I think I can, I think I can....
Yesterday after a long morning at school, I was picked up and ready to go home. Surprise!! We weren’t going home! I was brought to the Amy Biehl foundation office and dropped off. When I walked in the office, no one knew what we were there for… TIA I guess. So after much confusion, we were on our way out to the townships to “pick” our schools that we were to start at today (Thursday). When we were driving around the townships, it was as if we were in a parade. All the children would run to the side of the van and smile and wave at us as if we were on display. I felt like a princess waving out the window to all the smiling children. When it came time to “pick” our schools, it consisted of pulling up to each one and frantically being shoved out of the van and brought in to meet our teacher. After this stressful hour, I was placed at Hlengisa Junior Primary/Secondary School for no reason in particular.
Today was my first day at Hlengisa with Mr. Gaji… well, I thought it was going to be with Mr. Gaji. The extent of this Gaji man was him introducing me to each class and leaving. My first class was 8th grade English. I was not quite prepared for the language barrier, though. In the past two weeks, we haven’t had much difficulty with English because most of the older people know it. When you get into a school, you realize that the children barely know it. If they do, they are very hard to understand….so English was definitely a rough point today in addition to playing the whole teacher game.
I will be there Tuesdays and Thursdays and have classes all day of fifth grade, eighth grade, and ninth grade. The fifth grade class is a “Life Skills” class. I will be teaching the creative arts and personal and social wellbeing components of this class. This should be no problem because the chapter I was introduced to sounds like its mainly musical. Thank God for my house of 21 people because I’m hoping some empty bottles filled with sand and rice will make for some fun days with 10 year olds!
The eighth and ninth grade classes are both English courses. I was completely thrown out of my element with those. This was the biggest culture shock I’ve experienced since I’ve been here. The 8th grade class was reading a story called “Schoolboy found hanged by his school tie.” This was a news story that a teacher had typed out and put basic questions with. They had received the reading on January 29, already answered the questions, already corrected the questions, and were just sitting there with the same story. Mr. Gaji instructed them to rewrite the questions and answers on a sheet of paper in groups. As we all know, groups in 8th grade turn into gossip sessions and today I was the gossip of the day. Once again, I felt as though I was in a display case at the front of the classroom. I was a foreign object that spoke a different language. They didn’t really even seem to care that they blatantly stared at me instead of doing their work. The only upside to this was that about ten twelve-year-olds told me they loved me… so if all else fails, I have twelve-year-old love goin for me!!
The ninth grade class was very similar. The students took advantage of a student teacher as much as they possibly could and I had just about nothing to go with as far as a lesson plan, so any lessons I make will be an improvement already! The ninth graders had to write 80 words about themselves. I began grading them and came across some things I never imagined I would. I read so many things about townships I never knew existed in real life. Most of the children live near the school with either parents or aunts and uncles. They all talked about their family, favorite subjects, and favorite sports. These were the things I was expecting. The openness to their personality and ups and downs of life hit me like a brick wall. Good thing I’m not an easy crier… Though I did not receive one person’s respect today in this classroom, it will get better. Many wrote about never having a birthday party, so I think that might be a safe place to begin. (THANKS DIANNE!!!)
Thank you for all the prayers, everything is going well! Life is a bit overwhelming, but its exactly what I wanted!