“I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.” –Voltaire
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! It is my second Thanksgiving away from home, which is bittersweet. I am missing everyone a lot, but at the same time, I am very thankful for the opportunities and adventures I am having. I’m excited for my next American Thanksgiving in the distant future, but am pleased to have so many experiences to be thankful for!
This week was the end of model school, an 8-day very abbreviated sort of student teaching. Over here in Mozambique, school is out for summer vacation, so our students are voluntarily coming to school for education and some free cookies. We were supposed to be teaching 8th, 9th, and 10th grades, but because we rely on volunteers, our students actually ranged in ages from 6-15 in 8th grade up to 17 or 18 in 10th grade. My 17-year-old host sister, for example, was in the 10th grade class, even though she has already completed that year. It made teaching very difficult, though it was nice that our class sizes weren’t the typical 80-student classes.
I was teaching English in 8th grade English in one of 4 turmas (classes), so on Monday morning I put on my bata (teacher’s robe) and walked to model school. Each of us PCTs was scheduled to teach 4 lessons throughout the 7 days in our turma. The last day was a test that we had created. Before Escola Modela (model school), we sat down as an 8th grade English team (the 10 of us) and planned out our unit: we would teach about the daily schedule with the objective that students would be able to write a paragraph describing their daily schedule at the end. Sounds easy, right?
The whole 8th grade
We found out on the first day that we had really overestimated our students. While a few of them had some English experience, most could not say a word other than “hello” and “good morning, teacher, how are you?” The range of levels in our class was huge, and definitely a challenge. The students also did not understand how to do things like work in pairs or share answers with each other. It was interesting seeing the effects of an education system that so much emphasized copying and lecturing. It was difficult for us, especially those of us with teaching experience in the U.S. where the exact opposite is emphasized. At the same time, it is difficult for the teachers to plan much else with the lack of materials and the little education that many of them have.
Overall, the model school had many challenges, but I really enjoyed it. I was very happy being back in the classroom and being greeted with “Teacher Sama!” every day. One of my students drew me a card, and many of them approached me to say hi after lessons. It was also good practice for dealing with limited resources, or with unique problems such as when a dog wanders into your class and curls up in the corner during your lesson. That is not something that would happen in most American classrooms. We also dealt with changes in students from day to day. We even had 5 new kids on the last day, the day we handed tests back. It was somewhat ridiculous…
Me and Sean repping IWU in our batas
At the end of the week and a half we had a test. We wrote it out on papel gigante, flipchart paper, ahead of time so that we wouldn’t have to write it on the board the day of. Students copied the questions and their answers onto pieces of paper. We had 10 questions, which turned out to be too many for most of the students. They struggled writing everything down and then doing the activities. It is also interesting because Mozambican schools stress perfection in writing, so if students messed up they would start a new paper rather than crossing it out and writing over it. We took their tests at the end of the 45 minutes and then collected them to grade them. In the end, about half our students passed.
One other exciting thing from last week was our mural. Moz 21 was invited to paint a mural on the wall of our English hub. One of the PCTs helped to design it, and we all pitched in to make it a reality. It took almost the entirety of last weekend, but turned out looking really cool. Check it out!
Tania in front of her masterpiece (every star is a Peace Corps Volunteer’s current site)
Sadly, we are approaching our last week in Namaacha. I think we are all ready to get to our sites and begin the real work, but it will be difficult to leave the people who we have all become close too. Tomorrow is our Thanksgiving, Saturday is our celebration with our families, and then on Tuesday we are off to Maputo for swearing in! These past 2 months have passed by so quickly, and I can only imagine that the next two years will do the same.
Portuguese word of the day: Obrigada (Thank you)
French word of the day: Merci (Thanks)