Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Am I Doing Here?

Besides asking myself that question quite often, I'll tell you what I'm doing here.

Basically, every morning I wake up and go to school, which is roughly a ten minute walk from my house. As soon as school starts, the kids have assembly. They pray, sing, and practice marching drills. I'm not sure what for. And they aren't seriously marching; hardly any of them even march in beat. Two year 8 boys get the cool job of doing the drumming; one of them holds an old cracker tin while the other drums the beat with two sticks. I hope I get to be them when I'm a year 8 boy. The school also has prefects. Yep, like Harry Potter. And also like the magical wizard, we have houses. On sports day, every other Friday, the school divides into four houses, blue, red, yellow, and green, to play various games. I'm leader of the red house! I like to think of us as Gryffindor, but as our past performances in the games might indicate, I think we're probably actually Hufflepuff.
The Green House

Sports Day!

Anyway, after assembly, it's time for school and time for me to teach. I start the day teaching year 7 English. And it's not like I'm teaching English how we know it; I'm teaching a foreign language. And the ability levels of the kids are all over the board. Keep in mind, they've been learning English since year one (equivalent to our kindergarten). So my year 7s are about 6th graders, about 11 years old, but their English reading and writing skills re probably equivalent to our kindergarten-third graders. Their speaking ability...some don't understand any English while a few can hold an open-ended conversation with me.

We teach from the scheme, a book thing given to us by the Ministry of Culture, Education, and Sports (Ministry! Harry Potter again.) The scheme is a blessing and a curse. It gives us an idea of what to teach, but it is also way past the level of most of the kids and wants you to fit three hours worth of material into one class period. The scheme is basically impossible to use how it was meant to be used.

"Man, detention with Sema sure is fun!"

And my discipline program for the chilluns, since I don't hit them, is to write their name on the board when they misbehave. Three checks next to your name, and you're out. Once they get three, then they get one mark on the detention poster. Dun dun dun. One mark equals fifteen minutes of detention, which I have them serve after school one day a week. In detention, they usually work on homework if I've given them any for then ext day, or they write their spelling words until I tell them they can go. Sometimes a few of the boys just rack up detention marks, so I'll have them come over to my house and pick up the rubbish, and by "rubbish" I mean leaves. That's right, leaves in your yard are a big no-no. And I hardly ever clean up my leaves. I think it embarrasses my host family too. They've started having the kids come over after pastor's school on Monday to clean up my yard. I'm pretty sure I'm the equivalent of the person back home who lets their grass get way too long in the summer. My yard is an eyesore. I think it's kind of funny.
"Geez, why doesn't that girl freaking mow her lawn?!"

Then I usually work on lesson plans until lunch/interval. Lunch is provided for the teachers by the families of the students. Every day, a different family brings lunch. It is usually taro (which I don't eat) and some kind of soup with chicken, and either tea, coffee, or niu (coconut) to drink. Yes, we drink straight out of coconuts. A few of the moms set up a little stand outside and serve the kids noodles for lunch.I'm not sure if the kids have to pay or not; I think they do. After interval, I usually teach a remedial reading class for the struggling readers in year 7. Sometimes we have class in the library or outside under the breadfruit tree. This class is a challenge; it takes most of the kids who won't listen to me and the kids who can't read and puts them all together. Right now, we're just working on phonics. If I can get these kids to read by the end of the school, year, I will consider it a success. (The Samoan school year starts in February with breaks in May and October. School ends in mid December.)

Monono Island
Rob, Olivia, and I Tipped the Canoe in the Background
Twice the Previous Day
 After reading, I hang out for a while and work on lesson plans again until school is done, which is never the same time. Some days I stay longer to do make-up spelling/vocab tests, or for homework help, or when it's a detention day. ((I'm also thinking of doing an extra reading class after school one day a week for the kids in my year 7 who are good readers. A lot of the smart girls always ask if they can join my reading class.) Or some days I'll leave earlier if I have to go into Apia for something. And every other Wednesday is teacher payday (not for me...we don't get paid, we're volunteers, remember) so that means school gets done early and all the teachers go to Apia.

To end the day, I usually walk home with some of the kids, usually they year 7 girls who love to giggle when creepy guys stare at me too long or the younger guys try to flirt. The year 7 girls get a kick out of it. And some days, there's a little boy who always greets me with, "Fa, Palagi!"

The Giant Centipede that Bit Me
This is After I Killed It

Coolest Little Brother I've Ever Had

Visiting Tafitoala
(Clockwise from Top Left)
Avei, Oneaka, Me, Poulima, Laupama, Ruka

Lauina, Baby Mikaele, and Sa

Keeping Cool at Sports Day

Eni, Lesina, Ina, Lisa, ma Rosanna Chilling
On My Porch

Boat to Monono


  1. Just by being their your doing something ,Don't compare Samoa to the West it will do your head in ,Where else can you walk down a road and most talk or say hello to you,and and Palagi is far from the worst anyone has called me..

  2. Girl, I love you and these pictures. And I can identify with your leaf problem.
    Miss you!!