Thursday, July 1, 2010

Me go to school to learn real good

So my primary job here is as a high school teacher. I am supposed to teach maths (yes math is plural) and science. But my school only needed maths, so that’s all I teach. I teach one class each of 8th, 9th, and 11th grade. I also teach health to 9th and 10th graders. My classes range from 30 to 70 kids. The kids sit two or three to a long desk. Class periods are 40 minutes long. The school campus is made up of several buildings. Each building holds two to three classes. Here each class has its own classroom and not each teacher. The teachers rotate classes each period.

In each of my maths classes, I generally lecture for 20 mins or so and then have the kids do practice problems. 5th grade must have had quite an impact on my learning career because I stole two ideas from my 5th grade teachers. We have weekly quizzes. I divided the kids into teams and formed a league. The team with the best score at the end got a prize. I cooked them fried rice and they got to come hang out at my house. It was fun, but quite awkward. Haha, they were a bit shy. I think this has some to do with their English level. I was always hesitant to speak Spanish to native speakers when I was learning so I understand I guess. School is supposed to be all in English, but that doesn’t really happen at my school. The teachers started by speaking English to the kids, but that gradually faded and now there is not a word of English. Most classes are a mix of English and Sesotho. It is difficult to change the way the school works. The lack of English makes tests very difficult for kids, but the culture here is so strong, speaking Sesotho is a point of great pride. On the flip side, even trying to speak some Sesotho will win peoples hearts as a foreigner.

The other thing I stole from 5th grade is the estimation jar. I put a various number of objects, or a question in a jar each week and the kids have to guess how many objects are in the jar. It is fun! My favorite was one week I stuffed 9 plastic bags in a jar and picked them out one by one when we revealed the answer. Also it blew the kids minds when I asked the question, how many people live in America?

I am a bit frustrated with school at the current moment. My kids did very poorly on the midterm June exam. It really made me question my worth here. I think there are a few reasons why. First, there is a stigma against math. Most concepts learned here are memorized. Kids are not taught to apply anything. That makes math very difficult. Also homework doesn’t really exist. I give homework, but it is done in school. Studying also is not a common practice. Many of the problems my kids answered incorrectly on the exam, they had answered correctly on quizzes during the year. Lastly, standards are much much much lower. You only have to pass 3 classes and English to move onto the next grade. I wrote more here, but I thought it might get me in trouble so I will refrain.

I really enjoy being in class with the kids. They are a lot of fun. I did an exercise with one of my classes. I had them write down 3 things that make them happy to have them think about what they want with their lives. Many said they wanted to be married fairly soon and asked me if I wanted to marry (side note, I have had two girls drop out of school because they got married). I said maybe someday, but not for a few years. One girl then asked if I would marry her. I said sorry, I want to be older. She told me she would wait. HA!

I have a jar in my health classes where the kids can write questions in the jar and I will answer the questions at the end of lectures/activities. One of my favorite questions was “What is resly?” It took me a minute to understand that resly meant wrestling. They show WWF wrestling and a lot of people really like it here. I can’t tell if people think it is real or not. I don’t have the heart to crush dreams so I leave it alone. My goal is to update my blog twice a week with stories from school when school starts again. Please Please Please yell at me if I slack on that goal!

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