A Good First Day / by Alan Strathman

Finally, after months and months (3) of training, I started teaching in my school today.  And it was a great day.  I spend the first block each day with one co-teacher (Miss A. in Grade 2) and the second block with my second co-teacher (Miss L. in Grade 1).  This is when each teacher has their literacy block so I can be in each class every day.  And then the afternoons are unscheduled for me to work on various projects.  First up is sorting through the books in the library.

The school has about 120 K-6 students, so only one class for each grade and only 15-18 students in each class.   It is a great environment for teaching.  Importantly, the school has individual classrooms with solid walls between them, rather than one big room with, say. a chalkboard dividing the room into classes, as I saw at several schools we visited during training.

I met all of the kids--they introduced themselves and I introduced myself.  Miss A. is a young teacher who is very good with the children.  One of our beginning activities was to talk about expectations, an excellent exercise.  So she asked the students what they expected of us (nicely including me) and then asked them what they think we expect of them.  Here is one exchange:

Miss A. Yes, we expect you to obey. What happens if you don't obey?
Student:  A beating.
Miss A (chuckling):  No, not a beating, but we do have discipline.

I loved being at the school and I expect as I get to know the children and they get to know me it will just get better. 

School starts at 9, and by 8:45 I was soaking, dripping, sopping wet from sweat.  During the rainy season it is very humid.  Most everyone saw and said I needed a vest. A what? A vest is what they call a sleeveless undershirt.  And I noticed that the men who were dressed up all had them on. After school I went into Vieux Fort (the larger town nearby) and bought six.  I don't know how they think this is going to help because I am pretty sure that I would have sweated through as many shirts as I had on today.  And frankly, I don't understand this idea because basically what I am doing is layering, which is what one does to keep warm in a cold weather climate.

In conclusion, the first day that I finally did the thing that I spent months applying to do, for which I gave up my job and disassembled my life, then moved to a developing country, where I had three mostly brutal months of training, and for which I receive very little compensation, was pretty good. Whew! Do I think I will enjoy spending two years of my life doing this? Yes, yes I do.