Saturday 28th September 2013
I’ve done a complete week at the school. I’d forgotten how exhausting teaching can be – and I’m not even doing a full time-table.
When the other volunteer teacher and I arrived all the children were in lines in the yard and one of the prefects was addressing them.
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked her.
‘It’s just assembly,’ she replied, ‘they have it every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.’
‘Oh. It’s the first of these mornings I’ve been here.’
As the prefect was winding up he asked us, the teachers, if we had anything to say to the school. My colleague asked if she could take pictures and I seized the opportunity to tell them how welcomed the school had made me feel in my first week. As I’d now had a chance to teach all the classes I was happy to report that all had worked well in my lessons and had produced some good work.
I thanked them again for my new name of Bongkiyung and for their assistance in helping me to live up to it. I was indeed a fool learning a lot.
My first lesson was with form 2 and I was surprised to find that five of them were missing. They were outside sweeping the yard as punishment for a previous misdemeanour. I was alarmed and went outside to talk to the prefect, to ask if they could do their punishment in the break when they would not be missing part of the lesson.
He could understand my rationale about not wishing to begin the lesson again when they joined the class, but it was the rule and they had to do their punishment.
I decided to respect the rule, and indeed had to begin the lesson again for the five who joined the class ten minutes late.
There was a Lambso (the local language) lesson going on next door with class 1 and I encountered the same issue of noise as I did the first time. The dividing wall between the classrooms is a plywood screen and may just as well not have been there. It was an oral class and I really struggled to make myself heard during whole class repetitions – which were frequent.
It was a real credit to class 2 that they not only worked hard, but produced some good work. I’d forgotten to take the animal cards I’d intended to use with them so asked them instead to think of their own animal and we did a lesson on characterisation in preparation for writing a story next week.
I even managed to fit in a couple of affirmations by asking them to repeat with me ‘I am creative. I am very creative.’
Some of them were a little sceptical at first, especially as I’d explained what it means to be creative, i.e. to bring something into the world that had not existed before. But when they saw the gusto with which I approached the affirmations, and the ease with which some of the others did it, they joined in. I stopped them periodically to re-affirm their creativity.
There was a direct swop to form 1 at the end of an hour, with the noise coming from class 2 as the Lambso teacher launched them into the national anthem and other songs. I felt despondent. How was I expected to teach in these conditions?
These are the only classes in which I have to shout. Not because the children are talking or disruptive, but because it’s the only way they can hear me.
I discovered that one young man who had been extremely resistive to working in the previous lesson couldn’t spell, or read from the board properly. Once I gave him, and the others permission to raise their hands and to ask for me to spell the words they couldn’t, the level of talking dropped considerably. It realised that most of them were asking each other how to spell words.
The surly disruptive young man of the previous lesson managed to complete his work and was enormously pleased with himself. I was exceptionally pleased to note that some of them stayed in during the break to catch up with those who were ahead.
At the end of the lesson I read them the beginning of the story I’ve been writing about a buffalo called Abundance. A by product of teaching creative writing to younger children is that it’s forcing me to write for children. They’re very keen to get going on their own stories.
At the break the cleaning monitors got buckets of water and floor cloths ready to clean the floors of their classrooms. It’s the students’ responsibility to keep the school clean, and even to help out with some of the building work where appropriate. Imagine that happening in the UK!!