Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I am a teacher. Ok not really, but I did spend two days in the teachers’ lounge.

School started Monday and I was surprisingly nervous and excited. I discovered that my hand was actually shaking as I scooped the last of my breakfast yogurt* out of the cup. You know that build up of endorphins and adrenaline you get when you are nervous or excited, the sort that makes your hold body sort of hum starting in the stomach and vibrating out? That, I had that.

It wasn’t that I necessarily had anything to be too worried about; it was just that I was embarking on something totally new and I guess my body was gearing up for fight or flight.

*I am sure Annette will be excited to learn that I now think that yogurt is pretty much the most awesome thing ever. I started eating it while I was on the antibiotics just in case they were killing all the good bacterias in my belly. And hot damn! Yogurt is delicious! Who knew? Too bad I had to discover it in a country where a kilogram of it costs $13 tala. Pretty pricey.

I arrived at school at 7:30 a.m. and headed to the teachers’ lounge. During the first few days of school the students clean up the classrooms and school grounds. Other teachers sort of flowed in an out of the lounge as they monitored the students cleaning. I, however, was told that I could just stay in the lounge. I started writing letters home to keep myself busy.

At some point the lounge kitchen was opened up and a cat with a litter of two was discovered in the cabinets. All the commotion scared the mother cat away. The reaction to this discovery is a good highlight of cultural differences between our countries. In states I imagine at first the cats would be left alone as mostly women teachers gathered around to ooh and ahh at the adorableness. At some point someone with devise a way to get the cat and kittens into a box of some sort, most likely padded with blankets, and they would be adopted or taken to the Humane Society.

However, the reaction was slightly different here. The faletua ([fah-lay too-ah] pastor’s wife) that found the kittens carried them out of the room on a broken platter at arms length. There was much commotion as the other women scattered trying to get as far away as possible. The platter was unceremoniously dumped in the corner and a desk was moved over it. The kittens cried and mewed while the faletua looked on in disgust. They could tell that I was interested in the situation and appeared to be making sympathetic faces at the beasts, so I was asked repeatedly if I wanted one. My response of lei ([lay-eye] no) was appreciated. I was told that these kittens were the same, if not worse than rats.

The pule gave a welcome, introduction, pep-talk sort of speech to start off the new year. Most of it was unintelligible to me, but, in what I am discovering is typical conversational Sāmoan, he sprinkled in a lot of English words. He also said something in English after apologizing to me for my not being able to understand. He talked about the importance of good exam results, but how we cannot focus only on the good students to the detriment of the poorer students in order to boost results. He also made a point of reminding us that Wesley’s students are the rejected ones (meaning they didn’t score well enough to get into a government school). And at some point the English word “refugees” was thrown in. Not sure the context for that one. He also talked a lot about the School C and PSSC exam results that included a lengthy discussion of how poorly the computer students performed (apparently most 7, 8 and 9 — with 1 being the best and 9 being the worst grades).

Two things that I pondered on during that speech were:

1. What were the students doing while all of the teachers were in this meeting?

2. Who in the heck designed this school and why did they build the teachers lounge in such a way that it is the hottest room in the building and completely airless? There is a regular prevailing breeze coming from the east in this village, yet in the teachers’ lounge the only windows are on the west side AND they open up to the wall of the bulk of the building, so they aren’t doing much good anyway. I went to the bathroom on the second day (downstairs) and it was so dramatically cooler than the lounge that at first I thought it was air-conditioned. It wasn’t.

Side note: On the black board in the teachers lounge was a list of four or five end of year reminders. The first one had something to do with final exams, but the second to last one was quite intriguing:

“Warn all students about toxicated liquor.”

I am not sure what his toxicated liquor is, but is sounds dangerous to me.

On my second day as a teacher, I sat in the lounge for quite a while working on lesson plans. Then I got the key to the second computer lab in the school so I could assess the situation in there. Assessing was difficult as there was on electricity in the room. However, I did take stock of what I could see. Unfortunately, even if the all turn out to be in working order, there aren’t really enough computers in the lab for it to function for a class. There are seven towers in the room. I suppose if we got all 24 computers in the first lab working and all seven in the second lab working we could split the difference and have two labs with 15 computers each. That would work out.

Anyway, seven towers, seven UPS, 20 monitors, at least nine keyboards and at least five mice. Seeing as how I am three mice short in the current working lab, I can at least scavenge from this one.

At some point someone had pimped this lab out. There are Ethernet ports (looks like a wall jack for a telephone) built into the desks for networking. There are stations at desks around the perimeter of the room and at desks in the middle of the room (someone ran all the cable through PCV piping). There is a secure media rack that houses all the network connections and some sort of Ethernet-hub-repeater thingy (over my computing knowledge head and Cale’s too).

However, the real excitement happened later in the day when my head of department joined me in the teachers’ lounge and told me that he wants to step down as HOD. Not only that, but he wants to recommend me to be the HOD. Not only that, but he doesn’t want to share this information with the pule personally, but would rather include it in the Wesley College Computer Studies Status Report I had typed up. Not only that, but after I added this information to the report, he wanted me to be the one to give it to the pule and tell the pule what was up. So my HOD left and there I sat waiting for an opening with the pule to tell him that my boss doesn’t want to be my boss anymore — he wants me to be the boss.

If I thought I was nervous that first morning, now my heart was pounding. So I showed the pule my report. I gave him a copy of the Peace Corps volunteers generate textbook I would like to use in my class. And I told him the HOD wanted to step down. The pule took it surprisingly well. I currently have no idea what it means though. I don’t know if the old HOD still stands, if the pule will appoint a new HOD, if I am the HOD. Seeing as how computer studies is a department of two, there aren’t many other options.

More developments to come.

— Sara


Teresa said...

You can just box those kittens up and send them to me... I will do plenty of oohing and ahhing!!!

annette said...

oh, sara, i cannot tell you how happy i am that you love yogurt and that you are getting all of that good bacteria!!! really, you have made my day! next you will probably be begging me for my homemade vanilla goatmilk yogurt. of course i will gladly give you some when you come home : )

well girl, the surprises just keep coming for you and your new job. you seem to be handling if all very well...wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Barb Carusillo said...

Whatever you do, don't send those kittens to Teresa! Her menagerie is already using up all the 02 in her apartment. Anyway, going from your first day on the job and you haven't really taught anyone yet, to being head of department. You know what they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Same goes for yogurt!