Thursday, February 24, 2011


Still adjusting to teaching 11th grade English. I am finding that the biggest adjustment is to the age difference, rather than the curriculum difference (and maybe that is because Alice, an English whiz (no seriously, she is published poet) has given me all of her 11th grade English lesson plans). My little 8th graders were too young to develop crushes on me. My 8th graders were a little more obedient (or scared), or perhaps I have forgotten how long it took me to train them. A couple times this year students showed up late, so I told them to sit on the floor (As is customary) and continued teaching. And they walked away. I was completely stunned—did they actually think they had a choice? After recovering, I called them back and informed them and the entire class that I didn’t ask questions, they were to sit on the floor when they arrived late, and anyone who would rather leave than sit on the floor was more than welcome to leave and never again set foot in my classroom.
I had a really great discussion with my REDES girls today. We were talking about completing secondary school—they all said they planned to and I believe that most of them actually will. The biggest challenges Mozambican girls have in completing school is when their families aren’t supportive, when they have to live away from home in order to do so (which more conservative families are less likely to allow), and when they get pregnant (the chances of which skyrocket when the girl is living away from home). But most of my girls have family living here, have older sisters already paving the way in 11th and 12th grades, or have educated parents. Last year all of my REDES girls had morning classes, so we would meet at 12:05 when their classes ended for the day, and this worked perfectly. This year they all have afternoon classes so we proposed to meet at 11am before their classes. But Mozambican punctuality is dismal. These girls genuinely want to be there and I have to forcefully get them to clean up and head to class at 12pm, but they cannot for their lives arrive on time. So after a couple meetings where girls showed up 45 minutes late, we have decided a new tactic. They are mostly in two classes, so we will meet on the two days per week these classes have agriculture class in the morning, so they are all already at school. Hopefully this will work.
We had our first two English club meetings this week—they were wonderful. Ronnie, the Canadian volunteer, came to the first one and I hope he will continue because having another native speaker is so helpful. And obviously these kids are some of the best students who want most badly to speak English well, so speaking with them and teaching them is a pleasure. I had the idea of each meeting discussing current events from around the world, so last night I went online to find some stories we could discuss. And I found this very difficult. Their world experience and knowledge is so extremely limited, it is hard to find something they can discuss. How to we discuss animal poaching in a land with few laws about that and where animals aren’t given much value aside from providing meat? I am sure that many of them have never seen an airplane, so how would we discuss a plane crash? They claimed that they knew what as earthquake was, but I have never heard of one happening here. WikiLeaks? They don’t even have computers. And I realized that they also wouldn’t know where many of the places we would talk about are, so I brought the world map I was sent last year. The map, as always, was a huge hit—it’s surely one of the first times they have been allowed to touch one and spend extended time just exploring it. So we talked about protests in Egypt and Libya and Sunni-Shiite conflict.
A few students from the afternoon section have approached me about wanting to start an English club for them (my current one meets in the afternoons, so is for the kids in the morning section). As soon as I get my schedule next week we will start one for the afternoon section too. And I talked to the director of the professional school across the street yesterday about starting one there. His response was enthusiastic but cautionary—that interest will be high and I may end up with more participants than I can handle. But my experience here is that interest doesn’t necessarily correlate with participation, so I am not too worried. I have one REDES girl who is in 12th grade this year and she is the only participant who doesn’t have classes in the afternoon section—thus she cannot attend our meetings. She is really wonderful—incredibly enthusiastic about REDES and always wanting to learn and transmit the messages of REDES, rather than just hang out, and she has really embraced her role as a leader/big sister (all the other girls are in 9th grade) in the group. Thanks to great suggestions from other REDES PCVs, I was given the idea of assisting her in starting her own REDES group at the primary school. She is extremely excited about this and has already talked to some girls about the idea and when they could meet. I have given her a REDES manual to prepare for tomorrow when we will go talk to the director of the primary school and she will explain what REDES is and why she believes it is important to have at the school. If this project is successful it will be great in two aspects. It will start a group in the primary school which REDES is trying to do more of, the younger you can get them, the more of an impact you can make. And it will also provide her with invaluable leadership and facilitation skills for life, as well as preparing her to begin her own REDES group where ever she ends up next year after graduation.
And I am still experiencing a lot of pouting, complaining, and offering alternative solutions from the 4 classes I don’t teach anymore, plus a lot of gloating from the 2 I am still teaching. And I feel a little bad but it also makes me feel good that I’m missed, even with all my crazy American idiosyncrasies.

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