it´s informal, and they have to show up.
What are the greatest challenges in the teacher profession?
- There are several challenges. The most common ones are lacking motivation, lacking discipline, absenteeism and the fact that some learners live on their own. Since you teach learners from different backgrounds and have to assess them, you need the learners to attend school, and find out why they act the way they do. It is a challenge that some parents are not at home, or don´t allocate much time for their children, but you need to find ways to handle the situation as a teacher. It is good to discuss these challenges with colleagues.
What is your greatest advice to learners when it comes to succeeding at school?
- I encourage them to work hard, set goals for themselves and visualize their future. Encouragement and motivation is important in a learner’s life, and if they know where they are headed it is easier for them to succeed in life. Hard work pays off.
What personal traits do you view as most important in the teacher profession?
- This profession requires someone with a heart who is patient, caring and loving. You should care for your learners as a teacher and act as their mother at the same time, since some learners don´t get this at home. You should also have ears to listen to them, and a feeding hand, to give them food if they starve. Also, you should visualize your learners in the future, imagine them in professional jobs. I learned this from the deputy minister, who told us that we should not just be teachers for our class, but visualize them in the future. When you look at them, see doctors, see ingenuity, see their possibilities!
What do you love about being a teacher in general?
- Every day I wake up thinking: “Yes, today I am going to see my angels”. The learners´ happy and angelic faces are things that make me happy. Even though it is challenging to be a teacher, I feel motivated and see this as the reason for my existence. It makes me happy to see them improve, because it indicates that I do something correct and make a difference in somebody’s life.
Any recommendations for new teachers?
- They should know that teaching is a calling, it is not like other professions. We say: “teaching is the mother of all professions”, because people’s lives are in your hand. Teaching should come from the bottom of their hearts. You must be ready to face the challenges you meet, and find ways to deal with them. Remember to listen and to work with your colleagues.