Monday, February 20, 2012

Yes, Teacher.

I am writing this from a backpackers in Mbabane in between watching a rebroadcast of the The Grammys. I am in town for the weekend to edit and compile the Swazi Sojournal, the monthly newsletter for The Peace Corps. Sometimes it really pays off to have this gig although it takes me away from site and from Addy for a few days. I also realized that not much has changed in eight months. People spending an inordinate amount of time and attention to marginally talented people. Although, Adele’s Grammy sweep of multiple awards has only been legitimized by how much Swazis adore her. I catch our bosisi singing along to her every time Addy plays her on our stereo (our laptop).

Things have been going quite well for us at site. Both Addy and I have been incredibly busy; a nice change of pace coming off an extended holiday season. School is almost a month in and things couldn’t go better. I have devised an ingenious (I think) way to control classroom behavior without resorting to corporal punishment; not that I haven’t thought about it from time to time. I thought that instead of spending all my time correcting bad behavior I would try to concentrate on rewarding good behavior. I created a chart with each class represented. I explained that at the start of every class they received five points. In order to keep these points they would simply have to be quiet and good for the entire class. Every time that I have to stop the class to correct behavior such as talking or disrespect towards another classmate I remove a point. The goal for each class is to reach 66 points. When they reach 66 points we will have a party or activity of their choosing. The students want everything from a day where they wear funny clothes, a singing/rapping day and a day where they can tell jokes and play sports. We will see how that goes.

Having a goal that the class is trying to reach collectively has amazingly been effective in encouraging good individual behavior. The classmates are diligent in policing each other and ensuring they reach their goal. At the end of every class I anonymously pick one student who embodies good behavior, write their name down and stick it in a jar. Every month’s end I have a drawing from those names in the jar. The winning student receives a prize and a letter sent home to their parents highlighting their child’s good behavior at school.

Addy and I are continuing our teaching at the Refugee Camp. We teach an HIV class on Mondays and an English class on Tuesday. Our English class has been an incredible learning experience as teachers. Addy has been amazing in preparing the lessons, doing countless hours of reading and organizing TEFL material and coming up with effective, succinct lessons. Teaching at the camp has been the highlight of our Peace Corps service thus far. Our students are hungry for anything that will help improve their situation. They are incredibly attentive and respectful. We have found a number of helpful counterparts who we work side by side with and rely on to carry out these classes. I have started teaching a Teacher Training class on Saturdays for the fluent English speakers in the camp. The idea is that they will carry on the class after we are gone along with developing leadership, teaching and organizational skills that will assist them in their future life plans. Working closely with our counterparts at the camp has been very, very encouraging.

We have also started teaching an English class at the local branch of the LDS church that we attend. Our class is small, but dedicated to learning English. We have received a very warm and receptive response from the members.

In other news I have started writing rap songs for local musician Djndez who wants to cross over into the untapped Swazi hip-hop market. It is pretty fun. He speaks limited English so I chock it up to specialized English tutoring. But really I am fulfilling my dream of becoming an African Rick Rubin (minus the awesome beard). I played him some Re-Up Gang and Lupe Fiasco. Blew his mind.

Until we see all your faces again. Keep us in your thoughts and drop us a line sometime.