This term got off to a slow and strange start. We arrived back from South Africa, a little excited to be home but still a little lost in the post-vacation blues. The first week of school is generally a blow off- the students return one by one. I had about 20% of students in the beginning and 85% by Friday, which wasn’t terrible. We just did activities to help them practice- like dictation, vocabulary games, and logic puzzles.
This term I was determined to be more organized. That way, I could know exactly what will be happening that week or day or hour, as opposed to the usual last minute scrambling. Something about me [Deanne] is that I thrive on time crunches and tend to meld into nothingness when asked to prepare something early. My kids have been getting top-notch lessons but I have been a little insane trying to get there.
So week two- I’m ready as can be! I have all my lessons planned and a skeleton of the TERM!
Tuesday morning [my first day of teaching] 6am, text message: Today is the end of Ramadan [the Muslim end of their month long fasting] we are maybe teaching today. Several phone calls and maybes later we determined we will in fact, not be teaching today. This is typical, so we let it slide.
Wednesday I taught. But at tea break heard this: Yes, the new headmaster wants to give all students a practice National Exam to indicate where they need the most help and prioritize those classes. Ok, what day? This weekend.
Wednesday evening: Oh the headmaster asked me if you could edit this English exam. He needs it by tomorrow.
This is fine, last minute is fine. But, the exam. Ohhh the horrors.
Here are some example questions: [Remember these are 6th graders who have been studying English for 4 years from non-native speakers with no text books:]
- What do you think these expressions mean? The goat with the broken leg. Always dressed to kill.
Fill in the blank with the correct vocabulary:
- Every doctor must do the …. of the disease before giving medicines to the patient.
- A ….. is a person whose job is to cure broken parts of the patient by massaging them.
- Meat is specifically bought and sold in a …. and not in the shop.
[There was no word bank!]
Re write the sentences according to the instructions in the ( )
- Every lady didn’t devote themselves to remaining single. (Start with None…)
- I don’t know the length of Ngabo, I wish you told it to me. (Start with: How?)
Thursday morning: Oh sorry, the students are taking those exams today and tomorrow please don’t disturb them.
And a week went by. It gave us time to visit people in the community, and brainstorm new ideas for secondary projects. But no one likes to feel that worthless and powerless, even the best most flexible PCVs.
Sunday: As a kicker: My GLOW club meeting was postponed 2 ½ hours because church ran over! Can you imagine? And, we had dinner plans with friends that were canceled.
Secondary Project Updates and Brainstorming
Teaching Teachers: Aaron
He is still teaching at both schools on our hill and is off to a great start! He did a biography of Barak Obama, and even learned something himself. Did you know after he was born in Hawaii his mother divorced his Kenyan father and married an Indonesian man and moved the family to Indonesia!! He spent 10 years of his childhood there. They really appreciate Aaron’s lessons.
Off to a disappointingly slow but equally awesome start. We have only had 1 meeting in 2 weeks [this Wednesday it was canceled for a surprise all school choir practice?]
We are talking about Women’s Health this term. The girls loved our first lesson on Puberty and Intro to Menstruation. We are going to discuss STIs and HIV/AIDS, Sexual Health and Family Planning, Nutrition for Women, Mental Health, and maybe a few others if we have time. At the end we are going to have a female hospital staff come and answer questions from our Question Box.
English Club: Deanne and Aaron
Off to a better start than usual. Our school wide debate competition we had at the end of last term [did we tell you about that! It was a huge success!! The underdogs were the winners!] helped raise awareness about the fantasticness of our club, so we have more members and they are a little more talkative. We’ve done some “Whose Line is it Anyway: A-Z Dialogue”, a good poetry lesson, visited the library, and had elections for our new leadership team.
We’ve decided that teaching is neither of our fortes. It is difficult to have your primary focus in life be something you don’t excel at or enjoy all the time. I don’t get me wrong: I love educating people on the world, on life skills that will empower and help them, on history, on people who have actively or passively made the world better, and on change. But I really don’t like teaching English.
I know that English is what the school needs, and that to succeed in a global sense English is a shoe in. But I don’t like that. English being such a dominant language is just a reminder of the history [both good and bad] that led to such power. Languages are dying, frequently and entirely. Even Kinyarwanda may someday die and it is because of the global dominance and reliance Westernized countries have forced upon peripheral countries. So it’s hard to do a job that I don’t fully like or fully fundamentally agree with. [harsh!]
Now, I do teach life skills and history through English. But, my kids are accustomed to copying grammar and exercises off the board and working quietly and individually. They complain at my teaching methodology and content and don’t realize they are learning.
All of this to say, we need some other projects to pour ourselves into that utilize our strengths and will help the community in other ways.
[I’ll put the ones we are fairly certain/committed to doing at the top]
- Mural: We are thinking of a reconciliation themed mural, with a mountain/tree motif and handprints of the students as leaves. We also have thought of making a World Map mural.
- Hygiene Collaboration between schools: We have like 200 books about water safety and general hygiene, made for children, in our library. Our students can read it- but they have already been taught that information in school. The primary school students [pre-school until 5th] need it most, but can’t read English yet. So we want to have a reading program/collaboration of older students and younger students.
- Internet Café: This project is quite a bit more complex. Our community has no access to the internet yet the biggest hospital in our district and a leading school. We want to unite 1. Our teacher’s co-op 2. The hospital staff 3. The church and 4. The other school on our hill, to create and run an internet café. It would have computers with internet, printers, photocopiers, and ideally some resource books.
- Internet Lessons: Then we would teach some internet lessons: social networking site, search engines, etc.
- Yoga: I’m considering doing a Yoga club next year. I would LOVE to and start it in a heartbeat but I have three hesitations. 1. is that they would think I was godless and bringing some strange eastern exercise to the catholic school [but they do karate, so maybe it’s okay. It’s called KungFu!] 2. They are so stinking busy already that I don’t know if they would take the time. 3. Is the usual fears: language barrier, being laughed at, etc.
- Genocide Support Project: This is really still entirely in the brainstorming process and nowhere near an “idea” yet. We have thought of helping start a victims cooperative [income generating activity], a peer-led support group, or making a beautification/memorial project for victims to participate in.
- PTSD Training to PCVs: We are in no way certified to teach anything official about PTSD. But we a professor from WASHU who was here teaching some coping techniques to victims. I think as PCVs we are all put in scenarios we are not ready for in this post-conflict country, and I think we need some sensitivity training, some training on the subject itself, and on some methods of reducing the impact such as coping methods or relaxation exercises. Aaron is actually the one most interested in the subject, and has been reading a lot of books on PTSD; particularly how future generations are impacted.
- Other less-thought-out ideas: An American-Cross Culture/Cuisine class for fun but to discuss business/professional differences. A business consultant type activity- again we aren’t certified but have some information and ideas that could help improve things.
We are trying not to think about the future as much as we have been in the past. [that sentence will perplex you!] We have been living towards our next vacations and next visits to friends rather than fully living in the present. We are trying to make the internal and external changes necessary to live in the moment: appreciating where we are and what we are doing.
love and miss you,
Deanne, Aaron, and wee Igi