The second day of school
Again I awake to get to school at 7, you think I would have learned that when given a time to show up someplace that it is a lose time. While I was heading to school the teacher that told me school started at that time stopped me and asked where I was going. (She was not dressed for school yet.) When I explained she looked half impressed half confused, I am not quite sure which one.
The previous night the matai came around the village calling out for people to come in the morning to cut the grass on the road to the school. It sounded like it was going to be the village men again. However when I reached the sign to my school I saw some of the boys in years 4-8 with their machetes cutting the grass that was on the side of the road. There were probably boys in younger years, however I am not sure. For about 45 minutes they were out there trimming the grass and the weeds in their school uniforms. When they were finished the girls came out with brooms to sweep up the cut grass and weeds and put it on the other side of a fence.
The bell rang and the students lined up on the field. The lined up by class with the cute little year one’s in the front and the older year eights in the back. They performed their morning prayer and the vice principal had a brief talk with them and sent them to their classrooms. I headed to the teacher’s room with the teachers. Some of them grabbed notebooks to hand out to their class while others stayed to chat. Some of the teachers said they were going to clean the library/storage room. I told them that I was going to go around and look into the classrooms. They seemed happy that I was going to do this and they escorted me down the hall to the year seven room and told me I can get started and another teacher would come to help me out shortly.
I was confused and told them that I didn’t even know what was in the curriculum and they handed me the year seven schemes book for English. There was no chalk in the room, no newsprint to write on, just a class full of students. The desks are made to sit two sit two students and at many of the desks there were more kids and some of them still were sitting on the floor because of a lack of space. I had the kids go around the room and introduce themselves and their favorite subject in school. It seems like the kids have been forced to memorize a speech when introducing themselves in English and it was difficult for them to cut out of the mold. They wanted to tell me about their family instead (a hot conversation topic).
When that was over I was at a loss. I had no clue how to continue with the class. I knew I could have been like some of the other teachers and head to the teachers’ lounge instead of teaching but I did not want to give up. I began to think of games that I could do to entertain the kids while working on a little language. I thought of one that we did during training to recall words. After taking a long time to model and explain the game the students caught on and loved it!
While they were playing it gave me a chance to look over the book about English (did I mention it was from 1990? It is older than the school building. I thought they updated the curriculum since then…) and see if there was anything I could do in there. It had lessons in depth to do with the students but of course, I lacked the materials to do any of it! So after playing the game several times I decided to improvise again. I had the students gather onto the mats for an improvised story hour.
I began reading the first reading passage and asked questions to the students. They were at a loss for words. They appeared to be completely confused with what I was reading to them. The word culture was in the story and I tried to explain the differences between the American culture and the Samoan culture, but because I was speaking in only English I am not sure all of them understood it. While the class was going on one of the boys was being cheeky (a word that I never used back at home but it is used way too much in Samoa!) and I had him move to sit right next to me. A lot of the students told me to hit the boy for misbehaving. It is strange how it is so engraved into their heads that they need to be hit for every wrong they do.
While we were in the middle of our lesson I was called out of the room for a staff meeting, so the kids would be on their own again. The staff meeting was incomplete Samoan and I picked up my bits and pieces. After they talked for about 30 minutes I was questioned about what they were talking about. I knew the basics, who was teaching what (some teachers were teaching a year completely different than they originally thought), what color uniform the staff should wear each day (I need to go to the store and the seamstress to get a few more pulatasis made!), about the school grant I was working on, and about money. Since I could name the topics they told me that there was no need to translate which was probably just as good.
After the meeting the students learned who their teachers were and clean up number two began. Furniture was again moved from class to class and the kids took out brooms to tidy to the best of their abilities. ( I was curious as to how this was going in year one with the children being so young, but I stayed away.) In the year 7 classroom there were two empty Vailima bottles and I am really puzzled as to how the beer bottles showed up in the school.
The children then had their afternoon assembly. They sang a song, prayed, had a little chat and that seemed to be the extent of all school assemblies. During the assembly one of the teachers had a stick that they used to keep time when the students were singing. However when the principal was talking the stick was used by that teacher to tap a student on the head. It was not hard by any means, but it was still a shock to see. I know this will not be the first time, and I am happy that I did not see anything brutal with corporal punishment. I know this might happen in the future, but it does take time for a culture to change. By just creating a law to stop it when it is a tradition that has been happening probably since the existence of Samoa is not a quick cure to stopping this. It will take time and patience. Hopefully I will show to be a good example for this while I am here.
Tomorrow there is no school as there is a district meeting. This first week is shaping up to be quite the adventure!