Tuesday, February 17, 2009

School Daze

I am having a wonderfully, frustrating, shocking, rewarding, all of the above experience in the classroom at the so-called Inclusive Education Pilot Classroom in 'NGele'ia. The school system is an entire upside down perspective of American school systems and I'm not sure I will ever really get it but I am playing along. The students are quickly crawling into my heart and, although, I speak very little Tongan and we communicate in a "Tonglish", hand-gestural, sign language mix I think we are starting to get each other. The classroom is musty, dirty and hot. It is entirely disorganized and brings out my own learning disabilities, such as my inability to function successfully in a cluttered evironment and my calves and ankles get knawed daily by the mosquitoes breeding in the storage cupboard. I am working to organize and make the resources able to be used by the class teachers to the point that I might pull out all of my hair but it is a few prize moments with the students that keep me above ground. Moments like these: Tu'ifua had to use the restroom one morning during morning tea, so we walked to the outhouse together. I stood outside waiting, and waiting, I finally asked a few boys to check on him. They laughed and said he was still "sai" and on the toilet. I called Tu'ifua's name and said,"vave" "hurry up" and he poked his little goofy head out grinning and went back in. A few moments later he came out to meet me in the school yard holding his pants and underwear in his hand. I gasped and laughed and instructed him to but them back on. Tu'ifua just shyly grinning trying to cover his face with his pants he was holding and said that they weren't clean. I didn't see anything wrong with them. The principal came over and began instructing him in English to do the same. We finally convinced him to put his pants back on. I held them while he stepped into them and pulled them up and then he just skipped back to the classroom without a care. Another day, I was attempting to scold a student who is deaf on being a bully in the bits of sign-language I know, sitting on the cement ledge outside of the classroom. The conversation consisted mostly of head shaking and I felt defeated by my attempt to model discipline without physical hitting by the time I sent Makisi back to go pray with the rest of the class at the end of the day. I sat on the step a moment longer, just breathing, when Mahina a student with behavioral issues, withdrawl, etc. let go of her grandmother's hand to walk up to me and give me a kiss on the forehead. That's okay, you can say it,"Awww."

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