Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kindergarten, July 23

We biked to the school to arrive at 10:30. Doug and I walked to Eunice's class and stood inside the classroom. The kids were out playing in the schoolyard, but upon seeing us, came early into the room. I thought I was shaking about 100 hands.

Turns out I was!

When they finally came in, there were 100 students in the desks.

Half were barefoot.

Two had backpacks. Some had plastic sacks, but most carried their notebook in their hands. Their books had been rained on repeatedly throughout the rainy season and the papers were falling out of the binding.

The school yard is U-shaped with buildings. They are covered with tin roofs (I can't imagine the noise level when it rains), and the ceiling is like a barn. Rafters, open to the next classroom, in front and behind. It's not even a floored ceiling, just a criss-cross pattern of 2 x 4's.

So when the kindergarten class in front of us was reciting their numbers slowly (and when I say reciting, I mean screaming) from 1 to 100, we heard every word. And when our class sang to us (think "screaming" here), even the classes across the U-shape could hear us.

And, like all nationals ,the teacher does not raise her voice. Doug and I were in the back row and could barely hear. The students in the back were a little out of sorts, as well. This is the first time I have seen national students misbehave in class, but they were just allowed to "be" while she taught the front rows.

The blackboard had two huge holes in it that students would fish chalk out of when they came to the board. If they came to the board without being asked, the teacher picked up a switch and swatted at them.

Next thing I know, one of her spare switches has been picked up, and it was passed where? To the back to students who were not paying attention by us.

There were pictures drawn all over the room on poster board with the Lugbara words underneath for the children to learn. This is the first child's classroom I've ever been in with a picture of a knife and a razor on the wall. It's the context we are in.

We reviewed some Lugbara words and said them while looking at pictures of them. Then their homework for the next 30+ minutes was to copy the words and pictures into their notebooks. One of the kids next to me was still on the second picture after 25 mintues. He felt like he had
to draw them just like the teacher, and he was going SLOW. I don't blame him. A bicycle and a bus are hard to draw.

I know worksheets are highly favored in schools in America, but it sure beats having the kids write their own version of a worksheet. One boy who didn't have a notebook, just sat and stared at me until he decided to sharpen his pencil…with the razor blade I mentioned in an earlier post. He was pulling the blade toward his chest, totally unsupervised. My agitation level with the noise, lack of attention, switch passing, and razor blade usage was rising. I'm sure it has to
do with the fact that I used to be a teacher.

THEN…the class behind us starting singing, and so our class was singing along with them while they did their work.

The students that didn't have notebooks where just asked, "Where is your book?" When a mumbled answer came, nothing was ever said. I guess the teacher figures they are paying school fees to learn, so if they don't want to participate, it is of no concern to her.

These notebooks are like small composition notebooks without hard covers, and they are stapled together. I saw one notebook cut in half horizontally. I'm guessing she could only get the top half because a sibling needed the bottom half.

Basically, toward the end of 30-40 minutes of writing in their notebooks, I went to the teacher and asked if we could leave so I could cook lunch for my kids.

We were excused, and we told her we would see her the following Wednesday.

I think I'm going to ask permission to sit in the front of the room.

That shouldn't bother her. All the kids were turned around backwards in their desks to stare at us the whole time (except for the time she called me to the board to answer a question), so if we are in the front, at least they will be facing forward.

1 comment:

The Spears Family said...

I could literally feel the tension you were having. It makes me laugh because I think about the orderly lives we like to have and then be in a kindergarten class with 100 kids. Asking permission to sit up front is very funny and VERY Kathryn!