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  • Writer's pictureAbby

Teaching at an International School in Zambia

As we are coming to a close of term 3 and the end of the year at Simba International School, I realize I haven’t once written formally about my experience here. I’ve added a few facebook statuses of funny or interesting quotes from students, I’ve written many texts, messages, emails and such to friends and family about my work, but I’ve been distant from blogging. So here it goes...as I reflect on my experience thus far, I hope to share with you some insights of what its like being an American expat English teacher at a British international school, recently married to my Zambian husband and relishing in a whole new life style. If you’re reading this, you almost certainly already know about the process and complications that occurred when obtaining my employment permit in Zambia and beginning work at Simba International School. As I waited and prepared from May to almost February, I was anxious. Originally I was overjoyed by the job offer and acceptance. But the waiting period was more than difficult. Once that was finally over, I arrived in Zambia on a Sunday afternoon and reported for my first day of work the next morning at 7am, jet leg and all. They were gracious with me as I jumped some more immigration hoops and adjusted to the time change.  The students were buzzing with excitement and the buzzing of the bees turned into butterflies in my stomach. I am the only American teacher at Simba International School. I am probably one of the only Americans many of the students know and interact with on a daily level. I am accompanied by many Zambian and British colleagues. I don’t know how to put this nicely, but American and British people are very different. I get asked all the time if I’m British. Even after hearing my accent, people still ask. I’m white and I’m in Zambia, apparently that equals British. Some of us look similar, but the connections and understanding seem distant. I’m not sure if it’s because of my familiarity with a Zambian family and friends, but it often seems easier to connect with fellow Zambians. That was kind of a tangent, but all in all, my colleagues are incredibly friendly, welcoming, understanding and caring. I am still getting to know many of them and trying to find my place and comfort here at Simba School. My students are incredible. I teach grade 5 - aheeem I should say 5th and 6th grade (case in point of one of the many ways the Zambian/British/International School English has affected my American English). Let’s try that again. I teach 5th and 6th grade English. It always feels confusing to explain this so I never know how much detail to go into or to just let the unknown linger (since people don’t ask ANY questions here anyway...I can explain that later, maybe in a different blog post). I have about 60 students. In 5th and 6th grade, the students begin switching classes for each subject. I only have them for English. Everyday, I teach 2 classes of 5th grade and 2 classes of 6th grade - all English, each class with about 15 students. I do have a homeroom (registration) class that I see weekly for a PSHE (Physical Social Health Education) lesson and morning attendance.  The class sizes are amazing. The planning is not bad since it’s only one subject and all relatively similar lessons. The grading (marking) is an enormous task. It’s a lot students to keep track of and assess daily in a core subject. Let me remind you, this is also an International School that follows British curriculum which means the amount of proper traditional teaching, grading and assessing is through the roof. Boy do they love grammar; not that it’s a bad thing though. All that to say, I love each and every one of these kids and I enjoy the challenge. I will be changing grades next year and as much as I’m sad to leave 5th/6th grade and the curriculum I’ve come to know, I look forward to teaching younger and a smaller number of students, in a more self-contained classroom style. P.S. I love my 6th grade students more than I ever imagined; #1: 6th grade here and in Chicago/USA is way different and #2: they’re just awesome, and a little crazy.  As I’m writing this, my students are writing (LOL I mean taking, these language differences are really getting to me!) their English writing exam. Enough uses of the word “writing” in one sentence? I don’t think you want to read my rants about the end of term reports and exams system, no student database or any form of an electronic grade book here. Let’s just it’s old school....OLD SCHOOL. Like I wish it was just all paper and pen because having some things electronic is just too challenging still. We’re managing...and I shouldn’t be so critical. I should just keep in mind that I moved to a different world and a different time era.  Overall, I couldn’t be happier (the expression, not literally) with my job here. As I’ve said, the students are extraordinary. The lifestyle is different but it is very good. I truly love my job and being a teacher to these beautiful children. I would do a million reports and excessive writing and assessing for them all year (okay, again, not literally). This school is a gem and I am so fortunate to be a teacher at Simba International School. I hope this gives a little bit of an insight into my employment experience in Zambia. I will try to reflect and share more, the reason I don’t? NO WIFI...ever....that's right, not even at school...and not at home either...unless you want to pay an arm and a leg.  BTW the school is beautiful. I'll add photos soon. Love to all my people near and far <3

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