We wake up at 5:30 (in the dark!) and start getting ready. We usually eat breakfast (oatmeal) a little before 6, by which time our host mom is also up making breakfast/packing a lunch for our 8-year-old host brother. We often pack sandwiches for lunch as well (ham-like meat and cheese).
We leave the house by 6:20. As we walk outside the sun is still behind the mountains so we can see them outlined against a faintly pink sky. It’s still pretty dark (the streetlights turn off at 6:35) and it’s COLD. We were not prepared for that the first day but now we always wear our fleeces in the morning. It’s about a twenty minute walk from our house to the place where we get picked up. There’s usually a few other people walking to school or work and they often pass us even though we’re walking quickly.
Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long for the comvy (kind of like a van?) to arrive at our pick-up point, then we pile in to head to our different schools. I’ve been observing in a combined school (grades 1-10) in a middle-class area of our town. It’s a bigger school (maybe 100 kids per grade?) and is made up of three blocks of yellow buildings. Our comvy usually arrives at 7:00, just in time to catch the last few minutes of staff meeting.
There are nine of us observing at this school so we usually figure out which classes we’re going to during homeroom time (there’s only supposed to be one of us per class). Classes are 40 minutes long with no time in between and there are eight classes per day with half an hour’s tea break in the middle. Phew! The bell to change classes sounds like a tornado siren and is REALLY loud if you happen to be standing next to it when it goes off (that’s happened to me twice).
The good thing about doing this all week is that I’ve really been to a lot of different classes – every grade between 5 and 10, every subject from science to English to math to Afrikaans to geography, and I think seven different teachers so far. There are definitely some teachers I admire more than others. Here’s some examples of good lessons and some examples of bad lessons:
Good lesson – In one social studies class they were learning about Namibia’s natural resources and the impact of those resources on the economy. The teacher brought in props to help explain marine resources – a can of tuna, oyster shells, and some fish pictures. The kids were really into learning how different fish are used in other products and how people can eat oysters. =)
Bad lesson – The teacher arrived twenty minutes late and was in a bad mood when he got there. It was a science class and they were going over the exam from last term. He yelled at people for getting wrong answers, and there was not much interaction other than that. Terrible.
Good lesson – In one English class the students debated whether there should be three school terms (as there currently are) or four terms. It wasn’t the most stimulating debate (they were fifth graders), but it got the students up and talking about a relevant subject.
Bad lesson – In another English class the teacher spent the entire period calling the class up to her desk one by one to grade their work from the day before. She didn’t give the other students anything to work on in the meantime, but yelled at them if they made any noise. At the table I was standing closest to, one student was just asleep at her desk, a couple others were doodling, and one was reading an Afrikaans book. What a waste of a class!
A typical class is about forty kids. There’s a desk and chair for everyone, although some of those may be falling apart. For English at least everyone has a textbook – the other classes it’s hit and miss. All the classrooms have chalkboards. The students wear a uniform of grey bottoms (skirts for girls) and blue tops. They address all the female teachers (myself included) as “Miss.”
By teatime at 10:00, I’m ready for lunch. The kids actually do eat then; most of them bring food from home. On Friday the school provides a meal for everyone (looking forward to that tomorrow!). Teatime is also when I finally get warm enough to take off my jacket. At 10:25 we got back to classes until 1:00 when everyone is finally released! By that time it definitely feels like 3 or 4 in the afternoon even though it’s only one.
Sadly, that’s not the end of the day for us. We all go back to the training center to eat lunch, then have another two and a half hour session on something – usually a medical issue (ie. Malaria) or more language study. At 4:30 we’re more than happy to walk home, knowing that dinner and sitting in front of the TV await us. =) I don’t even feel bad about watching TV because most of it is in Afrikaans. Sometimes we go running in the evening (I’m so lucky to have Dylan for that – most of the girls can’t go out to run). We bought a bag of our host mom’s ginger cookies (she sells baked goods from her house) which we have with tea after dinner every night – so good!
We’re usually in our room by eight and have the lights out by nine. Gotta get plenty of rest to survive the next school day!
Tomorrow (Friday) is our last observation day. On Saturday we have Traditional Cooking Day, where all the host families get together at the training center and cook traditional Namibian food with us. Two things I’m not looking forward to trying (but probably should) are “smileys” (goat head) and mopane worms (yes, worms). I’ve also heard that we will actually be slaughtering chickens on site. Hm. On the bright side, there will be fat cakes!
Also, on MONDAY we will actually find out our permanent site – where we will be living for the next two years. We have really been counting down to this and CAN’T WAIT to find out! Stay tuned for an exciting update sometime next week. =)