Student Teaching, Secondary Projects, and Muapula

“Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.”

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything! My life has been a whirlwind of primary and secondary projects here in Mozambique. I’ve been waking up at 6am, preparing for my lessons, teaching straight through the day, and falling asleep at 9pm at night (or sometimes even earlier…). I’m finally getting a chance to relax with classes being over at the secondary school, so I’ve got a bit of time to write.

Although I am only teaching two days at the secondary school instead of my previous 3 days, my weeks have been very busy. I am now teaching an additional class per week at the IFP (English grammar) and I am observing my students there in their student teaching. How strange is it that I am essentially a student teaching supervisor? It is definitely an interesting experience thinking back to my own student teaching.

During my student teaching, I started out going twice a week the semester before I would be full-time in the classroom. I was the only student teacher in the class, and I was working with the teacher I would be teaching with the next semester. When I was student teaching that was my sole responsibility aside from a seminar class once a week. I spent an entire semester in the classroom, slowly accumulating more classes until I taught full-time for about a month, then I started giving classes back. During that time, I taught maybe two hundred lessons in different subjects. I was observed 3 times by my supervisor and every day by my cooperating teacher, I had 3 conferences with them both, and I wrote weekly reflections, as I learned that self-reflection is one of the most important skills of a teacher.

My students, however, have a completely different experience. As their teaching program is only one year, they spend their first semester observing and their second semester teaching. Since there is a lack of teachers and English classes, only 5-10 people end up teaching per week. There is only one English teacher at each of the two primary schools our students are teaching at, meaning that in the month our students have been teaching, each one has only taught 1-3 times. In addition to this, our students are oftentimes nervous because all 16-17 of our other students are also sitting there watching their lessons. Sometimes my students outnumber the elementary school students, since only 20-30 of the 60 students in the 6th grade class show up. My students teach in classrooms where the students don’t have desks and sit on the floor. Some don’t even have books.

One of my students teaching in a 6th grade class

One of my students teaching in a 6th grade class

My students prepare lesson plans before teaching, but they struggle a lot getting enough practice into their lessons. It also doesn’t help that while they are writing lesson plans and student teaching, they are also learning full-time and taking 7 different classes. I admire my students for their dedication and determination, but I think it would be a lot better for them if they had a program of at least 2-3 years. In my opinion, it is impossible to learn how to teach when you are only able to teach 10 lessons before becoming a full-time teacher.

These are some of my students

These are some of my students

Another exciting thing that began this month is the commencement of our community library program. I applied for and received a grant through USAID to begin a community library in the bairro near my house. I, along with some of my students, will be teaching children of 2-3rd grade to read. We’ve started our sessions by reading a book in Portuguese, then by splitting into small groups to work on letter sounds and recognition. In two weeks my counterpart and I will be going to Nampula to learn literacy-teaching techniques. We will also be receiving 150 books to use next month!

The first steps to our Library Program

The first steps to our Library Program

Another secondary project of mine, JUNTOS, is also coming together. My group is in the final stages of preparing our community event, a big theater performance focused on educating the community about the dangers of alcoholism and drug use, premature pregnancy, and the unjust treatment of orphans in the community. My students themselves identified these problems and created skits to show how they are problems in the community, and will give a talk/have a discussion about what we can do to change these problems in both Portuguese and the local language of Macua. We will also be raising money thorough selling things such as cakes, popcorn, bracelets, and bags, and through carnival-type games and (hopefully) face painting, which I will be introducing to Cuamba! Our event will be at the end of the month, so stay tuned!

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to escape the heat of Cuamba for a bit and head up into the mountains and the mato of Niassa. Caitlin and I went with one of the American missionaries in town to a mission camp located in the small town of Muapula. It was very interesting to see how the South African missionaries there live. They mostly speak Macua because the locals don’t even speak Portuguese well. They have a number of cows and sheep and produce fresh milk and cheese (!). Those missionaries have been living there for over 15 years and have adapted well to live there. They told us stories of when elephants used to wander through the mission and when they could hardly travel because of terrible roads. The roads weren’t great, but at least they were travelable. We relaxed and ate well, went for hikes and spent a lot of time reading, grading, and visiting with the others there.

IMG_0221 IMG_0179

Nicki, the woman who lives there, took us to see the school they run. I was very impressed in terms of a primary school in Mozambique. They had nice big classrooms, desks for their students, big blackboards, and even a small library.   They also ran a preschool that seemed to cater well to the students. They also had a small playground! I was very interested in the school. Unfortunately, they will be closing the school at the end of the year due to conflict with the government. Because their students are at a higher level than your average 5th graders, they believe that the government sees them as competition and won’t allow them to continue. They will, however, be continuing to run the preschool next year. Hopefully we will get to return at the end of the year to help them clean up the school!

The Preschool

The Preschool

Doesn't this look like a fun playground?

Doesn’t this look like a fun playground?

After such a relaxing time in Muapula, it was difficult to return to the hectic life here in Cuamba. With finals approaching, I was running all over the place. I wrote my final for my 10th graders, and then was told they would be using the standardized final instead of mine. Unhappy with this (I didn’t feel it accurately reflected my students learning from this trimester and I was somewhat bitter after having been ordered to write a final and then told it would not be used), I asked the ped director if he would use mine for my classes. He agreed. As I could not proctor the exams, however, my students cheated a lot. I am still looking for ways to get through to them on why cheating is bad…

This coming month is bound to be busy with my IFP teaching, the conference in Nampula, and my JUNTOS event. I’m sure it’ll pass in a flash!

Portuguese word of the day: Prova (test)

French word of the day: Interro (quiz)

Macua word of the day: Kophia (I arrived)

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