Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Start of the Year

It’s a new school year here at Mboni. It’s kind of funny how the school years actually correspond to calendar years here, unlike in America or Korea. Anyway, Dad was here for the first week of kind of classes, which was really nice. I say kind of classes because so few students were here for them, since they get sent home until their school fees are paid and their school fees are never actually paid on time. I’m teaching Form 1 again, for a whole bunch of reasons, and I’m really happy about it. But this year the Ministry of Education only sent us 2 streams of Form 1, instead of the usual 3, so I only have 12 periods this semester, instead of last year’s 18. Which is technically fewer than I’m supposed to have, but I have a ton of secondary projects going on, and it’s just for one term, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Plus my school has more teachers and fewer students this semester, so everyone across the board is teaching less. At least for the Arts teachers (English, Swahili, Civics, History, etc.) I’m not sure about the sciences. That’s where we tend to lack teachers. (Seriously. My school does not need any more Arts teachers. We have 7 qualified English teachers right now. Only 4 of us, including me, are teaching English, one for each Form. It’s sort of silly that this is where I am.)
Anyways, on Tuesday (after school in theory opened on Monday), there were only 15-20 or so Form 1 students, sitting awkwardly in a room by themselves, with nothing to do. I went in and greeted them and introduced myself. On Wednesday, we had 40, which was enough for a class on greetings. (The fact that I teach 80 solid minutes of greetings each year is ridiculous, but I think it’s actually important. Not so much for the greetings themselves (although Tanzanians love greetings and regularly use “Good morning sir” for all genders at all time of the day, so many of them really do need the practice) but because it’s easy and it’s comfortable. And I think the most important thing about the Baseline curriculum is that it’s easy, so the students feel like they can handle it, and it isn’t scary having a class that’s taught only in English. (Although this year I did decide to use maybe 2 sentences of Swahili for one set of instructions. I’m a renegade.) And then on Thursday we were up to a whopping 57, for classroom instructions, which is fun. 80 minutes of “Close your books. Show me your pen. Stand up.” Etc. But it’s them using actual English for communicative purposes, plus I taught them Salama Says (Tanzanian Simon Says) and they love that. And again, I used about a sentence of Swahili, cuz that game’s really hard to explain just in English. Having seen the amount of time and confusion that results from that, I decided it wasn’t worth it. So two nice easy classes, and since there were so few students, I only taught each one once and had more time to hang out with my dad, so yay!
I also got a start on my secondary projects for the year. We had our first library meeting since getting the money deposited into my account, and we talked to the fundi (carpenter) and figured out how much he needed as an advance to buy the materials, and so now he’s actually working on making all our chairs and tables, which is really exciting. My counterparts also explained about the project to the rest of the staff at the first teachers’ meeting of the year, and it was really well received. Next is having the students choose their representatives for the committee. I’ll keep you guys posted as things go along.
I’m also continuing with my clubs. I’m starting a Community Theatre group, based on the training in Iringa last November, which we got the Headmaster’s permission for. Apparently we can’t have extracurricular activities every day of the week, though, cuz the students need to have one free day to do work (which seems silly, since as far as I can tell, whenever they want the students to do work, they just have them do it, usually in the middle of the school day.) But since Tuesdays and Fridays are sports and Mondays have to remain free, that leaves just Wednesdays and Thursdays. Now this wasn’t a problem last year, when I just had 2 clubs, but now I have 3 (English, Life Skills, Theatre). So what we decided to do was give Wednesdays to Theatre, and then alternate weeks for English and Life Skills. Not ideal, but ok. We’re also thinking about doing some teacher training with the primary school teachers in the area, which would be cool, but getting the projects here at Mboni off the ground is the first thing on the agenda.
So then dad left, and I was sad, but I hung out with Bill for a couple days and then headed to Dar for VAC. (Which for those of you who don’t remember is the Volunteer Advisory Council, like the student government of Peace Corps, which I am president of.) We had a particularly good VAC meeting this time. We had fewer issues, so we had more time to discuss each, and everyone on VAC had experience this time, and are just awesome members who take our job seriously, so that was cool. And also, the staff had some things they wanted to get our feedback on too. The biggest one on that front is that they’re considering changing the intake times, so that Ed volunteers would come in July, not June, and Health and Enviroment volunteers would come in February, not September. We had a really great working group to discuss the issues that would be involved in the change, and the staff and volunteers thought of totally different types of things. So if they wind up doing it (and it sounds like they’re leaning that way, although it isn’t for sure yet), they’ll have a pretty good sense of the things they need to pay attention to. So that’s good. And also, I just like hanging out at the office and catching up with all the staff members. I also submitted my formal notice of intent to marry to EB, and she said it looked good and was sending it along to Washington, so once they send it back, we’ll be approved. So yay! I can get married and not get kicked out of Peace Corps for it.

1 comment:

  1. Hooray- got my fingers crossed Washington says OK to your wedding!