VOLUNTEER, TEACHER AND …….MAGICIAN
NORMALCY OR SOMETHING LIKE IT…
In my life prior to Peace Corp I would say that my calendar was extremely overbooked, and that is exactly how I like to live. Adjusting to my life here means adjusting to free-time; a concept that I have never made the time to explore. I tried really hard to like it, but I am happiest when I am busy, and I have to find a way to stay busy if I’m going to be true to who I am.
MY FIRST PROJECT
I really took time to assess what was needed at my school. I want to help as many students as possible, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it exactly. For the last quarter I have been co-teaching in all 4 grade levels, in order to expose both the students and myself to each other. I worked with the highest, lowest and even the middle sections. I enjoyed the diversity that each day had to offer, being exposed to all the grade levels gave me great perspective as what it would be like to both be a teacher and a student.
One day I needed to print something out for Peace Corp. I thought I thoroughly examined the campus, and understood that the upstairs building was only offices. I was wrong. There was a computer lab of 24 computers, and a Math teacher who taught one computer class to the first years who ran the lab. 24 computers and only 1 computer class!?!
Margot, the name of the teacher, is brilliant with computers; he set up the entire lab, and spends a great deal of time fixing computer and other components that are constantly breaking. After many visits and conversations I started to work on a proposal. I wrote out a syllabus of things I wanted to teach, and made my first three lesson plans. I sat down with the principle and proposed a computer class. Upon discussion with the other teachers, we decided that the 4th year students could use the class the most, as they may go to College and need to type a paper, or maybe a future job will include some prior knowledge of computers.
They then asked me, “Which sections do you want to teach,” and I of course replied, “All of them.” I didn’t want to be unfair, and just pick the highest sections, I wanted to make sure each child had the chance to learn. What does teaching all the 4th year students mean exactly?? It means the return of the overly booked Lysette Davis, which of course for me means happiness.
The timing of all of this meant that I have one quarter to teach the students all the basics of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. There are 9 sections of year four, and due to the fact that the lab won’t contain all 60 students per section, I have to divide the class into 2, meaning 18 computer classes. On top of my Computer classes I will continue with the English program. I will teach: Year 1 section, 5,8, and 9. Year 2 section 1 and 10. Year 4 section 1. The way the schedule works, I can’t obviously teach that many students at once so I switch classrooms. I adore the 2-1 kids, and bonded with them really well, but the 4-1 class is at the same time. The teachers really want 4-1 to get as much exposure to me as possible, so every other week I will switch classes, the same for the 1-8 and 1-9. Nevertheless, it means that I get to work with over 15 different sections. Each section has about 55-60 kids (however that does not mean they come to school), but that gives me the potential to work with almost 900 students. To type that number I suddenly feel overwhelmed, but excited at the opportunity.
I will never forget how I felt the first time the students walked through the class. Since the class isn’t in the curriculum, it can’t be graded, its not mandatory to come. I was so nervous that they students wouldn’t come, or they wouldn’t like the class, and a million other things. But they came, and they liked it. If you could see my smile as I typed this, I think you would be pleased as well.
ABOUT THE COMUTER CLASS
I thought teaching computers would be easy. Since I’m only teaching the basics, I thoroughly planned lessons, and by now I thought we would be wrapping up Word, and moving on to Excel. That I fear may not happen.
For the majority of the classes, they have never touched a computer. I started the classes by explaining the most used keys on the computer, like backspace and spacebar, and then move into the components. You would think that part of the lesson would be easy, but try explaining backspace when the student has never seen the ‘space’ or understand why you would need to delete something or even what it means to delete. It is much more difficult that I ever could have imagined.
I spent a lot of time on my first lesson, to teach the students how to move the mouse. Margot helped me set up a lesson I made on each computer. When the students filed in, of course it didn’t work, so I changed the lesson and had them practice their mouse skills through the art of Paint. I told them they had to write their name and/or a message to me. There are about 1-3 students in most of the classes who are more familiar with the computer, and I feel awful for boring them to such a degree, but for the others its as thought I’m teaching rocket science.
The first challenge is the language gap, they have no idea what I’m saying, and I don’t have any idea the terms in Kinarya. I just go to each computer one by one and show them over and over again. I have 7 classes on Fridays, you can imagine how exhausting it can get.
The students are known to be late, yet they are usually on time. More boys come to the classes than girls. They are eager to learn, as I am eager to teach.
When I show the students how to change the font, or to cut and copy using the key board controls, I feel like I’m showing them a magic trick. Whenever I change the color of something the students all get excited and simultaneously “OOOOOOO” at the changes. I never would have imagined that such simple things could have an effect, but it’s a really amazing experience.
On Fridays I really get worn out, this last week I was teaching them how to open Word, to make bullet points, change the font, color, size, and to center their name. This meant a lot of explaining and re-explaining. Last week my 4-5 class came 30 minutes late, as it was the class after lunch and most students go home to eat and don’t make it back on time. Only 6 girls came from the section. I felt really tired after lunch, as my class before lunch ran long, I only had 20 minutes to race home, eat and return. I was secretly hoping that the class would be late, and that it would bring in small numbers again. To my surprise about 30 students were there waiting for me, on time.
I suddenly felt extremely selfish; I couldn’t believe that I wanted the kids to come late or to only have a small number. When you watch the students touch the computer for the first time it is the most beautiful experience, and I wanted to deprive them of that so I wouldn’t feel tired. My whole purpose in being here is to help as many students as possible; the experience was a great reminder of that purpose.
As the material gets harder, so does my headaches, but then I remind myself that these students are getting the opportunity to do something that they otherwise would have never had the chance, and I push through. After all, I am happiest when I’m overbooked and working hard, and I can truly say that I am. And that my friends, makes me extremely happy.
Thanks for reading,