Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Odds and Ends

Wow. We aren't good bloggers. Sorry about that. I'm going to try and catch you up with 2014 so far, but honestly, I don't quite know where to begin. I guess I'll start with photos of my number one science learner and Team Tiger's -- I had two science classes last year, Team Tiger and the Kaiser Chiefs -- most improved learner.

Xolani (Wise) #1!
Lifa, Team Tiger's Most Improved

Part I: School

I was pretty excited about 2014. I'd no longer have my own class, for one thing. While I very much enjoyed the teaching part of having my own class, I certainly did not enjoy the paperwork and record keeping aspects. In South Africa, each teacher is required to keep a physical portfolio, and each portfolio must contain the prescribed information in a prescribed format with prescribed components. Off the top of my head, each must have an index (TOC), a work schedule (essentially, a pacing guide), lesson plans (in the required format), assessments, memos (keys), mark lists (grading tables), and etc. Each timetable, mark list, and etc. must be signed (generally by the educator, the HOD, and the principal) and stamped -- on every single page. The actual content of the portfolio is pretty much subordinate to its appearance. As a member of the English department, Perry was actually required to gift wrap his!

Anyhow, I digress. This year was gonna be different. This year I wouldn't have to engage in all that bureaucratic BS and could just be in the classroom co-teaching with a South African educator. Doing all the good stuff. Working with a science educator to co-plan lessons, plan engaging activities, design more authentic assessments -- maybe even model a little non-corporal punishment classroom management and (my passion) cooperative group work. So far, that's not the way things are working out. I suppose all the great South African wine I drank over the long break fueled my delusion. Educators here have no (zero, nada, nil) experience with co-teaching. Co-teaching here seems to mean "Send the umlungu to the overcrowded classroom while I sit in the staff room and gab."

So, I'm trying to turn this around by working with a different educator -- my counterpart Bobet. Since we've co-taught Grassroot Soccer successfully, this seems a good arrangement. Perry's used a similar strategy, by the way, and seems happy working with the school's maths HOD now. He also helps learners of all levels with their maths assignments and really enjoys that. Rather than co-teaching science, then, I'm going to be co-teaching LO (Life Orientation) in the grade 12 classroom. I'm hopeful this'll turn things around and give me enough productive things to do. Bobet and I are, of course, also doing another Grassroot Soccer intervention with half of the new crop of grade 8s. Perry and his counterpart are doing the other half. Any future PCVs reading this: Do. Grassroot. Soccer! It's a phenomenal, free, and easy to implement program. We are both training student leaders, too, who we hope will help with GS interventions after we're gone. We want to reward these leaders with a pizza party later this year…if you'd like to contribute to this cause: Go Fund Me.

Peace Corps spends a lot of time at PST (pre-service training) and afterword hammering home the message that during PC service you'll experience your highest highs and lowest lows. And you're all like "Yeah. Yeah. I get it." But you don't get it. You just can't until you've actually experienced it. But it's totally true.

In other news, I'm trying to obtain two computers for the school and am really, really hoping we get them. These kids can't function as 21st century citizens without knowing how to operate a computer. We're also trying to get some books for the library. The library is, sadly, infested with termites, so its catalog of 100 or so copies of Lemony Snicket and a few other odd tomes are getting eaten away. Cross your fingers on that one, too.

Part II: Storms

I cannot adequately describe the intensity of the storms here. We love them! Everyone here thinks we're crazy to stand outside in the sleeting rain watching the lightning strikes. I will really miss these storms. They do wreak some havoc, though. Here's some damage from the last big one. The roof of our family's church was ripped clean away, as was the roof of a building at school, but I can't find those pics right now. :(

This is the top of a tree next to our rondovel
Here's its bottom half

- Elizabeth


  1. Stefanie HargreavesFebruary 25, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    So glad to hear some news! Say hello to Perry from the four of us.

  2. What kind of computers do you need, Elizabeth? Only cutting-edge new ones? Or would a-few-years-old work for you?
    Lois (aka Lilia and Ava's grandmother)

  3. We're hoping to get the computers from World Computer Exchange. Refurbished Pentium 4s -- total cost, about 100 bucks per setup. There are logistical issues getting them into the country…port taxes, levies, and etc. WCE will be able to send a container if it gets orders for a minimum number of computers and a sponsor for the port charges.