“They’re really enjoying themselves” said one of the teachers after they’d been working for some time.
I’ve gotten to know the students a lot better after working there for several weeks. I know which students have trouble holding brushes and which need extra reassurance, but most importantly, I've gotten to know the droolers in the group. Today I played Dodge the Drool, where timing is everything. I’d quickly reach in front of them between drips of spit and grab their stamps to show them how they’re used. The only catch is that even if you avoid the initial drool, it’s usually all over their art materials anyway.
Health club at Kaaga Primary today started with another poll. It seems to be the easiest and fastest way to collect information about the students. Today’s topic was oral hygiene so all of the phrases focused on brushing their teeth. I was happy to find that 33/34 have toothbrushes and 30/34 have toothpaste. Then I had them close their eyes and put their heads down on the table for a third time as I read the statement “I have floss”. Seven students raised their hands.
“OK, heads up!”
One boy boldly raised his hand, “What is floss?” There were murmurs of agreement. Apparently everyone was thinking the same thing.
I expected most of them wouldn’t own floss, but I didn’t realize they wouldn’t even know what it was.
“It’s this white, plastic string that you put in between your teeth, like this” I said as I stuck my hands in my mouth to show them how it’s used “to get out food between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t.”
They still looked really confused.
“Here, it’s like this” I drew a rounded rectangle on the board with a line of floss coming out of the top. Still confused. “You’ll see it in the movie we’re going to watch. Actually let me ask that question again.” I had everyone put their heads down and I repeated the statement "I have floss." Again seven students raised their hands.
I finished the poll then told them that they should brush their teeth in the morning after breakfast and at night after dinner and to always brush with toothpaste if they have it. Then I said I would explain to them why, since I knew I’d get a million questions asking “Why must we brush our teeth with toothpaste?” and “Why must we brush two times a day?”.
“Who has heard of cavities before?” most of the students raised their hands.
“Good. Well cavities are caused by something called plaque. It is that sticky yellow stuff that builds up on our teeth when we don’t brush them for a while.” I smiled and ran my tongue between my teeth. “Do you feel that between your teeth? That is plaque.” They did the same. “Plaque likes to live” I grabbed a chart of the inside of a mouth “in between our teeth and along our gums.”
“Teacher, it’s upside down.”
“Oops sorry” I turned it right-side-up. “Your gums are this pink part along your teeth” I said pointing to the chart then pointing to my own gums. “Plaque is made mostly of germs” I said, writing a simple definition on the board. I thought “germs” was the easiest way to explain it to them since they’ve finally grasped the concept. I wasn’t about to add in another, more complex, term.
“And when we don’t brush our teeth, plaque can cause cavities which are holes in our teeth. It is important to brush the plaque off of our teeth so we won’t get cavities.”
Then I showed them the first two minutes of Dr. Rabbit followed by Kids Cavity. After each movie I asked them to explain what they had seen.
The Dr. Rabbit video talked about enamel and the importance of brushing teeth to strengthen this enamel. “What is the shell of an egg used for?”
“To protect it.”
“Good! And our teeth have shells too called enamel” I tapped on my front tooth. “It protects our teeth from cavities, so it is important to brush our teeth to keep the enamel strong like “armor”. That’s what they were talking about in the video when they said that brushing our teeth strengthens the enamel like a coat of armor.”
After class a group of students gathered around my desk. “Teacher, we don’t understand the floss.”
“Remember in the second video we saw them using that white string in between the teeth? That is floss.”
“So it cleans between our teeth?” asked one of the girls skeptically.
“Yes, where your toothbrush can’t reach.”
“Can you bring in some to show us?”
“Yes, I’ll bring some in next class to show you what it looks like and how it’s used.”
The group left and a girl approached my desk, then changing her mind, backed away sheepishly.
“Do you have a question?”
She walked back to my desk, “Excuse me teacher, are there white people that sponsor people for their problems?”
“I’m sorry I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean sponsors for things like school fees and uniforms or for health?”
Another group showed up and, pointing to the posters on the wall, asked how they could sign up for Reading Stars. “Your teachers should be starting it Friday, so make sure to ask your English teachers about it.” I emphasized that part. I figured if they all start asking their teachers about Reading Stars, they might actually do it.
They left and I turned back to the girl. I didn’t want to embarrass her so I asked if she was asking for a friend or for someone else.
“OK, are you asking about sponsorship for yourself for school?”
She looked down as she replied “Yes.”
“OK, well I work for the Miriam Kanana Mubichi Foundation in town and they sometimes sponsor students for things like school fees and uniforms.” I wrote down the office number and handed it to her. “If you have your parents or someone else call here, they might be able to sponsor you.”
One of the boys in my class walked up with a piece of paper and a pen, he looked at my notebook on my desk, “Was that your phone number?” he asked, looking like he was about to write it down.
“No, that is the number for my office.”
“Oh, OK” he sounded disappointed.
“Please I beg u bring us some toothbrush and toothpaste one more thing does cavity lead to hurting teeth.”
“1. Can you be able to offer toothbrush or tooth paste.”
“What wound happen when you don’t brush the teeth for a year?” Nothing good.
“If you have Stayed about one month what may your teeth will stay.”
“what happen when you resive to brush your teeth for 3 days”
“when you does not brush your teeth how it will be.”
“If you don’t have a tooth brush and you brush you teeth with a stick can the germs get?”
“when a plaque appears can it dissapear again if you start brushing your teeth regulary & visiting a dentist.”
“and if you will flos your teeth and yo was having cavity will the cavity finish or get out of your teeth.”
“is floss only for brushing in between the teeth only.”
“you can bring a floss to see how it’s looks like and you can even give it to us.”
“What is called POLL”. Someone obviously hasn’t been paying attention.
Teaching Barita how to make spaghetti and sauce a few weeks ago may have been a mistake. Today for dinner she heated up the leftover pasta sauce from last night, called it “soup”, and served it on the side. A couple of weeks ago I sat down to breakfast and was greeted by a salami and peanut butter sandwich. “Barita will make anything” Stephen said, looking at his plate. He shrugged and took a bite.
I was already halfway through mine.