Education Graduate Caroline Ensor's Journey to Cameroon
Caroline Ensor is a recent graduate with a degree in Dual Early Childhood Special Education and Elementary Education Major here at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She spent 12 exciting and challenging weeks student teaching at the Central Government Primary English School in Yaounde (Yaa-un-day) Cameroon, Africa. On her first day she walked into her classroom and was greeted by 40 young unfamiliar faces staring back at her. Unlike many other student teaching programs, after the first week she was in charge of teaching and lesson plans with minimum help from her cooperating teacher.
The school supplies donated from New Holstein Elementary arrived and we finally got to have the presentation ceremony with the delegates from the Ministry of Education! This is my class with the supplies!
A: Ever since I was young I wanted to teach in Africa, it's always been the dream. The program UWO helps us work with is called Educators Abroad Student Teaching (EAST). Through that program my two African country choices were Cameroon and South Africa. When I found out I got assigned my first choice, I was so excited.Q: What was your biggest challenge?
A: There were a lot of challenges during my time in Cameroon. I think the biggest challenge was teaching in a school with extreme pedagogic differences. When I arrived, there was no curriculum to follow, no classroom management in place and a big language barrier between my students and I. It took a lot of time, but I enjoyed being able to write my own curriculum and plan all my own lessons. The teachers at my school still used physical punishment when it came to managing their classes, and that was not something I could ever agree with, or even bare to witness. I started encountering a lot of behaviors from students once they quickly realized they could trust me never to lay a hand on them. As best as I could I implemented a different strategies and programs till I found what was right for my students. The language barrier problem quickly dissolved after just one week. My students could understand me better than anyone in Cameroon. Young children can pick up new language and understand accents much fast than adults.Q: How did the experience make you a better educator?
A: This experience gave me such unique and challenging practice as a real teacher, I could not have asked for anything better. I walked into a classroom of 40 four to eight year olds from a completely different culture than me, and by the end of the week I was full time planning and teaching. To say the least, I was a bit overwhelmed those first couple weeks. But those rough times are what really forced me to step out of my comfort zone and develop skills I will use for the rest of my life.Q: From the beginning of your time to the end, what big changes did you see in the students?
A: My favorite change I saw in each one of my students is only one word: confidence. When I first started teaching it was like pulling teeth to get many of my students even to talk to me. By the end everyone raised their hands like crazy to be called on to share an answer, do board work or read. Even if they didn't know the answer, they weren't afraid to try. They weren't afraid at all. They were confident and in love with learning.
Q: What did you teach in your lesson plans?
A: EVERYTHING! From Math, English and Environmental Science, all the way over to Health and Physical Education, and all subjects in between.
Q: Did you learn any teaching strategies that you plan to use in your own classroom?
A: I used a lot of singing in the classroom, much more than I have used before. I found that singing transitions, singing about good behavior, singing phonics, or just singing to be silly is very important and effective! On a scale from 1 to 10 my voice is a zero, but that really doesn't matter! Trust me, and start singing in your classroom!Q: Has teaching always been your dream job, if yes why?
A: As far as I can remember it has. I think there was one brief year in high school when I wanted to be an interior designer, but honestly that was just because I watched too much Extreme Home Makeover. I love teaching young children; it's as simple as that. I can literally see my self doing this job every day forever. It doesn't get more dream job than that :).
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: My favorite Quote I left hung up in my classroom in Cameroon was: "If a child cannot learn the way that we teach, then we should teach the way that they learn."