With 6 weeks of teaching in the books, I am happy to say things are looking good.
Both the students’ English skills and my Xhosa skills have strengthened considerably. We reached a new level of communication effectiveness this week, in addition to a new comfort level with one another.
During puzzle time, two students asked if they could work together. It was a small yet touching moment -again, even being able to communicate effectively was a relief.
With the increased student-teacher comfort level comes greater chances for one-on-one moments outside the classroom. On Tuesday, a student wanted to see what I brought with me to school, and it happened that the only book I had was a bible. I offered it to her, and she picked it up and read two lines from Genesis.
That same day, the school was visited by students from a Christian prep school in Grahamstown. This 30-minute visit was a time for their students to learn about rural schooling, living conditions of students outside town, and, basically, ‘what’s it mean to be a monk, anyway’ -they didn’t word it exactly like that, but it came up.
This trip was a great help to both schools in strengthening Anglican ties.
Another ‘gem’ of the week occurred Thursday, when a student was able to write his name without help. For a child who has been struggling in school, this accomplishment was a mini-breakthrough.
This is him tracing his name moments before it happened:
Also in this picture is our head teacher, who has been a great help in learning Xhosa and teaching skills in general.
As you might remember, Thursday is when we have laptop class. The children still have that eager excitement when it’s their turn for class!
This week’s goal was to type “20 september”. A handful succeeded, with most making it to “20 sept”. For students in rural Grahamstown, simply being exposed to a computer and working with it is a valuable experience.
Side note: The student in the middle of this picture is the one who wrote his name earlier. He performed quite well at typing- this has been a good week for him!
I’ve been rearranging the groups by performance level in hopes of having more effective lessons. The head teacher and myself feel this could allow students to learn at a pace fitting for their specific skills.
After-school clinic had continued as normal, with typically 3-4 students each day. Pictured below is are the 3 students I have mainly worked with, working on math and English.
We have been fortunate to offer personalized instruction thanks to the small size.
While working with a student on his reading comprehension, I starting remembering skills from my SAT and GRE days, and found it to be a great help to him. The big thing we focused on this week was to read the questions before reading the passage, so that you know what you’re looking for.
Holy Cross dismisses school with a prayer each day, after which students tend to hug or high-five the teachers as they leave. When the head teacher had to leave the classroom right as it was time to go, I became the target of an spontaneous hugfest.
This week has been defined by small moments like these. Students giving a hug unexpectedly, writing their names without help, pronouncing the “th” in “three”, and simply being more comfortable with me has helped make this feel like fruitful work. Even when it feels like you are not getting through to the students, simply being there and giving them attention can have great dividends on their development.
In the words of Stephen Smith, “You being here is a treasure in and of itself for the kids”
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day.