Friday, March 06, 2009

Nigeria Q & A

"Do they have technology?"

"How do they view homosexuality?"

"What exactly is "female circumcision"?

These were the burning questions my students had for the special guest speaker who visited two of my classes earlier this week.

My dear friend - who happens to be Nigerian and a member of the same tribe highlighted in African novelist Chinua Achebe's book Things Fall Apart - generously agreed to work the visit into her hectic schedule. Since the majority of my students are reluctant readers, I thought that hearing first hand what it is to be Ibo and Nigerian would help draw them into the novel (as if Things Fall Apart couldn't do that on it's own, but the novel does lack a critical component practically required by many of the readers in my classes - and I quote - "lasers shooting out of heads, killing people").

I wish I were joking about that...

My students were immediately enraptured by my friend, "Chikosi." Who wouldn't be? Chi is beautiful inside and out, and her voice is strong and smooth and melodic. She sat tall on the stool at the front of my classroom, all smiles, and was crowned in tightly plated hair - a river of braids - tiny ropes - that fell to her lower back and were neatly secured between her shoulders in a bundle. She was dressed all in black, a combination of sheer and silky, leather and pleather - head to stiletto heeled boots - looking more like a fashion model than a lawyer/wife/mother of three. My students were mesmerized by every syllable from "hello".

More than that, she was smart and articulate and sincere; every question was answered honestly, completely. I learned so much about Nigerian culture that day - more than I've learned over the past few months in my study and research in order to prepare for teaching this novel.

Although, I confess, I was afraid to have her visit because my students have the potential to be kind of...naughty...and chatty...and disrespectful. Typical teens, you know.

But they were good! And they listened! And they were polite and asked questions!

Okay, they really did ask about circumcision, but Chi answered succinctly without hesitation.

Chi was great! And now my students know a little bit more about what Nigeria (a country) and Africa (a continent) really is, and they have encountered the reality of who an African woman is today.

Plus there was that brief, yet insightful, biology lesson...


Dave King said...

It's a step or more than astep in the right direction.

Maria said...

What a great experience for your kids! I need to read the book you refer to....

Karen said...

I'm certain the reality of your friend made the novel more real for them, as well.

Love the book. You make me miss teaching high school...sometimes!

Aniket said...

"lasers shooting out of heads, killing people".... I soo love that too! :-D :-D
After all, I am huge 'Calvin and Hobbes' fan.

And will surely get my hands on the book you refer to. I wish I got a chance to meet Chi, she seems like a great lady.

bluesugarpoet said...

Thanks for dropping by, Dave. Love the stuff you are talking about over at your blog!

It's a good read, Maria - gives a person something to think about for sure.

Make you miss teaching, Karen? Wanna trade? lol

Aniket - yeah, we love Calvin and Hobbes, too. :) Knew you would love that Bradbury story, btw. So now you need to pound out your own version of "lasers shooting out of heads" story so I can give my students something entertaining to read. ;)

Faith said...

Great post.:) I know all about
reluctant readers -- working in an elementary school library:) Graphic novels are big hits with a certain percentage of the kids!

How wonderful to be able to engage your students by having a guest speaker!

Have you read "Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna" by Joseph Lemasolai-Lekuton? Probably more for junior high kids -- but also a great book:)

Aniket said...

Oh you'll be forced to eat up your words if I write one. Trust me, it wont be one story, you would want kids to read. lolz