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Now about halfway through our stay here in Togo, and my work at the cybère is taking off in full steam. It took some time for me to get to this point as I had to learn the hard way that knowledge in a particular field does not necessarily translates to the ability to pass on that knowledge to others; simply put, knowing something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Also, teaching something in English is already hard enough — imagine doing it in French.

It took me several try and fail attempts before I found an effective strategy to get my points across. For example, one area that I have seen great improvement in is with the typing lessons. In the beginning, typing one paragraph took the students about to an hour and a half — depending on how focused they are — as they used their right-hand index finger to navigate the keyboard. If only they knew then how much time they could save using all 10 fingers of both hands instead.

So one day I walked into class and opened up one of the computers. I asked the students to randomly shout out words while I typed without looking at the screen of my computer (I was sure to use an English keyboard though because that could’ve been such an L for me trying that on a French keyboard). As they shouted words, I typed. They were amazed! That, I explained to them, was the goal of our class: to get faster and better at finding letters on the keyboard without looking. Then we transitioned to work time and it was like magic! They were focused like I had never seen them before. Because they saw me type with such speed and accuracy, they believed they too could and were determined to work towards that. That single activity that day changed the dynamic and concentration of the typing class section.

Discovering what methods worked and which don’t after so many trials and errors has been very rewarding both to me personally and to the class as a whole. Gaging the students’ levels, understanding what skills I was working with and later presenting them a visual of attaining successful skills — like typing in front of the typing class section — was truly a game changer.

Outside of class, my time here has been great! When I am not in class working with my students and sometimes watching them roast each other (all fun, nothing serious), I am pulling water out of deep wells, cultivating rice on a rice farm with my host mom, hiking up the Koukoudé mountain (whew!), playing cards, sitting in beer huts with locals drinking local sorghum while debating in philosophical terms the true answer to the question “1 + 1”, or sometimes just reading a good book under a tree shade. There’s never a dull moment. Always reason to say “alafiya!!” because I almost always feel great.