Days 4 & 5

Today we left Dakar behind and traveled a few hours into the countryside to Kaolack, where six of our group will stay for the next week.

It was a bit stressful, to be honest, leaving behind the now-familiar city for a whole new set of sights and sounds. Although the road was in surprisingly good shape (no potholes!), it was also narrow and crowded with tanker trucks, buses, motorbikes, donkey carts, bikes and pedestrians.

No chance I would ever want to drive in Senegal.

Our driver spoke French (and a local language), and none of us speaks either one, but I was able to Google translate my way into a bathroom break about halfway here!


Once we arrived, my American colleague Luke and I finally got to meet Aly Ndao, our host, yet another extraordinary English teacher. We didn’t have big plans for the afternoon, so we ate lunch and sat under the poolside veranda, talking about teaching.

Aly told us about his “communicative language teaching” (CLT) strategy, which focuses on listening and talking rather than grammar and vocabulary. 

Despite his school’s relative lack of resources (compared to an American school), Aly makes podcasts for his students to listen and respond to. He records TikTok videos sharing American English vernacular. His students practice with Quizlets and Kahoots – all tied into his own wi-fi hotspot, since the school isn’t connected. And he gets his students talking.

Not only that, but he has become something of a TikTok star, and he now tutors students from other African countries over Zoom. (See this clip)


Tomorrow, Luke and I will visit Aly’s current school and former school, and we’ll get the chance to meet his students and share stories about our lives in the U.S. We prepared a PowerPoint presentation, so we could easily share some pictures and facts.

But after talking to Aly, I started to question why I hadn’t built more creative pedagogy into our “lesson.” Why would we assume that his students would want to “sit and get” from us, when that’s not particularly effective with our own students?

We quickly brainstormed some ways to make our presentation more engaging. Rather than just advancing through the slides and sharing our prepared stories, we’re going to pause on each picture and ask the students to tell us what they observe, what they wonder, and what questions they have. We’re going to focus on giving them a chance to practice their English speaking skills, rather than just their listening skills.

And next week, we’re going to use WhatsApp to connect some of our students with some of his students, so they can have a live conversation and experience more of the fun of authentic communication.

We’re very excited for that school visit!

In other notes:

Aly took Luke and I for a brief tour of Kaolack tonight, and we ate spicy grilled chicken and tried local juices at a local restaurant. While we were getting seated, he realized that a former colleague (and econ teacher!) was seated across from us. We talked for a few minutes, and then his colleague put some cash on the table and insisted on paying for our dinner.

Teranga, in practice.