BSI… my second family

Now that I’ve been here more than a month,  I’ve completely lost track of long I’ve been working.  But here you go mum, a post about my job!

My official job title is ‘British Assistant’ at the British Senegelese Institute in downtown Dakar. I think it is one of the oldest language schools here, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1968. The British Council used to work with the BSI on the same site but for some reason ( I’m yet to find out this mysterious reason) they broke away some years ago and established a separate institute. Now, Vickie and I are the only native British people, however the majority of the staff have either studied or worked in England. It was so nice to chat to one of the ladies who lived in Brighton for 5 years! From what I can tell its great that we are here, firstly because we are native speakers (which I guess could be a good selling point for learners), and a number of staff are fast approaching retirement, so I like to think we can maybe inject a bit of life!

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The school building itself is rather old, but you can tell that in its peak it was an amazing place. There are some great old school decorations, the Queen and Prince Philip look so young! In my opinion a lick of paint and some new posters could go a long way. If I do come back for another year I’m sure going to bring along of British memorabilia to spruce up the place.

We are contracted to have two classes twice a week, supervise the Self Access Centre (a place for students to work independently using extra materials), help run the English Club, and help create new materials and exams. Classes run from 8.30am to 8pm, however there is a very handy 3 hour lunch break which is currently my siesta time.  Alongside these responsibilities, two teachers have gone to Korea for a undetermined amount of time, so we have been given three extra classes each! In true Africa style we were told about this the day before, but it’s not so bad now I’m in the swing of it, and their students seem happy to have me. I was under the impression that this would be a part time job, but its far from it!

Miss Rebecca

My students refer to me as Miss Rebecca,  however Rebecca is difficult to pronounce so I’m often Bacca or  Babacar. Vickie is often Bickie so I don’t mind too much! Lessons are two hours long and my original classes are level 1 (elementary) and level 2 (preintermediate). Although the levels are low they  are more confident speakers than students of the same level that I’ve taught before in England. I have a such a mix; from university students who would like to improve their english, to professionals like pharmacists, chemists and I even have a lovely lady in the military! My level 2 class is huge with roughly 27 students and is 6pm-8pm, but I really don’t mind as the class is a pleasure to teach. In all my classes, the students are so eager to practise their english that there is no attitude or discipline problems whatsoever,  which is a dream after my summer job!

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Things like photocopying take longer here; the  machine seems to be the same age as the person employed to do the photocopying, Farley. Everybody calls him Tonton Faché (uncle grumpy) but its most likely due to the machine and the amount of photocopies everyone needs! I feel like I’m slowly winning him over, he now greets me with ‘mon ami’ and we chat about the weekend! To be honest he’s a blessing because I am unable to work the photocopier!

I’m old now

Yesterday was my birthday, and apart from Vickie spoiling me with a delicious chocolatey breakfast,  the majority of the day was pretty ordinary (compared to uni birthdays!). But, then we were summoned by the director, Mr Seck to come back from lunch early to meet with him. To be honest my first thought was that we were in trouble, but instead all the staff appeared to sing me happy birthday in English, French and Wolof and present me with the most amazing cake from the best boulangerie in Dakar, Aux Fins Palais (and the one right next door to our flat, lucky us!). Mr Seck then proceeded to say that he understood that I was miles away from my family, and that the BSI is our second family. To say I was touched is an understatement, and the cake was delicious! Then I spent the evening with some lovely friends at the French institute. AND, for the first time ever in my short life it didn’t rain on my birthday either so that was a success in itself.

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Apart from the fact that I need to learn to be more patient at times (overall in life too!) and it is completely different from my previous teaching jobs, I think I’m going to enjoy working here this year. All the staff are so lovely every time we see them, and all the students whether we teach them or not welcome us and say hello. It is an invaluable experience seeing the different ways language schools can be run.



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