A Lesson Before Leaving or, Check your Assumptions

This is sort of a cheat entry. I meant to write it days ago but time got away from me. I have, in the most wonderful way, been made aware that I need to check my assumptions at the door! Here’s how it happened:

I was anxiously awaiting news of my host teacher in Senegal, Thiès (pronounced “chess”) to be exact, and I envisioned a very traditional looking (whatever that means) teacher. Well, a little less that two weeks ago, I received information about my teacher and the school. It turns out that he teaches high school and his typical class size is 5-065 students! My mind was blown! What does 50-65 students in a classroom look like? What does that sound like? How are individual student voices heard in a class that size? Is there any space for that?

Well, pondering those things and what I thought I knew about Senegal, I engaged my students in a quest to find out more:

  • What types of clothes should I bring?
  • Will I need sunscreen?
  • Will I be have trouble breathing with my asthma? What’s the air quality like?
  • How will I travel on a daily basis? What will most likely be my method of transportation?

I was so set on opening my students’ eyes to other parts of the world that I hadn’t really taken inventory of my own preconceived notions.

Fast forward a few days. By this time, my host teacher and I have communicated via email and I was setting up our WhatsApp chat group. If you know anything about WhatsApp, then you know that users have profile pictures much like other social media platforms, which meant that my host teacher most likely had one as well. Imagine my surprise when I took a closer look at his picture and found a gentleman rocking a baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt with the Wu-Tang Clan emblazoned on them! Looking back now, I realize how silly it was to be so surprised. Wu-Tang is well known and hip hop is world wide. Needless to say, this image prompted me to ask more about his choice of music and when I did, he proceeded to run down a list of old school hip hop groups that he enjoys!

It was my first lesson (of many more to come, I’m sure) about checking my assumptions!

The world is vast, it’s true, but we are all connected somehow. This, no doubt, is going to be a very cool experience.

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