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.



  1. Hey sweetie, great blog. Loving hearing about all your experiences. We miss you, but glad that things are going well. Love you, Mum

  2. Kaitlin, Keep the posts coming. I'm really enjoying learning about your teacher training. It was just ten years ago when I was sweating out new lesson plans and trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. Keep good notes and enjoy the experience. Take Care Mr O

  3. Kaitlin,
    Mom was subbing in the 5th grade recently and I was asking about you and what a suprise! I hope that you are enjoying this wonderful experience and I wish you well.
    I look forward to your updates.
    Take care,
    Mrs. Roche