Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Routine has hit

I am now unwinding from my last week… Thank God for country music helping the process!!

Last Monday (gosh, that was still February!!) I ventured to the city with a couple girls.  We walked around the city, looked at venders, wandered through the Company Gardens, and stopped in Desmond Tutu’s Cathedral to light a candle and say a prayer.  Downtown was a nice little venture after classes!
Tuesday and Thursday I was testing 200 students for English all day both days. I sat in the back of the classroom with a stack of rubrics and listened to presentations.  Tuesday they each brought in a newspaper article and read it aloud as I graded their reading abilities.  Thursday they each brought in another article and they could not look at it while they presented a summary.  Some students read and presented extremely well—gestures, loud voice, a poster as a teaching aid, etc.  Some students went to the front of the classroom and stood there until the teacher sitting next to me said “Okay, zero.” 

While going through my class list on Thursday, I learned that some of the 9th grade students are older than me… (good thing I never told them my age).  I asked the teachers about this and they explained to me that students stay in 9th grade until they pass.  Some of the students have been in 9th grade for 5 years and still cannot speak English.  English is necessary to graduate from the school.  It killed me to watch a student go to the front of the room and stand there until they received a zero.  The teacher kept saying “I can give out zeros all day, they’re easy to write.”  It was interesting to hear this perspective whereas my teachers always told me that the 100% are the easiest to grade so strive to get 100%.  I could feel my usually smiling face drooping as the day went on.  After I realized how many students can’t even read English, I asked Gaji (the teacher with me these days) if I could take small groups and help them pass 9th grade.  He looked at me and said “YES, PLEASE!” as if that’s what I should have been doing all along.  I took the weekend to think about how this would work because I have such full classrooms to teach all day.  I asked him today if I could do this in my one free period and lunch break.  After some discussion, he told me I could work with smaller groups of students during the English class and instead of teaching the 40 students each class period. I’m excited for this because this could be a much larger help to the school and community than babysitting a classroom when half of the students don’t understand a word coming out of my mouth. 

Today, the 8th and 9th graders all had the same assignment in preparation for their term exam next week.  The assignment was to write a letter to your sister who is at university and tell her what is going on at home since she left.  Usually, when assignments like this are given, I am instructed to walk around and simply correct spelling errors in red pen and move to the next student.  Today, after reading a few of the first 9th grade classes letters, I decided to collect the rest.  I was engrossed in these letters during every break today, including lunch.  I didn’t pick my nose up out of this stack of letters that kept growing and growing with each passing period.  I now have about 100 papers left to grade, but I am learning more than ever about these students’ lives.  They wrote about things they have seen in the past couple weeks or months.  Some of the violence that was just casually written on a piece of loose leaf in front of me made my jaw drop.  Not only can I not imagine having seen one of the things some of these students have seen, but I can’t imagine coming to school the next day and being expected to just forget home and learn.  I am starting to understand why some people just don’t seem to care about school.  They will stand at the front of the room and receive a zero, but this could be because they saw their friend murdered the day before.  I am really, quite convinced I can never complain again in my life… ever.  

The 6th grade reading club has been going wonderfully.  I am finally getting to know these students and they are enjoying being in the library every Tuesday and Thursday after school.  I finally was able to move some tables and things around in the library so I have enough seats and tables for my whole class.  I would love to get a rug for students to sit on in the container and possibly have them reading to smaller children one day.  Many of the books are also informational books about technology and such, which is good sometimes but they really enjoy fiction stories.  I am hoping to get some of these books either donated or cheap from somewhere around my neighborhood here.  The library is still a work in progress, but the students are absolutely LOVING it.  They were coming up to me during the day last Tuesday wondering if they could come to reading club right away.  Though it was only 1:00 and school didn’t end until 3, it was great to see their excitement for the club!

The reading club has also started teaching me Xhosa words.  I am learning about 5 per day for right now… we’ll see how that one goes!!  I never thought clicking would be so difficult!!  This gets them excited too, though.  They really like when I try to understand their language and connect with them in other ways.  Thank God that my day ends with “Ufunda Club” because they never fail to bring a smile to my face.  As I walk around and listen to individuals read English aloud, I can already tell they are getting better and better as time goes on.  Even within these past two weeks, they have not been asking as many pronunciation questions and been reading more fluently.  I can’t help but be overjoyed by this progress.  Their future truly depends on English so this is one of the most helpful things to them at this point in time.  In order to get out of the townships or advance in school, a person needs English.  The rest of the country is very English based outside of the townships. 

Friday we had our Marquette classes and I had a presentation on The South African KAIROS Document.  As many of you know, I lead Kairos at St. Viator so I was very interested in this document to begin with.  Although it was a pretty long document, I just wanted to share a few interesting points.  During apartheid, the Christian church (most of South Africa at the time) was not only separated by denomination but also by race.  For example, they had a black Anglican church and a white Anglican church.   Because of the violence, segregation, and oppression, the blacks came together and decided something had to happen.  They related this time to Israel.  Israel rose out of the enslaved people in Egypt.  They were ‘liberated by Yahweh’ and Israel was born.  South Africa, in the KAIROS Document, completely related themselves to this bible affiliation.  South Africa was oppressed and the whites enslaved the native South Africans when they came to colonize the country.  The South Africans saw this time as God’s time for liberation (KAIROS).  They believed and hoped that if they didn’t take advantage of this time of oppression, it would be lost time.  This is a time of true hope that God will come soon to liberate them and bring them out of their oppression.   Though the original KAIROS Document was written in 1985, there are still being responses written to the Document.  One priest, who is currently in a Church Leadership Group that is writing the second response to the KAIROS Document, came to discuss this Document with us after my presentation.  These people never cease to amaze me with the things they have been through.  I couldn’t imagine going to a church and being rejected, let alone if it were my own religion and I was rejected because of my race. 

Just another reminder of how blessed we really are!!  Everything is going very well and I never go more than a minute without smiling in this beautiful country.   Thank you for all the messages and mail from home, it brightens my day…or week for that matter!! I couldn’t be more blessed and thankful for each and every one of you.

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