Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trials and (Tiny) Triumphs

Today is October 3rd. Can we talk about this for a minute? When did this happen? Since when I have been in Namibia for 10 months? Nobutreally...

This week I came to the realization that although I have been officially teaching for more than a year, I have not completed a full year of teaching. This means that this is my first experience with the serious condition known as end-of-the-year-itis, and this wretched disease is wearing me down. Let me paint a picture for you. It's hot. Over 100 degrees hot, every day. Sun beating down so hard I can feel my skin burning just walking between classes. Even the breeze is hot. The kids are a bizarre mix of drowsy and full of energy. No one can pay any attention to a thing I am saying, but they have an extreme fascination with the group of students standing outside across the schoolyard. The are tired of learning and I'm tired of trying to get them to learn. The following conversation I had with a learner upon entering my last period math class pretty much sums up this time of year:

Me: "Afternoon everyone! How are you?"
Learner: "Miss can we watch a movie today?"
Me: "No. Ok take out your notebooks!"
Learner: "Why not?"
Me: "Do you want to pass your exam?"
Learner: "Yeah."
Me: "Then we need to learn math."

I'm not sure what gave him the idea that I would ever possibly say yes, especially since I've been reminding them daily that they have to keep working hard for these last few weeks so they can be prepared for the exams, but there it is. 

The end of the year also means an increased level of chaos around the school. The grade 10 and 12s have already started exams, which means that learners are now stationed in their rooms while teachers rotate, many classes have had to move rooms to accommodate for testing rooms and camping rooms (the 10 and 12s live at the school during exams) and the timetable has been interrupted. All this combined with a collective need on the part of teachers to fit in every spare minute with learners means that no one ever knows where they should be at any given time. Lovely. 

However, the end of the year has not come without its share of successes. When I can manage to get my learners to pay attention, it seems that they are really learning some things. My grade 9s (many of whom started the year at around a grade 6 level, at best) are starting to improve a little. I have begun doing Mad Minutes (remember those from elementary school?) with them and they are slowly but surely losing their dependence on calculators for basic calculations. Not only that, but they actually enjoy doing it because they can see the improvement too! And ending the year with a geometry unit means that all my extremely visual/concrete learners can experience an increased level of understanding and success right before exam times when a confidence boost is crucial. 

In science we have been working on physics and my personal love for the subject is shining through. I've added lots of activities and topics to the syllabus simply because I just think they're so cool! (Who doesn't love a good Free Falling Bodies experiment?) The kids are getting so much better at doing hands on activities and and learning to predict and use their critical thinking skills. It's pretty cool. Also, I've officially got them hooked on the Magic School Bus to the point where they attempt to sing the theme song any time they see me. (Wait, does this mean I've become Miss Frizzle?! Dream. Realized.)

In the computer lab, we've finally started getting some of the equipment sorted out and functioning properly, including the Classroom Management software for the laptops. This means I can monitor them all from my computer at the front, control their computer if they need help, and disable all the computers momentarily with a click of a button when I need their attention. Of course, I could have used this ten months ago, but better late then never right?

And the last thing that's been boosting my spirits a little is the success of Girls Club, which has been officially renamed Women's Health and Education Project. (WHEP might not be quite as catchy as WHEN, but they picked it themselves!) Each week, about 20 girls gather in my room for a discussion on whatever topic I've decided to talk about that week (they are free to suggest things, but so far no one has...) We've had some interesting discussions on teenage pregnancy, women' rights, and what it means to be a woman. Although they're still extremely shy so the discussion usually turns in to me talking, it's been so interesting to hear about these issues from their point of view. It's been an interesting challenge to try to open their minds to new thoughts and ideas without disrespecting their traditions and culture. Their worldviews are so limited that a lot of what I have been talking about is brand new to them. They are still so afraid to speak their mind which can be frustrating, but also helps to remind me of why I started the club in the first place. I'm excited to see what progress I can make in the next couple of months. My only regret is that I wasn't able to start this Term 1.

Well hopefully this has been a satisfying update for you all. It's hard to believe that my experience is drawing to a close and I'll be home in just over two short months, but there it is. I'm hoping that I'll be posting a bit more often this term with end-of-the-year happenings and just general thoughts, feelings, and emotions so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I'd LOVE if people in the education community can keep your ears open for any potential long-term sub openings for when I return. It'd be great to have a steady income again...
Love and miss you all!

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