Monday August 19th
I survived my first day as a teacher! And it actually went really well! We had a half day that began with an all school assembly. It’s interesting teaching every grade level. The difference between my freshman and seniors is amazing. My freshman and sophomores are proficient (near grade level) and my juniors and seniors are mainstream (well below grade level). I’m excited to get to know them all better, but it looks like that might not happen as soon as I had hoped. I’m sure you recall that all schools in American Samoa were forced to push their start date back a week because they failed Department of Health inspections. Manu’a HS now looks great and I’m fairly confident would pass an inspection, but no one has been back to re-inspect. Because of this all school in Manu’a were open as of today. Tutuila schools unfortunately weren’t so lucky. Several schools were inspected once again and still had failing grades from the DoH resulting in the opening of school being pushed back another week for all schools on Tutuila. A State of Emergency has been declared to allow more funds to be directed to the schools. There is some uncertainty about whether they will be opening Monday or delayed for a 3rd week. But just because our schools in Manu’a are open doesn’t mean we have our students. The plane is broken down and there is no repair date in sight. The boat is preparing for a trip to Swains Atoll and won’t be making any runs to Manu’a for several weeks. That means that no more students will be making it to Ta’u this week. We had 35 of 80 students today and that won’t be changing until next week at the earliest. Because of this we are having shortened classes every day this week and letting the kids go home after lunch. TIS…
Wednesday August 21st
As we were leaving school today Cat, my fellow English teacher, asked how my day had gone. I confessed to her that the high schoolers were winning me over. I still love little kids but I love my big kids too. I’ll admit I was nervous going into it. When I found out I would be teaching high school I was a little disappointed. Even a little upset. I wanted to continue teaching at the lower levels. I love the age group and am confident teaching elementary school. High school was way out of my comfort zone. What do I know about teaching teenagers English? Turns out it isn’t all that different from teaching second grade. My senior boys are big but easily my favorite so far. They are a mainstream group which means they are well below grade level. It’s sad to see how much they have been let down by the education system, but they are great kids. I’m still testing to figure out how far below they really are, but I can already tell it’s significant. Their enthusiasm is incredible though and they are so eager to learn (that might be a first week of school thing but I’m hoping it stays that way). My juniors are the indifferent ones. I’m hoping I can get them interested and excited in English this year. They just need an extra push and I know they can enjoy learning. My 2 classes of sophomores are the wild ones. They would talk constantly if I let them and I can tell that getting them to raise their hands is going to be a battle. But they are also the ones who shout to me through my windows every time they pass by just to say hi or good morning. And my freshmen are my babies. They are shy and innocent but beginning to come out of their shells as the week goes on. From what I’ve seen I can already tell that they have the potential to do big things. I love all my kids. That disappointment of not teaching elementary is definitely gone. I wouldn’t trade in my year with my ‘big kids’ even if the DoE came tonight and offered me the open second grade position at the elementary school down the road. I know there are going to be challenges along the way but I can tell it’s going to be a good year and it’s only day 3.
I mentioned this on Facebook already, but one of my juniors brought me what he called a ‘Samoan orange’ this morning. He described it as being a lot like an US orange but green outside and sweeter inside. I was excited so I put a whole slice in my mouth expecting just that. Turns out I was eating a form of sour grapefruit that slightly resembles an orange inside. I guess we need to work on adjectives, like sweet and sour, in junior English this year… I did take the remaining ‘orange’ home and juice it. Mixed with a little sugar it was pretty good. And it was sweet of the student to bring me fruit :)
Friday August 23rd
Week 1 as a teacher has come to an end. As I said before, I love my job. I won’t go on about that again though. Instead I’ll give you some more details of a school day in American Samoa. The kids are bused to school and arrive by 7:30 for breakfast – usually some sort of carb, some sort of eggs, and a carton of this white liquid labeled ‘milk’. I’m getting use to the taste of the impostor ‘no refrigeration required’ milk. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I enjoy it, but it’s drinkable. Lunch is always some sort of fruit, milk, and usually some kind of canned meat dish. The kids eat first and then staff gets the leftovers. It does the job and it’s nice to not have to bring lunch every day.
This week school has begun at 8 and ended at 12:45 since less than half the students made it to island. An emergency run of the boat left last night and will arrive today before it’s trip to Swains. It should be bringing most of our remaining students, which means we will have full school days from 7:45-2:00 beginning next week. The bell signaling the beginning and end of class here is simple- an empty oxygen tank hung outside of the office that is hit with a metal pipe. It’s the same system the villages use to single sa. I teach 4 different classes during periods 1-5 and have my prep period 6.
The guys are spending tonight at our house again so that they will be ready to go tomorrow morning. As long as the weather is nice we plan on hiking to a new beach a little east of Faleasao.