Chindende, Chindende (Slowly, slowly)

“Welcome Madam.” These are the words that greeted Maddie, Devon, Lexi and I every day in our English classes at Chilena. On Tuesday, we heard these words for the last time. We celebrated together in grade 8 and in grade 6, which provided an opportunity to reflect on everything we had done over the last two weeks.

We started at Chilena with a unit of lessons prepared and eager to meet our classes. As we met our students, my fellow teachers and I realized we needed to adjust to the Zambian classroom, and they needed time to adjust to us. The need to be flexible became immediately apparent upon entering our classrooms, and we knew there would be many changes. The Chilena students are accustomed to a more routine system of learning and are used to formalities I would have never expected out of middle schoolers back home. We are used to checking in with all of our students during independent work and taking breaks to sing songs or play games. Chindene, chindene, I get used to the formalities and learn the games and class encouragements that the students are accustomed to. The students begin to get comfortable with Lexi and I teaching and share their personalities and jokes with us while making incredible progress on storytelling.

Chindende, chindende.

The second change we made as teachers was adjusting how we taught. Our accents are strange and very hard to understand as are many of our speech patterns. We learned to adjust the speed of our speech and our phrases, and we picked up an accent somewhere between theirs and ours on some words. We changed the way we asked our questions and our approach to each day’s lessons. Our students have only been learning English for one year or three, and the original plans did not consider the diversity of language learners we would have. In our grade 6 class, we have students who seem fairly fluent while others routinely struggle, and one student wrote in either Lunda or hard-to-read guesses at English. We brainstormed lists of daily activities, used fill-in-the-blank style sentence starters, and tried to become comfortable with each other so that our students were not embarrassed to ask us questions when they needed help.

Chindende, chindende.

The third change the other teachers and I had to adjust to was that almost none of our assumptions about our students were true. Rock, paper, scissors needed to be explained. They were always incredibly eager to learn and would have sat listening to us teach for hours without much fidgeting. I do not think I have ever taught more attentive students, and they were incredibly quick learners. But our assumptions about how much time activities would take were way off. We mixed new ideas with the originals to better suit our students, sticking with Lexi’s visual aid that explained plot but following it with a list of activities we do in a day to practice identifying plot. We spent more time solidifying our basic knowledge of stories and also used some of our time to play games and sing songs together.

Chindende, chindende.

The last change we about what we wanted the students to create. We came here thinking we wanted a collection of individual stories on each element we taught plus longer stories that integrated all of those elements, or perhaps we would have them perform a play. We quickly realized a play would never logistically work— the grade 8 class has 64 students. Instead, we worked together to write short fiction stories and fill in the blanks for a structured “I am” poem. The writing took a long time, but we all enjoyed the process.

Chindende, chindende.

Though our adjustments came slowly, our final day of teaching snuck up on all of us. We felt like we were just getting to know our students, and the students were sad that we would no longer be here. We spent our day celebrating with arts and crafts for our celebration day on Tuesday. That night, we wrote notes in their exercise books and carefully snipped out pages to create stories. The next day, we handed out stories, lollipops, and pipe cleaners to our grade 8 students and said goodbye. We came back for grade 6, handed out stories, then went outside to play football. We ran around the field together, laughing together on our final day. We were joined by the other grade 6 class taught by Maddie and Devon, and we played as one massive group on the grass. Time passed strangely, and though it seems like a long time as I tried to run around in a dress on the field, it was time to head in much too quickly.

We left our students with lollipops that vanished before the period was over, storybooks they will hopefully cherish, a few new skills, and, with any luck, maybe a confidence boost.

As I reflect on my time at Chilena, I remember that many people asked what I would be doing on this trip. The student in my grade 6 class who originally could not write in understandable English finished our time here able to dictate incredible stories. They have all worked so hard, and everyone with consistent attendance finished their storybooks.  While I did teach, I learned so much more than I taught. I was humbled as I learned to change almost everything I knew about teaching as I taught these classes. I have gained a new flexibility in teaching because we had to change our lessons and would figure out for sure what we were doing in the moment every day in class. I will return a much better teacher, and I am so proud of these students I had the privilege to teach for the last two weeks.

Kisu mwane,


P.S. Friends and family, I miss you so much and am so excited to share all my stories and photos with you when I get home.

P.P.S. In answer to your post Mom and Dad, I have not seen many animals. Some butterflies and the chickens we have eaten. I have seen a lot of spiders (which I have grown used to—I know, who am I?) and the goats that roam around Chilena. Love you all lots, so excited to share my adventures with you!

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11 Responses to Chindende, Chindende (Slowly, slowly)

  1. Tia Beck says:

    Hi I hope you are having a fabulous time changing the world and growing into the incredible child of God that you are. Today, i don’t want you to forget why you are there and what Gods plan is for you. It may be difficult to swallow sometimes and can be very challenging. But He doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle…when you have Him on your side. Have a beautiful day and I hope you’re making lots of new friends, wearing sunscreen, and not getting malaria. Love you endlessly.
    My fav verse btw
    John 13:7
    Xoxo T

  2. Conrado says:

    Great to hear the 6th & 8th grade classes had the opportunity to experience all you had to offer.
    Enjoy the last week.
    Best to all you Zags, Conrad
    p.s. to Devon, really looking forward to hearing all your great stories – love you sweetie.

  3. Katie Shoenberger says:

    I’m feeling sad you’re leaving too. I’ve become attached to your Zambezi family and friends. I’m going to miss them. Do hug everyone for me and look into their beautiful eyes and share the loving connection of a long gaze. xoxo

  4. Beth Elliott says:

    Dearest Katelyn and Zags,

    Gratitude for your open-hearted writing wells up inside of me. As you internalize these fresh memories, continue to process upon your return, and share your new (and renewed) selves through your choices, beliefs, and actions in relationship with others…remember this beautiful motto from this recent post: “Chindene, chindene.” I instantly thought of this prayer of Teilhard de Chadrin called “Patient Trust.”*

    “Patient Trust” by Teilhard de Chadrin

    Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
    We are quite naturally impatient in everything
    to reach the end without delay.
    We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
    We are impatient of being on the way to something
    unknown, something new.
    And yet it is the law of all progress
    that it is made by passing through
    some stages of instability—
    and that it may take a very long time.

    And so I think it is with you;
    your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
    let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
    Don’t try to force them on,
    as though you could be today what time
    (that is to say, grace and circumstances
    acting on your own good will)
    will make of you tomorrow.

    Only God could say what this new spirit
    gradually forming within you will be.
    Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
    that his hand is leading you,
    and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
    in suspense and incomplete.

    Katelyn, I look forward to hearing more about your impressions and stories of your experience when you return, as I’m SURE everyone else avidly following the blog is! I’m so impressed that you gleaned such pearls of teaching wisdom that are truly universal and will serve you and your future students. It sounds like these particular 6th and 8th grade students had energetic, open-minded, attentive, and compassionate teachers for ten days they won’t soon forget. The beauty of story, that you shared with them in their found poems and works of fiction, is that it touches the deepest part of ourselves, weaves in the individual imagination, and can be shared again and again.

    I think you’re right…you probably won’t have many American students greet you with “Welcome Madam.”

    your cousin Beth

    *If you’re curious, I originally found this prayer in the book “Hearts on Fire,” a gift in my first year of teaching. Future teachers…it’s good! I always shared the prayer with my seniors in their final weeks of high school, but would often read it to remind myself of God’s hand in my life and the sliver of his vision that I would be blessed to not only see, but be a part of. There’s some more information about this Jesuit priest who sought to understand the science of evolution and faith:

  5. Kathy Schindele says:

    Katelyn and the ZamZags,

    What a wonderful summation of your teaching experience. A great teacher has to be flexible and loving. You have these qualities, so I know your future students will love having you as a teacher.

    You have shared your stories making so many of us cry happy tears. You have taught classes and learned more than you taught. You have submerged yourselves in a culture much different from the ones you were raised. You have felt unconditional love from people that you barely know. You have had doubts in what you are doing. You have changed the way you see the world.

    Goodbyes are never easy but ; don’t be sad that it’s over be happy that it happened!!

    I wish I could be in Seattle to meet you all and give you a hug. Enjoy the time you have left.

    Love and prayers,
    Mama Schin

  6. Gary says:

    Dear Katelyn and Zambezi Zags,

    My day today was rush, rush, rush. Get to work, prep for the next meeting, arrange a demonstration, drive to a supplier location. It is good to have a reminder that at times we need to go slowly to appreciate all that is around us. God created the world and saw that it was good. Too often we get sped up and lose sight of that goodness. This is unfortunate because the simple goods around us usually provide better memories than the rush of events that cause us to overlook them.

    I have always valued my Gonzaga experience because it provided the “other half” of education – development of the whole person – that I treasure more than the academic knowledge I gained. Shared experiences, knucklehead mistakes, trying/failing/trying/then succeeding with good friends. It sounds like you and your fellow teachers will return from Zambezi with some of that perspective. I am sure you will be more effective educators as a result.

    Thanks for a wonderful post. We are looking forward to many wonderful stories.

    Congratulations and love from all of your family.


  7. MaryKay says:

    It was so wonderful to read your post today and to see your shining smile! I loved reading your reflections, and I know that this practice in adapting and thinking on your feet will benefit you not only in teaching, but in life. The connections you’ve made and ideas that were inspired will not be forgotten by you or by the people there. I hope that the student who learned he could dictate beautiful stories will one day be able to read and write his own, and he will remember how it all began. 🙂

    I agree with Beth– you are not likely to find middle schoolers here who will call you Madam, but I have had a few (maybe two?) who always politely say “yes ma’am.” I hope that you will have many more students in the coming years though, who are as enthusiastic and appreciative of the opportunity to learn. I am sure that all of you will look back on this experience over the years and reflect on all of the wonderful things you learned and expertise gained in so many areas.

    I can’t wait to see you next week at the airport, and hug you and hear all about your adventures and new friends and experiences. Say hello to Anna for us, and to the rest of the Zags.
    Love and Prayers,
    Katelyn’s mom

  8. Judy says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us, Katelyn. While some things were different than you expected, it sounds like you were able to make connections with your students and they with you. That’s a great accomplishment in so short a time. Safe travels home!

    Aunt Judy

  9. Tom Hoban says:

    Katelyn & Zags,

    As a parent, we’re all probably a little tempted to spit back some wisdom in these replies to help you all sort through your experience, answer questions, and guide you from a familiar seat. There sure have been some awesome posts and lots of that. Just to see the Holy Spirit and amount of love that pours through these posts both directions is by itself something special.

    What has impressed me most is the terrific writing skills you all seem to possess – a lost art in some ways. I feel like I’m there with you all when I read these. . . . The storyteller teachers, indeed, a strong group of storytellers themselves!

    Enjoy the rest of your trip. Gonna be fun to see a lot of the families and match names to faces at the airport next week to greet you all home.

    Tom Hoban (Maddie’s dad)

    PS Mad, all good here. No issues, no concerns, really not missing much. Dig in there and enjoy the remainder of this experience. Dad’s rules: Head on a swivel, the group is your strength, wear your seatbelt, Zags rule, and, please, if you see the elusive monkey-cheetah on the safari would you be sure to take a picture of it for us!? LOL

  10. Margaret Hoban says:

    I want to squeeze you darling young teachers… especially the one on the front right!:) Thank you Katelyn, for taking time to share your thoughts with us. We so enjoy being a part of this wonderful experience you are all having! Enjoy your final week. So excited to see you all in Seattle!!!

    Have a happy day,
    Margaret Hoban

  11. Barb Trudeau says:

    Dear Katelyn and Zambezi Zags,

    Oh my gosh, the memories you have made – both for you and for your students. I imagine you will reflect back on this time and be able to tell stories of your students in Zambezi many times over the years in your future teaching career. Very proud of you for playing ball with the students in a dress!! Now that’s my kind of teacher!! See you soon.

    Aunt Barb

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