Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Time Teaching

What up yo? Long time no talk. Sorry I've been so absent- but PST (pre-service training) is winding down so hopefully I'll be able to update you more regularly in the future.

We finished up our language training about a week and a half ago with a mock LPI (language proficiency exam). This involved having an interview in Tongan with one of our language trainers. We were asked questions about ourselves, family, food, clothing, directions, time, weather, and shopping. I was able to answer all of the questions that I was asked and scored a three out of three on every section except clothing. I was fortunate in the fact that I had a great, very patient language teacher during training. I think that is a large part of the reason I was able to learn well. Unfortunately, I haven't improved all that much since the mock LPI so I need to get back to studying before we have the real one in December!

Last week we started technical training, which for me consisted of how to teach English in a Tongan classroom. They flew in a TEFL expert from Bulgaria, which is where she works for Peace Corps. She has been working with our TEFL trainer, Lose, to educate us on classroom management, teaching English as a foreign language, and various other things. They have both been great, and we've had a lot of help/input from current volunteers. Hearing their experiences about starting to teach in Tonga has been the most helpful thing, as well as hearing from other trainees who have already taught English in other countries.

This week we started practice teaching in actual classrooms! We were split up between the schools near us in Ha'apai to teach for 2 hours a day so we can get a sense of what Tongan classrooms are like. I have been teaching at GPS Pangai (GPS = Government Primary School) in class 6, which is about equivalent to grade 5 in the US. In Tonga, students take an exam at the end of class 6 that determines where they will go to high school. If they score well enough on the exam, they go to better high schools. If they do poorly, they can still go to high school but they will attend schools that are not as strong in their education. So at age 10 or 11 students in Tonga have to test to determine the entire future of their education. And the test is hard! There is an English section, a math section, a science section, and a Tongan section. I have looked at some English sections of the exam from previous years and I know that I would not come close to getting a perfect score. There are questions on the test that are completely arbitrary (write the best word that means the same thing as big- who decides what the best word is?) and questions that are actually incorrect- multiple choice with no right answer. The test is also written by people for whom English is a second language. All in all, it is a very hard test but it determines the future for a child who is in our 5th grade. Craaaaaaaaazy.

Anyway, the students I've been teaching this week have already finished their exams and so are just hanging out until the school year officially ends. The last month of school after tests is pretty chill- a lot of students stop showing up and there isn't much in classroom education. I've had about 16 students in my class each day, although there are usually more than that throughout the school year. They are super sweet and listen very well. Kids in Tonga are very well behaved in the classroom. Some of that is because corporal punishment is generally used in most Tongan classrooms and so the kids are afraid of getting hit. But it is also partly just the kids here- they were great even for me, a teacher they have never met. In the US, a lot of kids really try to test a substitute teacher that is completely unknown. The kids I've taught this week have been pretty great. We did introducing yourself on Monday, daily routines on Tuesday, and today we did verbs. Some of the stuff I have done has been too easy for them because we didn't know the actual level of the kids going into it, but most of it has gone pretty well. I've done a lot of games and interactive activities which kids don't do in the classroom very much here. And yes, I've been teaching entirely in English, with the except of a word or two in Tongan when they don't understand something. They've been doing really well! We do not have teaching tomorrow as there is no school because of elections, but we should be going back on Friday for our last day of practice teaching.

After that, we have one week left in Ha'apai then off to attachment! I will be going to stay with a current volunteer who teaches at a Weslyan primary school in an outer village on Tongatapu. I will be there for a few days so that I can see a volunteer's life, learn what my life might be like for the next two years, and ask her any questions I might have. Should be interesting! Then we have a wrap up week in Nuku'alofa (where I started), then exams, then swearing in and then off to site on December 17th or so. I can't believe it has already been almost 2 months! Crazy!

Alright well I think that is about it for now, I could write more but this is getting pretty long so I will leave it for next time. If there is anything in particular you want me to write about feel free to comment and let me know!

Hope all is well where you are. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Love and miss y'all.


Friday, November 5, 2010


Greetings from Faleloa (my host village)!

Sorry I haven't updated in so long! I haven't had much time to get on the internet- I have school 5 days a week and on Satudays it is kind of a hassle to get to Pa'angai (the "city" of Ha'apai) because it is harder to hitch a ride and it is too far to walk. But we were successful today, thanks to the host father of one of the other volunteers!

However, this is going to have to be short because I don't have much time on the internet and I was too fakapikopiko (lazy) to write my blog ahead of time. My mom gave you a pretty good update about my life so I'll just give some more specifics.

For my host family I have a mom, Meleane, but her husband passed away a few years ago. I also live with two sisters, Lona (25) and Vei (11), and 3 brothers, Tau (8), 'Eni (6), and Nofo (5). 'Eni is actually Meleane's grandson but he lives with them full time. They are all very kind to me, except that they won't let me help out around the house very much which can be frustrating sometimes because I want to contribute. But I say if that's my only complaint, I am doing pretty well! Meleane's English is very good and the kids speak some English so my lack of perfect Tongan is not a huge issue yet. They call my Katalina or just Lina, since consonants are never next to each other in Tongan and so Kaitlin doesn't work.

Language classes are going much better than I anticipated, but I still need to get better about practicing my Tongan outside of the classroom. I'm often too shy to use it beyond general conversation such as hello, how are you, and learning names. I try to practice with my younger siblings more because that's closer to the level I am on. They are very patient with me, which is great! This week will be the last week of language classes, and then technical training will begin.

Like my mom said, I will be teaching at a Weslyan Primary School once I am actually sworn in. The village is called 'Utulau. There are 96 students, 6 teachers, and me. I visited there as one of our site visits when we first arrived and I absolutely fell in love with it. The principal seems very supportive and I am really excited to work there. I will move there mid-December but it will be summer break so I won't start teaching until mid-January or so.

Group 76 (my Peace Corps group) is absolutely amazing. Everyone is incredibly fascinating and super nice. It's a great support network and I have made some wonderful friends already. There is also one woman in my group who reminds me a lot of Ellen Kraly (one of my Colgate professors) which is absolutely fabulous. Ellen is someone who I admire a lot and who contributed greatly to my college experience (and also wrote one of my PC recommendations!) so having someone here that reminds me of her provides me with a lot of motivation to work hard and succeed. So, thanks again Ellen!

I guess I can tell a funny story... So I am very fortunate in my homestay experience because I have my own bathroom and my own bathtub. However, the tub fills pretty slowly which is totally fine. It takes about half an hour for it to fill 4 or so inches. So I turn it on, leave it for a little while, and then go back to it to bathe. Well the other night I turned it on and then forgot about it apparently, while we went to a community event that lasted about 3 hours. We came back and I had accidentally flooded part of the 2nd floor! The water wasn't super deep or anything but everything was definitely wet and we had to move the rug and pull up some of the floor covering so everything could dry. I felt so terrible! I cried and my family laughed a bit. They were super nice about it- Meleane said "it is never a bad thing to clean our house!" I think they mostly felt bad for me because I was so upset about it. It is one of those things that would be super funny if it were my own house but it wasn't... I am able to laugh about it for sure because there is nothing else I can do and nothing terrible happened, but at the time I was horrified. And yes, I freely admit that I am an idiot, haha.

Sorry but I don't have any pictures! I probably could have uploaded some but I haven't put them on my computer yet soooooooooo yeah... my bad. But it is beautiful here!

I don't have too much else to say because life is pretty consistent- class then study Monday through Friday, study/town/beach on Saturday, church/eat/sleep/study on Sunday.

I'm going to go because I want to head back to the beach soon. But I hope you all are doing well! I will try to update again soonish but it might not be until December when we get back to Nuku'alofa. Overall I am super happy here but I do love and miss you all tons!