Monday, June 20, 2011

New Beginnings for the Start of Winter

We learned in training about what our options and resources are for
our students with disabilities, learning or otherwise. The answer?
There are none.

If a volunteer had the knowledge, training, and resources to diagnose
something, I guess, then more power to him or her to help these
students. But I, like the vast majority of other volunteers do not
have that ability. By the time students reach the 11th grade, which is
the grade I teach, if they have a learning disability they have most
likely dropped out because there is no support. Basically, it sucks. I
have no way of knowing if one of my students has a learning disability
but even if I did, I honestly don’t have a realistic way of helping.

Though it is not a “learning disability,” there are plenty of students
with poor eyesight and no glasses. So how are they supposed to see the
board? (The board being the only form of textbook and thus ostensible
reference or study material they have.) I have one such student. He
rarely comes to class and when he does he can’t see the board even
from the front row and while squinting. But we know he’s a good kid.
So my roommate and I decided to take action. We talked to him about it
and he said he has trouble coming to class because when he does, he
goes home with horrible headaches from all the squinting. So we gave
him an extra pair of glasses we had at our house that we thought might
work. Obviously, they are not a perfect prescription but he has been
wearing them for the past two weeks and hasn’t missed a class. He is
working extremely hard, has no more headaches, and thus also has the
ability to actually see what is being written by the teachers,
allowing him to, and what is that word again? Oh yes, LEARN. This
could be something that potentially significantly changes or improves
his life. I’m super excited for him and to see how this affects his
academic performance, self-esteem, you name it.

On a slightly more embarrassing note, I was locked out of my house the
other day while de-fleaing and de-ticking my dog. I was sitting on the
porch with no shoes on and no keys when the front door slammed,
locking me out. Luckily, I generally keep my phone in my bra and
therefore I could call my friend who has a spare key at her house on
the other side of town. But I still had no shoes. And though it would
not be at all uncommon for someone to walk around with no shoes here,
my feet are definitely not Mozambican-ized and weathered enough to
withstand the piercingly hot and rocky terrain. So I can now add
“asking the neighbors to borrow shoes” to the list of the crazy things
the white girl does.

I find it interesting that a lot of Mozambicans find me more strange
when I do the same things they do everyday, like lets say, grate
coconut, cook on a charcoal stove, sweep my yard with a reed broom, or
even (and how dare she!?) walk to town to buy some vegetables, than
when I do something totally new and different to them, like have a dog
that lives in my house, read a book on my porch, or offer tutoring to
any student who wants it. I guess they expect me to do things that are
weird and crazy, so it amazes them when I do something they are so
accustomed to. The white teacher cooks dinner!? Who knew…?

We started teaching computers this week in addition to our other
lessons. After putting it off for a trimester and a half, we could not
do so any longer. According to our school director, we have “enough”
computers that are “working” to service the 11 classes of 60 students
each. And by “enough,” I mean, we have 11 computers. Yes. 11. For 660
11th grade students. And by “working,” I mean usually about 8 are
working on any given day out of the 25 that make-up the computer lab.
So if each class is divided into three subgroups based on ability,
then two students share each computer. But hey, two is better than
six. Computer class is mostly only a chore because the ratio of
computers to students means we have to repeat each lesson no less than
33 times throughout the year. And the lessons are super boring because
the vast majority of students have never used a computer before. So we
started with the parts of the computer, how to put your hand on a
mouse, how to click a mouse, how to double-click a mouse, and what the
basic buttons on a keyboard do. It is enthralling… The upside of it
all is that though it may be semi-painstaking for us to teach, I am a)
practicing a lot of Portuguese everyday and learning new vocab, and b)
the kids are extremely excited and attentive during lessons because
using a computer is new and cool. The faces and reactions they had
when we actually let them turn on the computers for the first time
were priceless. They more frequently show up on time and have even
been known to ask for more during the last 5 minutes of class when we
had tried to be nice and end class early. Every teacher’s dream, I

Finally, it is lettuce season. And therefore, the season for SALAD!
With actual lettuce. Not just any salad with whatever veggies I can
find and use to pretend I am eating salad, but an actual
semi-romaine-like-lettuce salad. And so now the next task is homemade
salad dressing.
And, as a last side note, I had to use a blanket last night for the
first time since training. Hello, winter in one of the coolest regions
of Mozambique!

Also, according to my student, I am “heavy calm.” Thanks?

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