Hello and Goodbye from Tanzania

by Susan Kellerman

High: End of Year Activities

Graduation, Sports Day, Special Focus Days, Assemblies, End of year parties. While it makes for a busy and difficult-to-keep-track-of schedule, the end of a school year is a fun time to celebrate all the great things that have happened over the past 10 months. These celebrations and special days lift the spirit and keep us teachers positive through until the very last day of school.

Two moments that were special highs for me during this time were in the senior graduation and our M5 (sophomore) ceremony. In both cases, I had students who were performing. Even though it’s about the students and what they prepared, it still represents me and my teaching and inevitably pushes the “how is this going to go?” button. This year, in both cases, I was so proud of the performance the students gave, but especially my sophomores. I did not help them at all – it was totally their moment – and they were so mature and serious about it. They played well, listened to each other, balanced and adjusted well, and did not overpower our ears in a multi-purpose hall that has, possibly, Africa’s worst acoustics. I could tell that everyone enjoyed the song they wrote, so it was a proud teacher moment for me and definitely gave me a high for that afternoon.


Low: Packing Up

It’s not the sadness that makes this a low, but simply the stress and frustration that comes with all the bits that deal with ending a school year, leaving a job, and moving to another country.

In school, I am the only music teacher, so that means all of the music spaces and all of the equipment is my responsibility to clean up, inventory, pack up and lock up. That is a lot. Instruments, print resources, audio equipment, furniture…and it’s all d-u-s-t-y, DUSTY! It’s such an awful job, not only because it’s tedious, but this year, because I want to be sure everything is left in better shape than when I arrived. It won’t be hard, because it wasn’t in too great of shape when I arrive, but still…I take pride in what I do and want to be sure that I leave the program in a way that I would want to arrive to. On top of that, making sure all the documentation is left in the right place, backed up, complete transition notes left…it’s a lot.

As well, dealing with my personal belongings adds more stress. Deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to give away, what goes to Spain, what goes with me to the US for the summer…so many decisions and hardly enough brain power to make them. Having to pack plenty of (and the right) clothes for the next two months and all that I’m planning to do in those two months, is enough to send me over the edge. If my brain wasn’t fried enough from school stress, then this finished it off for sure. The silver lining to it all is that I did manage to find a shipping company that will pack my shipment for me for a reasonable cost. Needless to say, I took advantage of that.

Glitter: Student Notes

One of the best parts of being a teacher is, once in a while, getting heartfelt notes from students. They may not always be worded in the most tactful or diplomatic way, but nevertheless, it is always a good feeling when you receive a hand-written note that clearly had thought put into it. It brightens up my day and is a reminder as to why I do what I do. The kids really are learning and really do care.

This year, I received some good ones. Amid the sadness that inevitably comes when you leave a school that you have put so much energy into, getting these notes puts a smile on my face and helps me to remember the highlights of my time here, not the frustrations.

Top quotes from notes received so far:

“Thank you for Pizza Friday – it was so yummy!” [5th grader]

“You are the second best music teacher ever!” [5th grader]

“You don’t know how many times I almost called you Mom this year.” [freshman]

“Ms K, aka Mom: thank you for setting me on the right path.” [freshman]

“Thank you for not only being a great teacher, but more importantly, being a great friend.” [senior]

“Thank you for helping me face my fears.” [senior]

Heart is full. Heart has accepted the coming departure. Heart is ready to move forward.


Susan KellermanBorn, raised and educated in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Susan Kellerman decided to spend all her life savings during her senior year of high school and take a Spring Break trip to Spain with her Spanish teacher and fellow students. This was a watershed event, as it sparked her life-long interest in travel and a desire to one day live in Madrid. Fourteen years later, Susan was able to combine her career in music education with her desire to improve her Spanish speaking skills by accepting a job at the American School of Madrid. Currently, she is the music teacher and program coordinator at the International School of Moshi, in Tanzania and enjoying having Mt. Kilimanjaro as her backyard buddy.

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