School since the first week has been a bit disorganized at times but generally much better. I’ve learned how to say a few important classroom phrases in Tongan, but mostly I just speak to the kids in English as if they understand me. Sometimes the Tongan teachers will help me if the kids don’t understand, but you’d be amazed at how well these kids pick up instructions based on my gestures and actions. It’s not that I don’t want to use Tongan with them, or that I’m being lazy. It’s that listening to English from a native speaker is not something they usually get to do and just having that practice is a lot of the reason I’m here. Not to mention that even though my understanding of Tongan has gotten a lot better, my speaking is still pretty slow/broken so sometimes chances of the kids understanding my English are better than them understanding my Tongan, hahahaha. How sad.
The school day generally goes something like this:
8:00- most of the kids start showing up for school
8:20- the bell rings and the students start to clean up the school grounds, picking up trash, pulling out
8:25- line up by class, some days have their finger and toe nails checked for cleanliness and length, have
one of the teachers tell them if there’s anything they need to know or that is different about the
day, and say a prayer
8:30- if it is Monday, have assembly where the principal does some Bible stuff with them and does roll
call for the whole school. That goes until 9ish. If it is Friday, the Faifekau (minister) comes and does
some churchy stuff with them. If it’s Tuesday-Thursday, class starts.
10:30- break time, during which the kids eat and play outside
10:45- the kids get the toothbrushes they keep at school and everyone brushes their teeth together
11:00- class resumes
12:30- lunch break, during which pretty much everyone goes home to eat
1:30- school starts again
3:20- school ends
I work Monday through Thursday. I start every morning with Class 1 for half an hour. Mondays and Wednesdays I am with Class 2 for half an hour, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Class 3 for half an hour, Tuesdays and Thursdays with Kindy for 15 minutes to half an hour. When exactly I go to those classes and how long I stay varies depending on what the teacher is doing with them and how long I decide I want to stay. Usually it ends up being longer- I was only supposed to be with Classes 2 and 3 for 20 minutes, but I can’t do much in that time so I extended it to half an hour. Then every day from 11:30 to 12:30 I am with Class 6. That’s in the morning. In the afternoon on Mondays I am with Class 6 for another hour. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays I am with Classes 4 & 5 (who are combined) for half an hour in the afternoon. The rest of the time I spend lesson planning and working on the “library.” Right now it is just a room filled with books, a computer, a printer, and a photocopier. The books are never used and it’s kind of messy. My job is to organize it and create a functioning library in the time that I’m here. I haven’t gotten all that far yet but I just went and visited the library of another Peace Corps in my group and she gave me a lot of great ideas so hopefully I’ll be able to get a little more done soon.
The kids at my school are really great, as are the teachers. Granted sometimes I still have no idea what is going or what exactly I should be doing but I consider myself really lucky. The principal and teachers are all very supportive, and the kids are enthusiastic and smart. For the most part they listen to me. Some classes are better about that than others but I can’t blame them too much because I know it’s hard to focus when someone is speaking in a language you only partially understand- I totally drift in and out when I listen to something that’s entirely in Tongan. But they really do try and they pick things up pretty quickly. So we’ll see how it goes!