Saturday, April 27, 2013

You better make up something quick . . .

Last year I couldn’t stand teaching English. It sounds ridiculous. When I came to Moz, my assignment was to be an English teacher. I went through a 10 week training in order to be a good English teacher. And then I arrived in Inhassoro and was told I would be teaching chemistry. Not only would I be teaching chemistry, but I would not be teaching any English classes and would be the only chemistry teacher. This completely freaked me out – but luckily I had almost two whole months to figure out the chemistry thing before school started.

Because I live in Mozambique, the teachers’ extra hours were cut right at the beginning of the school year (teachers here have to teach 24 hours of classes a week to be considered full-time – in the years before if they taught more than 24 hours they would be paid overtime) and, understandably, no one wanted to teach extra hours for free. So I got stuck with a third year English class that hadn’t had any English classes that year since it had taken the school administration about two months to figure out the whole horas extras debacle (two months of twice a week classes, by that point they had missed almost sixteen classes).

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the nine students in my English class. It was the waiting/bartending group, so they really wanted to learn English, never cheated during tests, and were generally good kids. But I had over 300 kids in my chemistry classes . . . and nine kids in my English class, using a curriculum and lesson plans that I had to plan two months into the year. It sucked and I felt awful, but I just couldn’t devote nearly as much time to my English lesson plans as I had to devote to my chemistry plans. With chemistry I was able to get into a rhythm – I taught the same lesson eight times. Boring, but for someone who had never taught (or communicated in Portuguese) it meant that my lessons substantially improved and that I was able to become comfortable with teaching chemistry by the second semester. With English, however, I would give a lesson once, and then write another one. And repeat. All of my English students passed the national test, but I was not satisfied with my lesson planning or engagement with the material until about a month before the end of the year.

This year is different. I fought really hard to only teach chemistry this year – I didn’t want to have that one token English class that I just didn’t have time for (especially since this year I’m also involved in other activities outside of school as well as attempting to get my life together before moving back to the states). But this is Mozambique and despite having the schedule all put together, the Friday before school started I had four of my eight chemistry classes taken away and was given three third-year English classes. And I was not happy about it.

Luckily, teaching English this year has been a pleasant surprise. I expected it to be like last year – dreading to put the lessons together and having to sacrifice English lesson planning in order to put together chem lessons and to grade a fairly large stack of seemingly never ending chemistry assignments. But with half as many chemistry students and an already planned curriculum I am able to devote so much more time to my English students. True, I have under 40 English students and between 150 - 200 chemistry students, but the balance has become much more reasonable and I’m actually happy with how my English classes have gone this year. It’s most definitely not perfect, my lesson plans probably could be much more inspired and innovative, I could spend many more hours giving after school help and correcting endless essays and other homework. But I think I’ve finally made my peace with teaching English and every time I have a student tell me that they are “wonderful” today (instead of the route and oh-so-tiresome, “I am fine and you?”), it makes me feel as though maybe, just maybe, I am actually balancing teaching chemistry and English. Whatever it is, I might actually like teaching English. Maybe even as much as I like teaching chemistry. Basically those last two sentences should make you think the world is one crazy place.

Also, the most important thing happening in my life is that tangerine season has officially begun! Which means that winter is just around the corner and I'm back to sleeping under blankets, eating oatmeal in the mornings, and feeling cold (although those of you in the midwest might disagree, this is truly a wonderful thing). 

Random Note: I have been in an ongoing war with my blog font. But despite my best efforts it keeps changing back to the same font. I give up, the cursive stuff isn't what I want, but I refuse to spend more time fighting it (if you don't see the cursive font, that's a good thing). 

No comments:

Post a Comment