A Typical Day:
I usually wake up bright and early at 7am after the sun’s already been up for an hour or so. After a leisurely breakfast of yogurt or oatmeal I’ll put on my puletasi and get ready to go. At 7:45 I’ll start out towards the school on my bike and it’ll take me about 15 minutes to get through the village and up the dirt road. As I pass through the village, people going about their morning work will wave and say “manuia le aso!” or “have a good day!” My school is about ¼ mile up a dirt road into the country and on rainy days it can turn into a mini river with hidden potholes. Not so fun on a bike. As I pull up to the school around 8, the kids are already in the thick of their morning Samoan reading exercises. I walk past the computer lab and almost 60 kids are sitting on the floor, reading various Samoan books out loud to each other. A few of them wave and call out “Morning Michelle!” and then go back to their reading. I spend the next 30 minutes in my room working on finalizing lesson plans as kids filter in and out asking for help or just socializing before their day starts. My brother Daniel usually saunters in with a few of his friends and takes the highly sought after job of cleaning my classroom. Believe it or not, sweeping is an extremely sought after job and kids’ll argue over who gets to do it. In just over 5 minutes they’ve swept the floor, cleaned the mats, and emptied the trash. Good as new!
At 8:45, morning prayer starts. 3 days a week, all of the children file outside and line up by class year, girls in front and boys in back. The teacher will have them march in place with shouts at intervals for “left turn!”, “about turn!” etc and all the school will move as one, usually with the year ones and twos not quite understanding the English and turning any direction they please. After a few minutes of that, the students will sing their prayers which is quite beautiful to listen to. Each day, the teachers will choose a different passage from the Bible to read to the kids and the kids will follow along in their Bibles which they’re supposed to bring to school. When the Bible teachings are finished, drum roll begins and all students turn to look as the Samoan flag is raised. Right after the flag raising, all of the teachers will file among their students doing a check for correct clothing, having a handkerchief, having clean fingernails, and for the older grades that they have a Bible with them. The boys also get their hair checked where if the teacher grabs their hair and their fingers are able to grasp something, then their hair is too long. Usually if someone has something wrong with their clothing then they’ll get a rap on their head. After inspections, the Principal talks to the school about topics of the day such as issues with food, upcoming exams, or other such things. The end of the assembly comes by having the students march in place, turn towards their classrooms, and march to class. After the students have walked away, the teachers and I will usually stay out for the next 10 minutes or so and gossip or chatter about happenings for the day. I’ll maybe understand 30% or so of this since it’s all in Samoan.
I’ll usually teach 4-5 groups each day, all at around 45 minutes each. The classes usually involve going over homework in the beginning and practicing speaking English with simple questions like “What did you do yesterday” and “What will you do this weekend” as a warmup. I’ll then go over the lesson and leave the final 5 minutes or so for a game. I’ve taught a few different games to my class but they’re most of all obsessed with JENGA and something called Tip Tap Toe that involves hand slapping, rock paper scissors, and some fast thumb action and head turning. I’ve never seen it before Samoa but the kids really like it.
All the kids from the school stuffed into my room for assembly
Lunch is between 11:00 and 11:45 and the teachers all eat together in the science room. There’s a small kitchen in the back of the science room and they’ll usually make rice, chicken, or curry for the teachers as well as copious amounts of tea. Lunch involves lots of gossip and jokes. After you’re done eating, a student will bring to you a bowl full of water for washing as well as a towel to dry off with. After lunch I’ll finish with my groups and then at 1:00, the bell will ring signaling the end of the school day. As I leave school, the kids, especially those in years 2 and 3 will get super excited and run around my bike, racing me down the dirt road. It’s definitely one of my more favorite parts of the day.
And that’s that! I’ll make it home by 1:30 most days and then it’s rest and relaxation from there. Every now and then kids’ll come over to my house to work on their homework with me but otherwise it’s pretty quiet.
Walking my bike down the road for me
My word wall