Monday, March 8, 2010

Borrow Me Your Eyes

“Jenny, are you having a class now?” My colleague asked me searchingly as I entered the staff room. I hesitated for a moment, knowing that admitting to having a free period could have me “volunteering” to do God knows what, for God knows how long. At the same time, if she came back into the staffde room in a few minutes to find me sitting there, I would be busted. “Noooo...” I reluctantly admitted. “Ah! Iyaloo! Borrow me your eyes then mama!” She grabbed my hand and started to tug me alongside her. Shoot. Wrong answer. I was then taken to grade 12B where Mrs. Iiyambula and 20 grade 12 learners crowded around me as she used my eyes to demonstrate the appearance and function of the iris, and the pupil. After slowly walking through the crowd and staring each learner in the eye I was asked to close my eyes for 30 seconds before opening them wide, in the sunlit courtyard, while the learners watched my pupils contract. They shrieked and screamed and gasped in excitement before they were ushered into the classroom for the second half of the class to come out for the demonstration. This was repeated again for grade 12E, now even with teachers in the audience. Tomorrow I have a booking for grade 12D. Just one of my many contributions to learning at Shaanika Nashilongo Seconday School.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I feel like the victim of a cruel joke played by time. The fact that it's March already, and I'm two months into my second year of teaching baffles me. I don't know if it's the workload – teaching, meetings, extra classes and extramural activities; aging: 24 is coming on far too fast for comfort; or the continent: a combination of the ceaseless heat and the misconception that with a sky this large, the sun inevitably takes longer between sun-ups and sets – but time seems to be holding me immobile, dizzy, as it does laps around me. I thought that returning to Shaanika Nashilongo SS for a second year of teaching would be so much easier, that I would breeze through it with unconscious ease; I had paid my dues last year. Such hasn't been the case. I've found the first two months back at school much more exhausting and frustrating than I had anticipated. I'm at an awkward stage in my growth as both a teacher and a guest in a country and culture that is not my own: I understand my surroundings and culture enough to see things, the good and the bad, more clearly and objectively than last year, but am not proficient enough to be capable of navigating myself around each obstacle hurled at me as gracefully-and tirelessly- as I'd like.

My work and projects 2010:

My class workload at the moment is nearly double what it was last year. Our school is currently waiting for an English teacher post to be filled and until that happens I have taken on en extra grade 11 and grade 12 English class. I'm teaching more class periods than any other teacher at the school, as opposed to fewer. I have enjoyed working with the older learners more than I imagined I would, but the workload has been hard to juggle.

I am currently in the process of spearheading a school newspaper. There are about ten learners on board, writing articles ranging from current events, to sports, to interviews and “personals”. Look for our first published copy coming soon!

I am doing Brian's Winter by Gary Paulson as a novel study in my grade 9 and 10 classes which, for many, is very challenging. However, there are about five learners in my classes who are very talented and proficient in English and once a week I am meeting with them and doing an intensive study of Lord of the Flies. We are only two chapters in, but so far it is going very well and I'm enjoying the stimulating and controversial conversation we're able to have!

Although admittedly I've found the first two months of 2010 exhausting, it's also promising to be very rewarding. I have loved being back with my kids, and am optimistic that my increased workload, once I've adapted, will motivate me to achieve and accomplish more this year than I thought possible.