This is not a paper I would turn into grad school that was proofread, spell checked, and cared about but never or barely read. This is a blog that people will actually read but not grade. I write like I think and talk, which is not organized or correct in many ways. I was diagnosed with chronic sarcasm as a child, its genetic.

The views expressed on this website are entirely my own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sassy Sami and the Secondary School

It’s hot. Damn. I want some cold drink, think I’ll go get some Tab.
                Reasons why that thought is all sorts of weird:
1.        “cold drink”
2.       It is going to get a lot hotter
3.       Wanting cold drink
4.       Tab

So the week or so I have had some blog moments, but chose to not relive them. I have spent some time at the secondary school which was overwhelming, depressing, but also exciting, hopeful and fun. A teenager fell in love with me and another called me fat. I made and devoured French toast, puked my brains out (not in that order), and had some very good conversations with several people at Bathuseng (the org I work for) which were very frustrating but overall promising.  

Secondary school:
Arranging work at the secondary school has been less than awesome. The broken appointments and general poor attitude from admin and teachers should have given me sufficient warning to how this last week ‘observing classes’ would go, but I still show up every day refusing to accept the bullshit as normal. Tuesday was my big day with the 12 grade learners, so I show up to the school at 8am and stand in the back of ‘assembly’ (all the students stand in the courtyard and someone prayers, they sing some, most don’t pay attention and sometimes there are productive announcements) waiting for classes to start. The first class I am supposed to be a part of is at 9am, so I sit in a random room a couple teachers share as an office. <teachers don’t have their own classrooms so they keep their things in an office> The teacher that I am supposed to be with is not around, she is still at home. No one is surprised or seems concerned. I ask the other LO teacher (who I am supposed to be observing later that week) what we are going to do about it. He seems to think I will teach that class, and all of her other classes (including Afrikaans and geography). I am very aware of how many the schools work and classrooms filled with learners and no teacher is normal, but, I like to be a pain in dumbasses and ask questions. I ask what would happen if I was not there, where her lesson plans are so I could teach a proper lesson, and ask if it is against any rules for a teacher to not show up without warning or reason. That didn’t go very far. 

Next thing you know I am standing in front of a classroom of 12 grade learners, ages ranging from 17 to 20-something. The room had broken windows and an aluminum/tin door that did not shut, and on that windy day was very annoying. We ended pushing 3 bricks and a desk to try and keep it from disturbing us too much, but I couldn’t help but think about when these kids start eating me alive it will take longer for my crying lekgowa ass to escape. Luckily for me, the students were great. It took a solid 25 minutes for me to get them to answer any type of question, I tried not to push too much and made sure to explain what I was doing carefully remembering the general teaching style is lecture and silence from the class. After we went around introducing ourselves and giving one fun fact they lightened up a little, and I got some information from them. We talked about school, challenges, successes, what they want to do after they finish secondary school, and what they want to change in the community. Most people do not make it to 12th grade, there is little incentive to stay in school and plenty of reasons to drop out, so these learners are more likely to be model students simply because they have made it this far. It was wonderful to hear what they want to do after school, most said either doctor, nurse, or social worker and several explained that the community needs these services and they wanted to be the ones to help. I am not a pessimist by nature, but it was also a little sad when we were talking about it because there was a clear disconnect between what they wanted to do and what they thought they could do, and although I think they have the ability to become a doctor- it is not likely. Especially when no one is willing to teach them. 

An example of the defeated mindset was when we were talking about school conditions and one girl said “I am not mad at the school, we are in a rural village, we can’t have things like other places.” AAAHHHH!!!!!! Was how I wanted to react, but I chose to contain myself. That mindset is so widespread, and I am afraid has gone from the apartheid generations to the first free generation. I think many young people understand they deserve better, but I think people have been desensitized and there is little fight or motivation left. So maybe the ones who know they deserve better do not think it is attainable, or have no idea how to reach it- so feel hopeless. 

SO ANYWAY, after that class was lunch. I sat and ate my apple, and about 1/5 of the food they put in front of me. The teacher finally showed up, and informed us that she will not be attending the rest of her classes because she doesn’t want to, and she thinks I will teach, this was of course was not in English and I had no idea what was going on. Again, I found myself in a classroom by myself. So for the next two classes had discussions with the classes and actually did really well with one of the classes. I had them do a little exercise about how they can all solve a problem in the community, next thing you know I am like some motivational speaker that the learners are listening to and asking questions. Where did that come from? Not sure but it was cool. After the last class I found the teacher and tried having a little discussion. Fail. Worthless.
When I went to the school today to observe another LO class, the morning prayer went to 830 which is dumb but typical- class starts at 8 so the first period many times just doesn’t happen. So go to the teacher I am observing. He asked what the plan was, and I reminded him. He then informed me that there is no LO today, its PE b/c it’s Friday. That of course made me chuckle because he is the one that told me to show up at 8 for LO. Worthless. Part of our convo went something like this:
Him: today is PE because it’s Friday, I don’t know what we can do. Maybe you can teach them, you know aerobics, no?
Me: yes, I do know aerobics, however, I did not prepare anything because you told me I was observing your LO class this morning.
Him: but there is no LO class today, its PE
Me: I understand that. Why do you need me to teach PE, who is supposed to do it?
Him: I am. Its my class.
Me: ok, so it is your class. Not my class. I do not understand why I should teach it. I will observe LO next week, and we can all meet again and discuss the next step of our plan.
Him: you are leaving?
Me: yes. I came here to observe LO because you asked me to help make the classes better. Since there is no LO class I am not going to waste my time. 

The rose colored Peace Corps goggles that most new PCV wear, the ones that can make lazy co workers look hardworking, well those faded away about week two at site, but I still refuse to accept the irresponsible behavior that is standard at too many organizations and schools acceptable. I have been walking on egg shells, trying to be so damn culturally sensitive and not offend anyone since I got here and I am kind of over it. Being a horrible worker is not a cultural difference, and I feel no need to be sensitive about that. I am 100% aware that the reason many of these problems are around is because of the history of South Africa. Let’s be real, the white people really F’ed things up. It is the old oppressive government at fault for the horrible education system and much of the poverty, but continuing to excuse this attitude will not help anyone and the young generation needs some role models. 

Well, so I have a lot of work to do at the schools. As much as I would like to give some of the teachers the bird and leave, the students deserve teachers. If I can help them study for their national final exam which decides if they graduate (8 ppl passed at this school last year), then great. Maybe I will meet some other teachers that are motivated and we can work together. Maybe stars will align and some of the not so amazing teachers will improve, I have to try. 

So that was my week at the secondary school, sorry for the rambling. I could have gone on for a couple more pages, but I’ll stop. Now on to a brief summary of the good things that happened at Bathuseng this week! YAY! I had a really good discussion with Mma Baloyi (manager) about some major changes that need to happen at the org. I explained my frustrations with the organization and certain people and she was supportive. Without getting into the details, it was really good. Done with egg shells.

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