Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just a quick email (email from Amy)

Well, I had a chance to get online, so I figured I'd send out a short
email. It's been a long couple of days. We have term tests this week (I
hate whoever wrote the grade 7 science was weird, with
questions I'm not sure I could have answered, I have suspicions that one
or two of the questions aren't even true, after all, I don't really
believe that the hippopotamus is part of the sea and coast ecosystem.)
Also, what I suspected were weeds in my yard have unexpectedly erupted
into marigolds.

I am always, always, always early. I wake up for church worrying that I am
late, but no matter how late I get up, no matter how many times the
bells have rung, I am still always too early. Sunday was the start of
daylight savings time for us (remember that we are going into winter
now) and I was a little concerned that I had maybe set my alarm wrong,
but I got up at what I thought was the correct time, got ready, and
headed out the door. Several of my sixth graders stopped me on the way
there and told me that the bell I had heard a few minutes earlier was
the Sunday school bell (which I don't entirely understand because I've
never seen kids going to Sunday School but anyway,) I sat with Mr.
!Geiseb for about half an hour and then, when I thought it was probably
about time, I went to church. No one was there. No one at all. I went
home, ate some breakfast and figured that maybe they would ignore
daylight savings time and go at the usual time, so at 10:30 I headed off
to church. A few people were there, but I still waited about half an
hour for church to really start. I figured I'd be used to Africa time by
now, but the problem is that it's not consistent. School almost always
starts on time and so does When You Are Mine, but you never really know.
I spent the earlier part of the week waking up way too early (like 2
hours before anyone else even got up) and waiting at the gate because,
although it's daylight savings time, they compensate by moving the time
that school starts to later in the day, then they set their clocks so
that that time matches the earlier time. I really don't have any clue
what time it actually is anymore and I spend my days in constant stress
that I'm going to be late. Daylight savings time really messes with your
system when you mainly measure time by sunlight.

So I had my first real report of corporal punishment on Tuesday. It
wasn't too severe, at least not compared to the stories that I've heard,
but it made me kind of sick to my stomach because I feel like it was my
fault. I know that my discipline has been too lax. I've just been
putting off making a more stringent discipline programme until next term
when we can all start fresh again. I figured there wasn't much point in
trying to implement some half thought out discipline program for 2
weeks. So I was sitting in the classroom, helping the learners revise
(review) for their maths test. They needed extra practice with long
division. In the middle of revision two members of the school board
showed up wanting to talk to the 6th and 7th graders. I figured it
would be a mostly good-hearted, though heavily moralizing, lecture on
being better behaved and more diligent in their studies, since that
seems to be the main way of trying to motivate learners. The principal
told me that I didn't need to go and they would tell me what happened,
which was nice since I don't really like going to meetings where I sit,
not understanding what's going on and, as often as not, being used as an
illustration for who knows what point the speaker is trying to make. So
I went to the library and read for while (other than trying to work
myself to death with projects that are not directly my job, my main
coping strategy seems to be reading prodigious amounts. I find that I
read during pretty much all of my free time which, I'm sure, makes the
Namibians think I'm a little funny, since reading is not a popular free
time activity here.) Only later did I find out that the lecture had been
partially (or possibly mainly) about how the learners were misbehaving
in my classes and several of the learners who were deemed to be too
talkative (although how they parsed that out I have no clue, probably
other learners told on each other) were "beaten"- hit with a stick on
the palm of their hand. Oy, I hope term break helps me because I'm
feeling a little "beaten" myself. I guess I'll just blame it on
culture-shock. It seems as good a reason as any.

So on Wednesday I was invigilating an exam (isn't that a wonderful term.
I think we would say I was proctoring the exam, but I like
"invigilating" better.) We had maths in the morning and KhoeKhoe in the
afternoon. When it came to the KhoeKhoe exam I got a little panicky (it
might have been a long time since I've done long division, but at least
the questions are in English so I can actually read them.) I got one of
the other teachers to come in and answer questions (he was a bit more
brusque than I would have liked, but what can you do?) I had noticed how
frustrated Nadia was getting, but I really couldn't do anything to help
her. She answered maybe one question and then she put her head down on
her desk and cried for the rest of the exam. Nadia is probably the
brightest pupil I have in the sixth grade. She was orphaned last year
and came to this school to be closer to her grandmother. She went to a
school in Windhoek before so she is an absolute whiz at English. Anyway,
I figured out what was wrong. She can't read KhoeKhoe. It's really not
that uncommon of a problem. Since the apartheid educational system
didn't teach African languages, only English or Afrikaans, many adults
can't read KhoeKhoe, which is part of the reason why they find my
parroting of the words in the hymnal so amazing. One of the things I
really like about the Namibian educational system is that it
acknowledges that it is important for children to know their own home
language. Anyway, there wasn't much I could do for Nadia. Finally I came
up with a plan. I cornered her during the break and I told her I had a
special job for her. I told her that I had been looking for someone to
help me learn KhoeKhoe better next term and I thought that she would be
perfect for the job. Nadia reminds me a lot of what I was like as a kid,
she loves being around teachers, so she was thrilled. I figure I'll
borrow some of the early elementary KhoeKhoe books from one of the
teachers. Then she can tutor me in KhoeKhoe, which will be good for me,
and as she's trying to teach me she'll be unknowingly improving her own
KhoeKhoe reading skills. That's the plan anyway, we'll see how it works out.

So, that's my week so far. Hope things are going well in your neck of
the woods. Much love.

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