Sunday, February 12, 2012

Teaching, etc.

Three weeks into the reality of Peace Corps service and I’ve again been cajoled into writing another blogpost. I apologize for the alleged deficiency of information but it is hard for me to believe that anyone is all that interested in my daily life at this point. But if that’s what the people want, who am I to deny the masses?

5:00 – 6:30 AM: I wake up to an alarm from my perfectly adequate cell phone – which was recently referred to mockingly as a “Tamagachi” (spelling?) by a learner. I roll out of bed and connect to the internet via Telecom’s “Happy Hour” promotion wherein for N$ 10 a week, you get free internet connection from 12 AM to 6 AM. I make real coffee with a French press given to me by my PCV buddy Neil (note: never in my life have I been so addicted to coffee – I had a brutal headache the other day from one day without), eat some cereal, and browse the internets for a few precious moments. Coming out of the room, I see Wicket yawning and wagging his tail expectedly for breakfast and a walk in the predawn outside. I take care of all the dog business and get dressed. Once ready for school, I head down the street and wait for another male teacher from my school to give me a lift in his bakkie.

6:40 – 7:00ish AM: We usually arrive as the morning staff meeting is beginning as my carpool driver is known notoriously for being a few minutes late. If there’s a devotion that day (prayers), we walk in during an Afrikaans hymn or an English one if I’m lucky. My principal addresses the teachers on any relevant issues of the day. Lately, its been regarding our school purchasing a minibus for various events requiring transportation. It’s a complete gamble as to whether the meeting will be completely in Afrikaans or more of a mixture of English and Afrikaans. Usually, my principal will be addressing us in Afrikaans and then catch my eye and say “oh sorry Sam” and say something in Afrikaans at which everyone will chuckle. Sometimes the meeting will end with enough time to get to the first class, sometimes not. Either way, I roll with it and go to my first class (if I have one, some days I have a planning period to start the day).

7:00ish – 12:50 PM: I engage in my Peace Corps service by teaching Namibia’s little darlings. There’s eight 40-minute periods in a day (7 on Fridays) and I never have a full day of classes (part of the PC’s policy for Education Volunteers – we’re supposed to teach about 60% of a full load so that we have time to work on other projects). I don’t have my own classroom so I roam around and teach my classes in open rooms. This is one of the biggest challenges I have; everyday they are literally in a different classroom for my lessons thus making it near impossible to have a set seating arrangement.  At first I had them sit boy-girl-boy-girl but I found this wastes time as they still bicker over who sits where. All of them are like little informants: “Sir, this one is eating in the class”, “Mr. Kelly, he is beating me”, “Sir these boys are talking”, etc. When I get a particularly trite complaint, I tell them I don’t care and I’m not their mom. Probably not the best classroom management method but I don’t have time to teach if I’m resolving the tiniest conflicts in class. Based on the recommendation of another PCV, I’ve divided my two English classes into teams – the Yellow Jackets (the reference is clear), Red Dogs (in honor of the Terriers and the division of the Atlanta Police force of the same name – not that school in Athens you were thinking of), Blue Eagles (I thought War Eagles would provoke undesirable behavior in the classroom), and Purple Elephants (Elephants live in Africa, right? I had nothing for this one). Whichever team has the most points earned from doing homework and good behavior will get a reward at the end of the week. Several teams are in negative points already.

1:00 onwards: I get a ride home, take Wicket out, and make myself lunch. At this point in the year, I am helping with “athletics”, known to us as track and field. Pretty much every school in Namibia is doing this as well. I know pretty much nothing about any of this stuff but often supervise javelin. Some girl asks me “Mr. Kelly, if you don’t know the technique, why are you at the javelin with us?” Great question, little girl, great question. We have a field across the road from the school that we scraped all the weeds off of and have flattened to make a viable athletics field. It’s still strewn with broken glass and is just sand – not grass. It’s actually pretty amazing how it looks compared to before the work was done. Let it also be known that most of this work is done during the school day by the schoolboys. The other day, almost all the boys were working on the field while the girls were just sitting in classrooms. This made for a hectic and confusing day where I had to keep the girls busy without letting the boys fall too far behind.

At this point in my service, if I have an afternoon free I catch up on planning lessons and general schoolwork, read, or watch shows on my external hard drive. This whole athletics business has pretty much dominated extracurricular life at this point so there’s no point in trying to implement any secondary projects. After athletics is over, another teacher and I are planning on starting some sort of club – either an Environmental Club (shout-out to Kelly Mandy) or a Debate Club – for the learners who aren’t that into sports.

That’s all I got for now. I’m trying to keep track of any other tidbits or anecdotes worthy of repetition. Here’s the most adorable thing to happen recently: as Valentine’s Day approaches, the kids are starting to discuss who is whose Valentine. In one of these Grade 6 classes with all girls, a boy ran by the window and shouted at a girl in my class “ADRIANA I LOVE YOU” causing the girls to all giggle and Adriana to blush despite her complexion. It was all mildly funny until the kid came around the building and brought her flowers, causing Adriana to put her head down and cry in embarrassment. I didn’t think she would want be comforted by a male teacher who, I’ll admit, had literally no idea what to say so I went and asked my host mom to save the day again and talk to her. I can’t imagine what will happen when it’s actually Valentine’s Day.

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