I have been getting email after email asking me to explain about the school, teaching or my students. In an attempt to capture what a typical day looks like I am writing this blog. I hope it gives you all a good idea of what is going on down here in the school!
The doors are painted bright colors, the rooms are decorated; there is lined paper and broken pencils everywhere. School has officially begun in Jubilee and it is impossible to miss the blue clad children coming in droves to the school. Every morning the teachers arrive early to do some last minute plans and preparations. Class begins with a whirlwind rush and mundane repetitions of flashcard letters and picking out vowels. But the kids are learning and smile every time they can name that letter, or pick out that sound. There is an excitement in the air that surpasses the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Every hour the bell rings and classes shuffle. Math, English, Music, Bible, French, Science, History, you name it and they cover it. I begin my morning teaching a kindergarden English class. Truthfully it is extremely intimidating because we are learning how to read and some of the stuff we talk about I have to teach myself or ask another teacher to explain it to me before I can teach it. Blended sounds and short and long vowels… seriously? I had to do flashcards with Tia before school started so I could learn to say the sounds of the letters and not the letters themselves. M says mmmmm not EM. Weird right? So we are learning together. Thankfully I have an amazing translator, Rudolph, who is great with the kids and speaks fluent English. He also tutors me during school so I can learn words and commands for the kids. It is a slower process than I would like but any learning is progress.
At 9 o’clock the bell rings and classes switch again. I move to my pre-k room where I spend the remainder of the day. We are learning colors, numbers, shapes and next week we begin our letters. I have 11 kids in my class: Dordijina, Simon, Magdala (whose real name is Angela but she doesn’t know that) Joseberline, Chedline, Cherlanda, Deudson, Besiana, Youvendjy, Widlene, and Sisinio, who has been sick all week. This week we are working on a “God made me” booklet. One page is their handprints and footprints and though all the kids were in socks and shoes, their feet were dirty and so out pages are green and brown footprints. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Many of the worksheets here are homemade so planning time is time consuming 😛 but then they can be specially tailored to the kids levels. The ABeka material is awesome and I am excited to be able to use their worksheets and projects. We begin with Alexander the Alligator to introduce the letter A next week.
By noon the kids and I are wore out. We only do half day classes here so at noon my kids get lunch, grab their backpacks and head home. After a quick clean up I run upstairs to catch some zzz’s with Youvendjy during my lunch break. My afternoon is slow becauseI don’t have any other classes. I have a planning hour and then an hour of tutoring before the final bell rings at 3:30 and everyone rushing out of the doors. Usually during my planning hour my good buddy Mono will bring his backpack and homework and we do it together while I cut out pages and make worksheets for the next days class. By 5 my backpack is packed and ready, and we all begin the trek to the market to hitch a ride home on a moto.
This is a slow paced life; we live on island time. School is no different. I am learning not to always fight it. My American mentality isn’t always the best way, surprise April. Slow and steady. The tempo is more leisurely than I would have it, but it works for this community. It works for this place. The kids are learning. The material is being covered. Mono is reading and writing in English. Simon could trace his numbers. Youvendjy counted to 9 in English, not right mind you, but still he was counting. In English. It was big. They’re learning and I get to be part of it. Thank the Lord.