Oh, the struggles of time zones.
Communication is one of the key components when working with an international partner. Especially since I’m working with a very new program that is changing and evolving, I need constant conversations with my Mikono Yetu partners in Mwanza. However, the idea of how large the time difference is proving to be a difficult one to truly understand. Currently, Mwanza is about 8 hours ahead of Ontario’s time. As I write this, it is about 1:00 am for me and I’m preparing to go to sleep. In Mwanza, the day has begun.
I teach lessons at 6:30 am to accommodate the time zone, but emails and texts on WhatsApp can be missed when they are sent at the wrong times. For example, if the girls cancel an upcoming lesson (at 2:30 pm their time) during their workday, I won’t get that notification until I’m awake and ready to teach. Additionally, if I send an email past 8:30 am, there is no expectation of getting a response until the following day (when I’m asleep). This causes a broken chain of communication where conversations happen slowly over the course of a few days rather than a couple of emails that are responded to right away.
The other unspoken aspect of teaching remotely across the world is the energy difference. Most days, I just have enough time to splash water on my face and start the lesson before the 6:26 am time hits. I usually don’t have enough sleep as I’m nocturnal when it comes to my work schedule, so it takes a couple of jumping jacks to prepare me to be energetic. The Eagles, though, have been awake for hours and blossom with energy.
I’ve learned how to match their enthusiasm to make lessons more engaging, but it certainly takes practice if you’re not naturally a morning person. My favourite icebreaker/ warm up for my lessons is “Guess My Slang!”, where I pull out some silly English words and some words that Canadians use every day. This creates a chain of conversation between the girls as they strategize which word means what, meanwhile I’m given a few moments to collect my thoughts.