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In the Classroom

Excerpts from a journal written by Tom, founder of St. Paul’s Scholarship, about teaching in a Kenyan Primary School


Tom teaching his class at St. Paul’s Primary School More pictures

30 May 2013

Today in class we again worked on solving simple Algebra equations. As usual, most of the students don’t get it. But some do! I set the rest of the class to doing homework but my three favorite students, Lydia, Razia, and Marion, came to the blackboard to work together on a problem that I had added as a challenge. It was 5d+4d+3d+2+1=39-1/2(28-14). They worked for a while on it, working together, debating the right method. Then when they arrived at d=1 1/4 they checked their work.

The math was at a perfect level for them. They had to practice proper order of operations, fractions, simple algebra, and negative numbers (something I taught them which is completely omitted from the curriculum and the textbook). Further, they had to keep all the steps neat so as to not make a mistake from sloppiness, which is a common cause of error.

Anyway, it made me very proud and happy to see those three girls working together, filling the blackboard with math that they had learned from me. If I could have taken a picture of them at that moment, it would sit on my desk forever. The happiness from students receiving well a lesson taught in school is better than any other satisfaction that can be derived from a job. That’s my guess, at least.

4 June 2013 

My last day teaching was Friday. I was very sad to go, having worked with my students for eight months and considerably increased their ability in math. Likely, there will be no one to replace me after I leave; the students will instead “teach themselves” math. Obviously, this does not work well. I assigned homework on Friday, knowing that there will be no one to collect it on Monday. As silly as that sounds, it was an emotional realization for me. As I walked out the school gate, I reminded myself that I will continue to work for the education of these students, but instead of teaching them math I will be raising money to pay for scholarships to allow some of them to attend excellent secondary schools. It brought me some comfort to think that.

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