Friday, February 15, 2013

School Begins!


Huge earthquake in the Solomon Islands about an hour ago.  Samoa is under a tsunami watch.  I have to say, I have goosebumps just thinking about it.  My bag is packed if I get the call from Peace Corps to head to the hills.  After experiencing the earthquake in Japan in 2011 I have a healthy respect and fear of tsunamis.  My mom and dad both texted within 10 minutes of each other to make sure that I’d heard about the earthquake and was keeping up to date on tsunami warnings.  I love that my parents look out for me!

Update:  Tsunami watch canceled 2 hours after being issued!

Well I’m halfway through my 2nd week of teaching!  The first week fell away in a blur with students spending the first few days cleaning the school which was sorely needed after the hurricane back in December.  The teachers lounge and the science classroom were worst hit but the rest of the school had a lot of greenery damage.  So lots of pruning and sweeping for the children!

The school that I teach at is years 1 – 8, basically the equivalent of grades 1 – 8 in the US.  The difference here is that each year is only 1 classroom of students.  We’re also short 2 teachers this year so year 3 and 4 and years 7 and 8 combine into one classroom each (that’s about 60 kids in one classroom).  There are a little less than 250 kids at my school and I’ve been assigned to hold literacy groups with years 4, 5, and 6.  The school itself is designed in a line with an outlying building that serves as a cafeteria for the teachers.  My school has a beautiful computer lab and library full of books and computers donated from sister schools in Australia.  It was fun walking into the computer room and seeing Macs from the 90s.  It felt like going back to my elementary school with the elegant curvature of the Mac computers in the bright blues and greens.  Opening up the Mac, I ruffled through some of the educational games on it and while the names didn’t mean anything to me, upon opening them up I recognized instantly some of the games that I played as a child.  It really brought back the memories.

Wednesday of the first week I began my testing of each student for their reading level.  I then broke each year into At-Risk, Middle, and Advanced groups so that I can adequately meet the different levels of capability.  I’m rather pleased with the Advanced groups in each year.  Their reading level comprehension is quite good and certainly leaps and bounds beyond my Samoan reading comprehension.  I’ve been given the Library to hold my groups in so I’m thrilled to have access to all of the books.  MESC (Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture??) recently received a grant from the US to purchase reading aid books at various levels for schools that have Peace Corps placed in them.  I’ve glanced through the books and can’t wait to use them.

         Another task I was given was taking pictures of all of the students for a student registry that the pule wanted me to type into the computer.  So I whipped out my handy dandy Sony Cyber-shot and proceeded to take pictures of almost 250 people.  It was actually a really fun exercise to do.  The guys got all cheeky and flashed “gang” signs or did over the shoulder looks haha I was cracking up.  In the end though I cropped all the pictures for just the head so it didn’t matter what they did below the neck.  My favorite group though was the 1st and 2nd graders.  They were absolutely adorable beyond belief.  One poor guy was bawling then I called his name and he quickly wiped his eyes and got up front, tears still rolling down his cheeks.  The teacher was just giggling throughout, I love her!

Finally today I finished with my testing and began my groups.  It was a relief to finally get started with my real work and to get to know the kids.  Though it is rather daunting having to learn 100 names!!  Eeeee well I have 2 years to do it.

There was a big controversy yesterday.  In parts of Samoa, the families of the village take turns to provide lunch to the teachers each day while school is in session.  Yesterday, the village council voted that that would cease to happen in my village.  The teachers are upset about this and I’m not really sure what’s going to happen in the long run.  It’s an interesting cultural aspect but it doesn’t truly matter to me one way or another.  On one hand I got delicious curry chicken from the parents, on the other I can bring my own lunch.  It’s up in the air about how this’ll turn out.

Just for funsies, heres a few of the Samoan phrases I’ve been using in the classroom!  Have fun trying to pronounce ;)

Fa’ata’ita’i mai         Repeat after me
Fa’avasega Put in order
Nofo i li’o Sit in a circle
Valivali le ata Color the picture
Moe’i’ini mata         Close your eyes
Tu’u i fafo se’evae Leave your shoes outside
Usu le pese o mata’i tusi Sing the alphabet song
Na’e malamalama i le palakalafa lea? Do you understand this paragraph?


  1. love this. the picture taking must have been so much fun! Wow. you are meant for this work and I know the kids adore you. Thanks for keeping us updated

  2. what do you mean just for funsies?!!! I have NO IDEA how to pronounce any of this stuff. I guess you'll have to teach me when I come visit you :)