Blogger's note: This is quite a long post about my first week. I've also made it a double header again so scroll down for some pretty pictures after this. Hopefully this makes up for two weeks of inactivity.
School starts at 8:30am. The headmaster told us to arrive at 8:30am. There's no need to arrive early in Guyana. Students dressed in sea-foam green button downs and khaki bottoms litter the entrance of the tiny run-down wooden building. They look as if they could probably work at Prada, save the fact some of them would give you an attitude. All the girls have pretty green ribbons decorating their hair- it’s school policy.
A few of the teachers gather in the staff room while the rest instruct the students to move the tables and benches to their respective classes. There are four classrooms in the entire school. The classrooms are a larger room, and 4 classes gather in the same room with a chalkboard in front of them. Noise carries. Heat intensifies. There is no air conditioning, no fans. I have a permanent layer of sweat encrusted on me. Even my knees sweat. I didn’t think I had sweat glands there.
I am the most underdressed teacher wearing a button down shirt dampened by perspiration and a knee length skirt. All the female teachers wear polyester suits and three inch heels. How they travel in heels through dirt and sand is beyond me. How they stay cool in their suits, I'll never understand either.
After the students move their furniture, they just sit there all morning staring into space or chatting with a classmate. Teachers occasionally walk in and out of class to check on them, but they are busy writing their schemes for the term, something one would think would have been done over the summer.
I spend the entire morning cleaning and organizing the library. I peek my head out the window to take in the breeze and I see a young male student urinating on the grass next to the school.
By afternoon I’m surprised the students even came back after lunch. I take a book from the library and walk down to a random class and read to them. It’s useless since the "classroom" is so noisy.
The day ends at 2:30. I’m exhausted from yelling, I’m hot, and I have to walk 30 minutes back home.
Mental note: Don’t let kids pee in the field.
Student: Miss you’re my favorite teacher.
Me: But I haven’t taught you yet, and I’m not even going to be your teacher.
Student: Yes, but you don’t give us lashes.
Mental note: No one likes a beating.
There is still no class schedule. A teacher makes a sign that reads “We are no longer enrolling any more Form 1 students. We are out of furniture and space.”
Students have to fight for a seat. When there isn’t space available, a teacher will come and get angry at them for disturbing the class.
Downstairs a girl and a boy start punching each other. I break up my first fight, my good teacher deed of the day. Fight count: 1
Mental note: Teach the students kindness.
A student from another class waves at me while I’m talking to another class. I ask her what she wants. She comes over and says she’s just “shaking me off.”
“Excuse me, you’re doing what?”
“Miss I was just shaking you off,” she smiles sweetly.
“Oh you mean you’re saying ‘hello’?”
Mental note: Do not get angry at students when they tell you they’re shaking you off.
A handful of teachers have yet to make an appearance in school. Still no class schedule. I do know that I’m teaching Forms 1 (7th grade) and Forms 2 (8th grade). I start to go over my class rules when a teacher interrupts me and tells me there is a school assembly.
The students pile into one of the rooms, barely able to breathe. Yesterday two students had stolen a bike. A male teacher forcefully gives a lecture about stealing. The perpetrators are shamefully standing on two desks for all the school to witness. After the 25 minute lecture, the teacher instructs the students to step off the desks, bend over, and receive eight lashes each. The students who were sitting quietly on benches simultaneously stand up to catch a glimpse of the punishment. Silently protesting, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and walk out of the room, my heart breaking.
Mental note: My job here is more complicated than I thought it would be.