Sunday, February 3, 2013

Back to School

It's back to school for the 2013 school year!

Officially, the first day of school was on Monday, January 14.  According to the schedule, the mayor and a few other dignitaries would start the opening ceremony on Monday morning, classes would begin on Tuesday morning, and the school year would be in full swing by Tuesday afternoon.  As per usual, however, we had some trouble gaining momentum.

First day of classes...

On Monday, January 14, Dan and I arrived at the school at 8:30.  The opening ceremony was scheduled to begin at 7:30, but we knew better than to arrive on time.  As it was, the ceremony didn't start until after 10AM.

The day started with a visit from an unknown district councilman.  He yelled for about twenty minutes, then submitted the floor to another district councilman, who yelled for another twenty minutes.  They submitted the floor to a political party leader, who led us all in a rousing rendition of slogans and political statements.  Then the mayor arrived and drowned a baby tree*, delivered another two hour lecture, and marched away to the sound scattered applause.  It was, all in all, a very successful start to our second and final school year in Mozambique.

*  "For every student, a tree; for every school, a forest."  According to a mandatory country-wide initiative, every secondary school student must plant a tree for their school for each year of high school.  While this is a nice initiative in theory, nobody really seems to know how to plant (or care for) trees in Mozambique.  Most trees die in less than one month.  You'd think that, as a Forestry major, I would have the tools to combat this problem.  The truth is, I simply do not care.

How many Mozambique-isms can you find in this photo?  1.  Chefe yelling at the crowd
for no apparent reason  2.  Chefe outfit  3.  Chefe table with tablecloth and fake flowers
4.  100 people crammed into one single classroom  5.  Children staring in the windows

Our second day of school was decidedly less successful.  Dan and I arrived at the school, lab coats and notebooks in hand, only to find that the school was completely empty.  This wasn't a complete surprise.  We went home, then, and took a walk, instead.

On Wednesday, we decided to try again.  I didn't really expect to teach, but I thought that I would take a look inside my classrooms.  To my surprise, I gained a small following of students.

"Are you going to teach us, Teacher?"  They asked.  They seemed so hopeful and earnest that I didn't have the heart to walk away.

"Okay," I said.  "Classroom 7, then."

Upon entering my classroom, though, I found desks and chairs in a muddled state of disrepair.  Luckily, I have learned how to handle such unexpected contingencies.  I put on my chefe hat.*

"First," I said, "You need to clean up this classroom."  I pointed towards some trembling 12-year-old girl.    You... go to that bush and make a broom."  I pointed towards another.  "You... clean the floors."  And another.  "You... move the desks into four rows.  I'm coming back in fifteen minutes."

With that, I turned on my heel and swept away.  When I returned, there were 21 students seated at their desks in a tidy, well-swept, and organized classroom.  Thank goodness.  I don't know what I would have done if there weren't.

*  Not a real hat.  In order to be respected in Mozambique, one must learn to act confident and collected, as one who is accustomed to being in control.  Such behavior is indicative of a true boss, or chefe.  The boss who demands respect, earns respect.

The first day of classes, as seen from the Teacher's Desk

During the first week, I managed to teach one short lesson to each of my four English classes. By the end of the second week, we were running on an (almost) regular schedule. Unfortunately, however, there was a hiccup in my plan for the third week, as Dan and I left our school for Maputo.  Rather than leave a vague assignment for some other teacher to write on the board, I printed two worksheets for each student and packed them neatly in four separate folders.  

"These are my assignments for week three," I told the Director, plucking my imaginary hat out of my pocket and yanking it down over my ears.  "See that each of my students receive their work.  I will be back on February 5th."   

It was, I decided, sauntering out of the office, going to be a very successful year, indeed.

Work left behind for  my eighth-grade English students

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