Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today was our first full day of SED training at the center here in Thies. We spent the morning having each person speak a little bit about their sites, which was fairly interesting, but since no one has really started any big projects and many of the sites are fairly similar in size and demographics it did get a bit tedious.

In the afternoon we had some guest speakers talk about teaching to the Senegalese. Our teachers were Senegalese English teachers who have experience supervising other teachers. The majority of their presentation was about creating an agenda and very simple planning that I didn't really find interesting, but once the presentation was over and question and answer started some volunteers asked very interesting questions.

A very different aspect of Senegalese culture and one that I have particular trouble with is saving face. There is nothing more important to a Senegalese person than their pride and their authority over a certain situation. Therefore, most of the questions from volunteers stemmed from the need to correct errors or to point out mistakes. I took particular interest in this since I have issues with the English teacher at Keur Yaay. Apparently it is completely culturally inappropriate to correct a teacher or really even offer a different suggestion to a teach in front of the class. Oops. Bringing an error to light here completely undermines the teacher's authority and is completely unacceptable. The teacher should be taken aside after class and informed of his/ her mistake. It is then the teacher's prerogative to correct the mistake during the next class.

This concept of "saving face" is almost impossible for me to wrap my head around. Most Americans are fairly direct, especially compared to Senegalese, and I've been known to be exceedingly blunt in most situations. It's really hard for me to understand how it's better to let students go home, study incorrect material, and then maybe have it corrected at the next class just so the teacher isn't embarrassed. I guess teachers are also different in the US as are teaching methods and this is just another example of a cultural difference I will probably never fully understand or really appreciate but have to accept. To my mind, everything is so much easier if you just state the facts and move on. The next time I go to Keur Yaay I'm going to attempt to mend the bridge between myself and the English teacher and then attempt to keep my mouth shut until after class. It will be a challenge.

I can tell the differences between Senegalese and American teaching techniques, learning styles, and meetings are all going to be challenges. Patience is not a strong suit of mine and all of these tasks take a very long time here. My American boss Nicole actually explained the differences between meetings very well and it actually made sense to me. In the US majority rules. We take a vote during the meeting and the issue is resolved. The Senegalese have a consensus based culture and that's why everyone has to speak at the meeting even if they are saying the exact same thing as the person who spoke before them. The difference is hard to get used to especially coming from a background where I've been taught just to get things done.

Back at home...
We are having salad for dinner! And Ahmed had his haircut and has a ridiculous fade on the side of his head. It's hilarious.

1 comment:

  1. Alyssa, good for you for reevaluating your approach at Keur Yaay with the teacher. Remember,however, your first responsibility is with the ladies.
    Be sure to include them in your evaluation. It's apparent they love you. Don't over correct with cultural sensitivity to the point you let your ladies down.

    What is a fade? I can't imagine my Ahmed looking ridiculous under any circumstance. Can you get a picture of his hair?