My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Friday, November 20, 2009

I love you all! Now give me your money :)

As promised, here I am in Cotonou working on Camp GLOW yet again. It has been officially decided that we will be doing a PCPP to fund the project, which means that YOU can donate! We are in the process of finalizing the project proposal and budget, and by the time it gets through the bureau here in Cotonou and then the one in Washington DC, we're hoping to have the project on the website by Christmas. Once the project is online, I will definitely post a blog with detailed instructions on how to donate. All donations are tax deductible, and there is no minimum donation! Even $5 helps :)
This week went pretty well. As I said before, it is starting to get HOT. (As in, so hot that I can't take mid-day naps in my house with the fan pointed directly at my face going full speed anymore. So I have to nap outside under the mango tree, and as you can imagine, a sleeping yovo is something to be eagerly gawked at here. Are we really that fascinating, even while we are sleeping??) Harmattan, the wind that blows down from the dusty Sahara for about a month, literally arrived overnight on Wednesday night. This would be happy news in the north of Benin where Harmattan=very chilly weather, especially in the mornings, along with the dust. But us lucky volunteers down south only get the dust, no cold :( It was incredible how dusty I got in my taxi ride down here. The sun is always under a constant haze now, and a layer of dust covers everything in the house, no matter how many times you dust and sweep.
Remember how I was saying how happy I was with my first round of quizzes? Yeah, well, scratch that. My younger students did fairly well, but my older kids, to whom I gave a quiz on verb revision, for the most part failed miserably. Here is what is frustrating about that: 1. These were all verb tenses they had learned over the past two years. There was no new material on the quiz. 2. They were flying through the material on class, and I could tell that they really understood it. 3. Some students just blatently ignored the directions. For instance, in the section labeled "Simple Present" and for which the directions were "conjugate the verbs in simple present", they would conjugate all of the verbs in simple past. Literally, the class average for this quiz was 6 out of 20. Of course the students weren't happy and started begging me for a make-up quiz, and I have yet to decide if I will offer them one or not. It is obvious to me that most students simply didn't study. Some students did really well on the quiz, and I made the quiz MUCH easier than the exercises we had been doing in class, so I know I didn't just give them an unreasonable task. Luckily, we are now starting in on the new curriculum in that class, entitled "Health", and I get to teach fun words like the verb "to vomit", and "chronic diarrhea"!
This week the other English teachers came to observe me teach a class. To be quite honest, the experiece wasn't nearly as good as I thought it was going to be. First of all, I had to squeeze a two-hour lesson into one hour, so I didn't get to enforce the material as much as I would have liked. Then, when we gave feedback at the end, in true Beninese style, they tore me a new one. No positive comments (even though I had made it a point to plan a really good lesson, complete with visual aides, acting/role play, group work, and used NO French whatsoever) The feedback they gave me was absurdly nit-picky (though they made it sounds like I had committed a grave error by, say, not underlining the date) and tended to be along the lines of "Why aren't you using the teacher's manual? There are lots of exercises you should use in there!" nevermind that the government text books are FILLED with errors and somewhat vague exercises. I took it all with a grain of salt and did my best to consider the few helpful comments I received. I think that we will be observing some of the other English teachers in the coming weeks, so I will be interested to see how that goes. I think that at our next AP meeting, I will give a presentation on how to give feedback: the person who taught will go first, positive feedback first, constructive criticism only, etc.
At that meeting we also elected the two department heads. It was myself and another teacher up for one of the positions, and they decided to let the two of us talk it out. I could tell how desperately the other teacher wanted it, probably both for the title and the small amount of extra money they receive, so we worked out a system in which he will have the title but mostly I will be in charge of selecting/editing/typing exam papers and running the weekly meetings.
I began tutoring a student (not one of mine) in English this week. His English was very good and I think he has only good intentions asking for my help. He did ask "What can you give me?" and "Can I charge my cell phone at your house?", but I think he is truly just trying to get better at English- his goal is to go to university in America. I hate the fact that I'm even suspicious about things like this, but you kind of have to be in this country.
In other news, my health is still in a good state (knock on wood!), although apparently my toenail is falling off (no idea why, that's just what the doctor said) and I have a fungus on my arm. Exciting! I got a letter in my mailbox with "medically confidential" stamped all over it, and for a fleeting, joyful moment I thought maybe I would get shipped to South Africa for some sort of evaluation (this is warped, I know. But it's South Africa!) Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately, it was just saying that all of my midservice lab tests had come back clear. My cats are fine, although it is now Baby's turn to be in heat, and she literally has a totally different personality than she used to. Luckily from watching Belle go through the same thing and the return to normal, I know it will pass. I think they are both pregnant now!
This coming week I will head to Dogbo to celebrate my friend Kristin's birthday, and then Thanksgiving on Thursday. Some of the new Guinea volunteers will be joining us, so that is nice. Then Kristin and I will head up to Parakou for TEFL Thanksigiving/Ghana trip planning. I will be back in Cotonou on Monday the 30th and will post a blog then. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


loehrke said...

Happy Thanksgiving to YOU!!!
I hope you continue to be in good health. That counts for a LOT!!
I would take the critique you received with a whole shaker of salt; not just a grain!! I am certain that you are doing an amazing job.
Try and stay cool. I will be thinking about you today during the UM/OSU game. I know you would be watching and cheering if you could.
Cannot WAIT to help out with Camp GLOW. SUCH a wonderful cause!!!
Stay amazing, Mark Loehrke (Carly's dad_

michelle said...

haha..."tore you a new one..."
last week during AP i made sure to teach the other teachers how to give feedback so that once we start the visiting/observing each other they know not to do that!