After three full trimesters, 40 weeks of classes, five days of national exams, two rounds of divulgação (trimester grade announcements), and one giant, public, hand-written, grade-wide report card, Dan and I have made it to the end of our first school year in Mozambique!
While it has been exhausting and intense, it has also been wonderful and enlightening. I now know that I do want to be a teacher and that I’m headed in the right direction. While I prefer to teach the younger grades (second and third grade at the State College Friends School was perfect), I am thankful that I was selected to be an eighth grade teacher and not a teacher at the ninth, tenth, or second-cycle level. My students are still young enough to be playful and sweet, and that is something that I really appreciate and take advantage of.
Dan, for his part, has learned that he definitely wants to go back to school and continue teaching at the college level. While he enjoys his eighth and tenth grade students, I think that he misses “real” math. He hopes to re-take his college entrance exams and apply to the University of Washington next fall.
Besides learning a lot about ourselves, we have learned a lot about the Mozambican school system. It has taken an entire year, but I finally feel like I understand my school and the systems that are in place. I understand what my role is, and in what ways I can make a contribution. I feel capable, strong, and confident. This year, I hit the ground watching. Next year, I will hit the ground running.
This is what I have learned about teaching in Mozambique:
1. Be strict. It is better to start off strict and ease off later, rather than the other way around. Classroom discipline was the biggest challenge that I faced this year, and it got much worse towards the end of the year. Establish a pattern of behavior and response.
2. Be fair. Listen to your students. You can’t constantly make allowances or amendments to your rules, but students appreciate a teacher who is fair and just. Some Mozambican students have extraordinary home situations and need a little extra help.
3. Make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Mistakes help you iron out your methodology.
4. Ask for advice. The other teachers know better than you do. This is their school and their country.
5. Laugh. It’s okay!
“To teach is to learn twice.” ~Joseph Joubert, 1842
|Escola Secundaria de Zobue: Zobue Secondary School|
|Inside the classroom|
|Dan teaching eighth-grade math|
|Meet our students! Creating student ID cards for the national exams.|
|Example Student ID. Made using MS Powerpoint! Very official.|
Now that I have finished my first school year and I am beginning to consider my second, I am ready to think about the goals and improvements that I would like to make. In terms of teaching, my goals for next year are as follows:
1. Teach eighth-grade English (again)
I’ve discovered that I don’t really like teaching English! English as a subject is nearly infinite, and I often feel like I am paddling frantically just to stay in the same place. Many of my students have yet to actually master Portuguese, and, as such, my task (that is, building upon their Portuguese to teach a third level of language) seems nearly impossible. I am looking forward to my second year, however, because I will be much more competent and effective. Thankfully, English is a fun disciplines, and most students get pretty excited about it. English lends itself easily to lots of games and songs, and for that I am grateful!
2. Teach ninth-grade Geography
There is an opening next year for a ninth-grade Geography teacher, and I have requested to take the position. I very much like geography (in this case, world geography) and feel like I would be a very effective instructor. If my request is accepted, I will be teaching ninth-grade Geography in the morning and eighth-grade English in the afternoon. Even better, I would “move up” with my eighth grade students.
3. Start an English Club
Dan and I hope to start an English Club with a selected handful of ninth-grade (previously eighth-grade) students. This club will be the starting point for next year’s English Theater group, and will offer extra work to help challenge some of our best and brightest students.
4. Learn to Say, “No”
There are several projects that I hope to “graduate” next year, including REDES (to be left in the care of my counterpart, Inacia) and Informatica (to be left in the care of my counterpart, Sopa). While I really liked teaching computers, I prefer to teach to large groups. I also prefer geography.
This week marks the official start of summer vacation, which will last until January 14th. And although our main responsibilities are at the school, this two-month respite does not mean that Dan and I will be idle. Here are a few things on our agenda:
- Blog Posts! Pictures, information, pleas for money, and more!
- South Africa! Cape Town to Kruger in 18 days!
- Northern Mozambique! Dolphins, Seafood, and Rough Roads!
- Mozambique Mosaic! My photos make their way to Zobue!
Stay tuned, and have a WONDERFUL SUMMER VACATION!