Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hidasse Secondary School

As my first semester of teaching high school in Ethiopia comes to a close, I'd like to introduce you to my school, Hidasse Secondary School. Hidasse means renaissance in Amharic and the school is only two years old. We have two grades, 9th and 10th. The students are divided into 20 sections, 11 9th grade sections and 9 10th grade sections. The sections are then divided into two shifts. One group of students come in the morning from 8am-12:30pm and then the other group comes in the afternoon from 12:30pm-5:00pm. Every two weeks, the shifts swap, so the students and teachers go to school in the morning for two weeks, then the afternoon for two weeks, then back to the morning for two weeks, and so on. Spencer and I teach different shifts, so when one of us teaches in the morning, the other teaches in the afternoon. We never teach at the same time.

I teach two 9th grade sections, 9A and 9B. In Ethiopia, the students don't change classes like in the US. The students stay in their classrooms and the teachers move from class to class to teach. As a teacher, it's not that great. It would be nice to have my own classroom to decorate and put English posters up on the wall. As of now, none of the classrooms are decorated at all. They all have blank walls. Most schools here have murals painted on the outside of the buildings but because Hidasse is new, there are none yet. The Director (what they call the principle) has asked me to help paint some, which I'm looking forward to helping out with.

My classes are pretty large, with 59 students in one class and 55 in the other. They are put into groups by their homeroom teacher and the classrooms are big enough to accommodate all of them. Because the students don't move from class to class, there is no opportunity for students to be in honors classes in subjects they excel in. Therefore, each class is a mix of levels, from those who can hold an entire conversation in English to those who answer “My name is ____” when I ask, “How old are you?” It's one of the biggest challenges we face as direct teachers, teaching a single lesson for a wide range of English proficiency.

I'm really enjoying teaching and my classes are going well. At first the students were very shy and didn't want to speak, but slowly more and more students are raising their hands to answer questions. There are still some who are silent and have a hard time understanding, but I think with continued encouragement and practice, they will improve. I have hope!

the bell, very low tech
My coworkers at school are very nice and supportive. Almost all of them speak English well and I am happy to be working at such a great school. It's nice to have a supportive and hard working staff, such as the Director and Vice Directors. They have all been so helpful in getting me set up and helping me in any way. Some of the teachers have even asked me if I would start a Teachers' English Club to help with communicative English. I'm so happy to hear their enthusiasm and willingness to work with me. I hope together we can help the students learn well and improve their exam scores, as well as help the school become the best learning environment it can be.

skit about AIDs


  1. So proud of the woman who grew up as my little girl!

  2. Is there a reason why the teachers move instead of the students? Just curious. You are amazing. :)

    1. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with controlling the students and simple logistics. At some schools, there are 80+ students in each classroom and the roaming of students is a problem already. Also, organizing which students would go in each class, including honors classes and remedial classes would be difficult without an adequate computer program. Or maybe, this is just the way it has always been done, so this is how it's done. I can't be sure.