Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm here from America for an hour a day???

I'm here from America for an hour a day???
(Caution: long post!)

A brief description of my project is to take reading classes three times a week, (2 groups per grade, advanced reading and "at risk") from years 4, 5 and 6 (they call it years instead of grades). Then every two weeks help year 2 with English and observe the class when I have time. My Pule (Principal) and all the teachers know my project, they know why I am here but that does not mean they understand or really care.
My Pule originally told me my teaching time will be from 7-8, which is before school starts, the sun is not even up yet! As I said in a previous blog, it is best to agree then later try to change it. Best way to do that is to make them think it was their idea (I know it's manipulative), or to just do it my way without saying anything. I had to do both to get the schedule I wanted and it only took me two weeks.
She originally said 7-8, I asked her what time does the sun come up in Samoa and whether it was safe for me to walk in the dark, she then thought about it and said we have to have morning tea (30 minutes) and lotu (church, singing/ a prayer, 30 minutes) at 8 so I can teach class 9-10.
Great! Much better than 7 am! But one hour!? Really? I left my country, my family, my friends, my life to teach for only one hour a day??? REALLY? That is why you applied for a Peace Corps? So I can teach for one hour A DAY??? No no no no no, not this Peace Corps!
Year 5
WEEK 1- I was surprised but the teachers did start teaching on the second day of school! Really impressive for Samoa. I taught year 4 on Tuesday, year 5 on Wednesday and year 6 on Thursday then we had a waste of a day on Friday singing half the day. After my one hour a day of teaching I decorated my room all week and planned lessons. I did not push for my schedule just yet because I had to get my classroom ready anyway and I thought it shouldn't be rushed but done carefully.
School is from 8 am until 1 pm. I stayed later everyday until 2 or 3 because my room really really was a mess!
I was warned about teachers trying to get PC to sub for them and I did not want to be known as the move in sub, (again, NOT why I left home) even though I was only teaching an hour a day. The first week they asked me to sub and I told them I wanted to help but was not allowed because of policy, which is true.
Year 6
It is the first week of school and already one a teacher did not show for school. The students were just writing down what was on the board then sitting there doing nothing the rest of the day. I secretly took them in my class and helped them learn the order of a story, then we made up our own. I am sure the teachers/principal knew what I did, I later told them I had spare time and was the reading teacher so I could only help them read for one hour. I was not doing Science, History, Math or any other subjects I know they would want me to do. I heard if you give them a little they will ask for a lot. Had to put my foot down quick!
Year 8 helping me with my classroom.
Year 8! Visits me often after school.
WEEK 2- My Pule teaches year 5 and 6, making it hard to take them for more than only one hour each per week. However, she was not there Wednesday, Thursday or Friday because of family issues, PERFECT! My opportunity to make my own schedule. On Wednesday I told the other teachers I could help because we are short handed with her being gone, since it is against my policy to sub I can still teach my own class. They seemed really grateful! I asked if I could take year 4 first then help after... I think you get the idea- On Wednesday I took year 4, 5 and 6 for an hour each! So Thursday it was easy for me to take year 4, 5 and 6 for an hour again. Perfect! It is almost exactly what I wanted! Teaching hours are from 9-1:30 with a break from 11-11:30, so I'm teaching 3 out of the 4 hours, YES! I will take it! My next step is for Friday, I can not take all of them Friday because it's a 1/2 day. Last Friday I was a bit annoyed, it felt like a waste of a day. We teach until 11 and after the break is singing... Why these kids need more singing I don't. Why the teachers complain there is not enough time to teach all subjects then they don't teach Friday, again- no idea...
Helping me decorate the classroom.
But this Friday we had 2 teachers missing! TWO!!!! My school has a total of 5 teachers, my pule and me making that 6 teacher and a Peace Corps for 8 classes. Without my Pule, a missing teacher and me not subbing that leaves us with 4 teachers for 8 classes! Again- another opportunity for me to move around the schedule. I told them I would take all three classes until the break. I wanted to take year 4, 5 and 6 for two hours before the break so then next Friday, hopefully when all teachers are there, I would be able to take all classes on Friday but at different times,  maybe 30 minutes or 40 minutes each before they have to sing.
I had a lesson planned for 2 hours but because we were understaffed they did not want to teach, making up some silly "special program" for the first 30 minutes of school. I sat patiently waiting for the students to be dismissed for class, it really was a waste of time. BUT- I got the students for over an hour and that made me happy. It went really well too! At first there was fighting because I had about 45 students trying to sit in 15 chairs, did not think about that since I only made the decision to take all three classes only 5 minutes ago.. had to think quick on my feet! I already had my desks and chairs put in a circle so I had everyone sit on the desk, giving us plenty of room while I gave instructions what we were going to do that day.
I put them into their own grades and did rotations. Over the week I taught them a flash card game and what to do in reading groups, those were two of the rotations and the third was reviewing what they learned that week. The students would write down something they learned with a picture and after could go read or play a game with the others then we would switch. It worked surprisingly smoothly and was not as loud or chaotic as I expected. The teachers were impressed and kept saying Ms. Mati Malosi (meaning strong). Students still sang after the break but the day did not feel like a waste unlike the last week.
WEEK 3- Pule is back... Teachers told her what I did last week taking all grades at different times on Wednesday and Thursday then all of them Friday, it was just a known thing now that I take all grades at different times throughout the week and part time Friday. Wonderful! Week three was a success! I should be only taking them 3 times a week not 5 but that is something I will work on that on week 4.
Again, I was asked to sub- I told them I was too busy with my classes but I will take all my classes for an hour like I am suppose to a day and they can switch around the other classes how they want outside of my time... (I pretty much just said, no, I am going to do what I do everyday and you can figure it out, but I said it a lot nicer!)
All coloring their hands. Some have never help scissors before,
they are great with a machete but new to scissors...? 
Decoration students helped me with.
Week 4- I also heard PCV sometimes get suckered into being "copy bitch," doing secretary work, my pule asked me to make copies today. I know she does not make copies for herself because she is the Principal but I do not want to be the one to always do it either. If I do it for her I am sure other teachers will start asking me as well then eventually BAM- copy bitch. I said all the machines are different and if she would teach me how, if she teaches me how then I can do it next time. She said, oh you don't know how, never mind, don't worry about that and she got another teacher to do it. I knew she was not going to teach me since she does not do them herself and I do not mind her thinking I am not capable of making copies, I am NOT being known as copy bitch at my school.
I'm pretty satisfied with my schedule but it needs a few more tweaks.  I loved teaching everyday but it is only required I meet with each group 3 times a week and I need to find time to observe and help teach year 2 lesson every two weeks, which is the second part to my project... PC was schedules to come out Monday to check on all the Volunteers, some are struggling at home or their schools. (I heard a few PCV, their Principals will not let them teach yet!! I feel so bad for them!)
So - PC was coming to my school Monday and Monday morning I told my Pule I had to prepare for their arrival and I could not have class. I explained they were coming to check on me making sure I am teaching and I am suppose to be observing year 2 and I have not done that yet, I am worried what the PC might say and I do not want to get into trouble! (Soooooooo not true) Her brilliant idea is for me to not teach Mondays and to observe year 2 every Monday then to teach the rest of the days... Score!
It took me 2 weeks to get the majority of the schedule I wanted, 1 week to try it out and I think week 4 it is now complete! Guess I will find out next Monday for sure, I'll keep you updated.

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