Saturday, December 22, 2012

Huruta Style!

Most of the people in this video you guys will have no idea who they are. Actually, I myself only make a cameo. But I did help a bit with the filming.

The PCTs who were in Huruta made this, and it does a pretty good job at showcasing what my site looks like. I figured you'd be interested in a indirect tour of my town.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Trainings, Round 1

 I promised you guys an update on my actual work, and here it is.

First Methodology Training: Sat Dec 8th

I went to school like normal to make sure things were in place on Friday. I had talked to the librarian previously, she had suggested we set up the library that afternoon.

I knew Friday was a holiday, Nationalities Day (thought I think Ethinicities Day might be a better name), but had been told it was only being celebrated in Bahir Dar and had no idea what was going on when I showed up to school to find more teachers than normal milling around the teacher's lounge and a huge tent in the middle of the compound.

She's representing Afar, a region in the north where Lucy comes from. It's also a place PC says I can't visit.
Apparently my school was holding it's own mini celebration.  Which was cool in it's own right, but it prevented me from checking in with my school director or the librarian. I had no idea if things would be okay for the next morning, and the librarian didn't answer my texts about meeting up early in the morning. Plus, my flyer was missing from the bulletin board.

Well, at least I had the projector.

Saturday dawned and I made my way to the school 30 min before my 9am start time. My director was there, and as the librarian wasn't around (though she had said she was coming earlier in the week) helped me arrange the teacher's lounge as a plan B location that quickly became plan A.  Come 9 o'clock, just my counterpart had shown up, and he had mentioned something about an NGO coming to the health clinic for free eye care, including glasses if needed. There went my idea of people showing up, free glasses are much more important than a farenji training.

(And there developed another idea for an app, one that allows NGOs to post activities so they can coordinate. It's actually a bit of a problem here. Other Ethiopian brainstorms include an app that recognizes what song you are singing and then can pull up strolling lyrics, meaning you don't have to pause in your strumming during campfire sing alongs, and an app that you take pictures of your skin with so you can compare moles over time to check for melanoma. Maybe I'll use my readjustment allowance after two years to build one.)

But they did, slowly, and while I waited until 10am to start, people still came in late during activities. My training, for which I expected 30 people based on a want assessment, had only 6.  Ouch.  Plus, things didn't go as smoothly as I had written in my lesson plan.  Note to self, a 15 minute activity for Americans is a 25 minute activity for Habasha. Habashas?

However, I think the small group was an advantage. They got individual attention, and they all seemed to get the idea I was aiming for (Dale's Cone of Learning, fyi. Mini lesson: if you read something, you remember 10% of it in two weeks. If you do something, you remember 90% of it in two weeks. Shout out to Donna's friend for giving a book on math card games I used to highlight different steps of the cone.). They all left happy. While it's not a practical lesson I can observe changes in the classroom with, I am going to refer to it constantly in future trainings.

First English Training: Dec 15th 

I was a lot more unsure about who would come, mainly because I had been in Addis to help PCTs the Wednesday and Thursday before, and only got back Friday afternoon. I popped into school for a quick visit and thank Primus my training announcement was till up!

What really made me realize that the methodology training was a success was the attendance for this training, up by 50%!  Which really just means I had 9 attendees. But hey, that's three more people. Who knows how many more will show up by the end of the year?

We focused on English listening. I played a song from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog,  "My Freeze Ray", slow beat, the words were clear, close to talking pronunciation.  I planned on them listening two times while filling the blanks in a lyric sheets. It was more I didn't actually count. But they all seemed to enjoy it. And insisted I get speakers, because the projector just hooks up to video. I'll have to do some Assella/Adama shopping around.

I really felt the cultural gap when we talked about what it meant. Even after watching the song as it progresses in the movie my teachers said it was about hard work paying off, and twisted it into a lesson about how they and their students have to practice a lot to improve.  Or just the chore of doing laundry. Er...sure guys. But I was kinda looking for the idea that the song is about a guy trying to get the courage to talk to a girl.  Regardless, they came to a conclusions by themselves, for which I'm happy with.

But still, while the comprehension  of the song wasn't really there, they got most of the blanks right, after many repeats, and I consider that a success.

For a future lesson, I want to talk about letter writing. I'd love samples from you guys to share, nothing too personal and with simple English if possible. Address is on my support page. ^_~

So, while my trainings didn't go as expected, they were still effective in some ways. And people showed up knowing up front the only thing they were getting from it was training, no per diem, no food, just further knowledge. I'm just excited that people want that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Actually Do

So, my father mentioned I haven't actually talked about my work here. Truth is, I'm still kinda figuring that out.

Peace Corps Volunteers kept painting this picture of a lazy man's job while I was in training. They go to school maybe twice a week, maybe working six hours a week (the teachers here work four hour shifts fyi), and there is a lot of down time. Kindle books and TV shows are your best friends. It was a job that you could shape to your own schedule.

A teacher did a training on SBEM I helped out at.
And then, near the end of PST we were introduced to the C.E.N.A, or as G7 has taken to calling it, Jon Cena. It's a beast of a report, a community education needs assessment that required research into the town and the schools. I went to school pretty much everyday for three months working on, inputting student test scores into an excel file (there are more than 3,000 students, it took awhile, and I still can't get my formulas right. Anyone know how to average every other cell in a column?), talking to teachers, passing out and collecting surveys, observing classes. From my C.E.N.A, I developed an action plan. But really, I'm learning now that all was the easy part.

I'm trying to figure out how to fill my days no that I have no need to go to school everyday. My job here is not to teach, like some (including myself before I began PST) believe. My official role is 'English Teacher Trainer', meaning I help the teachers with methodology and English and they will help their students for years down the road.

But like I said, that doesn't require my being at the school everyday. And while I have an action plan, it's looking to be a hard thing to follow through on.

Take for example the monthly methodology and English trainings I have planned for teachers. I brought the idea up to the Woreda and my director (aka principal. Who I learned mid-October is working without the two vice-principles most schools have. At some later date, I might have to do into Ethiopian school policy.

Or maybe not.) and they were okay with my trainings and the dates. The Woreda even pledged to help me with printing costs by letting me use their printer. I went to them with this before I left for IST.

I return, my director is still cool with the trainings, he said I could use the library, but so far the training hasn't been spread around to the teachers. I meet a couple on the street today and they asked what I was doing. When I mentioned getting things together for a training, they said they had no idea.

I'm planning this for the 8th. But it's hard to market trainings, it's not like I can tell my teachers in an e-mail. Maybe a bulletin board.....

Anyway, I went to the Woreda on Monday with the idea of giving them a copy of my C.E.N.A and showing/explaining my worksheets for the training. Fancy that, the copier doesn't have paper. Nor does it on Tuesday. I did get things copied today, and stamped with the Woreda's seal of approval (it's a purple stamp, I approve). These stamps are awesome and in the government system are kinda equal to God. If there's a stamp, it's good and official and if it's on directions of some kind you better get it done.

So, I do have training logs for my teachers now, but they still have no idea, for the most part, that I'm doing work for a training that's for them. Communication here is a huge issue. As is consistency. And I'm finding that's the hard part of this job. Things stall if you don't get a step done, and if the person you need to get that step done isn't in his office when you go there every day for a week, nothing happens.

We'd like to work more than 6 hours a week, it keeps us busy and prevents us from going through TV shows too quickly (I know a PCV who went through all of Sex and the City, all of it, in three days) but there is so much red tape. No, that's not right, because most the hoops PCVs go though isn't so much bureaucracy, but social norms. Which is hard to balance with the trimester reporting PC wants us to do. It's an intense computer-reporting program. Each report, if printed, would come out to 80 pages give or take.

Being a volunteer is a lot more stressful at times than I expected, especially since the ideas here about professionalism differ. Some I'm okay with, I'm totally okay with ditching the American professional wardrobe, but giving me time to plan and being on time and doing what you say you will are things I miss. But hey, I am a lot more patient now. I think. Perhaps. Probably, if I can do a 2 1/2 hour bus ride w/o listening to my iPod. And can wait for 30 min instead of 10 before getting exasperated.

It's crazy how long it can take to get things done here. And getting people to actually listen to me. When I assisted on a training, I felt like everything I said was disregarded by the local teachers on the basis that 'Ethiopia is different.' In some cases, yes, but not in all. That's frustrating too, just dealing with people.

Might be why I'm in such a creative mood here, I want to make something without a hassle. Currently, I'm working on videos of my cooking adventures, and am writing a novel. And a memoir, but that one is kinda depressing so I might shelve it for a while.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zee School

Gates to my school

Huruta Primary is a hub school in a cluster. Cluster schools are supposed to help each other out, but I don't see a whole lot of that. With eight schools, my cluster isn't the largest I've heard of, but it's certainly on the large side. Truthfully, I've only even been to Huruta Primary, the others aren't in the city limits. Some of the are tiny, 16 students, so I'm sure they're out in a rural village that I wouldn't even be able to get a bus too.

I'm totally just going to focus my work on Huruta Primary.

Which is going to be handful.

The school recently, as in the past five years, expanded from a cycle 1 school to include cycle 2. Cycle 1 is grades 1-4, cycle 2 is grades 5-8. There are over 3000 students, and there aren't nearly enough classrooms for them all so students and teachers only come for half days. The morning shift goes from 8 to 12:15, the afternoon shift from 12:30 to 4:45. Every month (Ethiopian calender, not Western) the shifts switch. So grade 1 first came in the morning, then switched to the afternoon, and then switched back to the morning.

The school does have some nice amenities – a special needs classroom (the deaf kindergartners are adorable. Special need students here include the deaf, the blind, and the mentally challenged), a library with a better selection of books than the public library, a science lab (which I haven't actually seen used), and a resource room (of which very few teachers use). Personally, I'm a fan of the tea house on campus, all proceeds go to help orphan students. And it's the cheapest place in town that I've found so far.

The teachers are nice, and many know English well enough to have conversations with me. While not all are interested in what I have to offer, they do like me and are friendly. I love running into them on the street and have small conversations outside of school, it makes me feel like I really belong here. That I'm a community member.

Moments like that can turn a bad day around.

I haven't trully interacted with the students yet. They like to stare and touch, and in massive packs that I find overwhelming so I try to avoid being easily accessible when they have recces or there is a shift change. The teachers really help with that, they'll scold students who just hang on the fence around the teacher building during recesses. The kids in the states when I were subbing could be unnerving sometimes, I had two fourth graders start a fight, but here they can be down right terrifying at times. So many faces and bodies, it can make a girl claustrophobic under an open sky.

They are slowly learning the right way to interact with a ferengi (forgeiner in the local language). I refuse to answer to 'ferengi ferengi' or 'you you' (which is usually shouted at me) and turn away from any child asking for money. As a result, I'm getting yelled at less and kids approach me with 'hello' or 'good morning'.

And I always get a kick overhearing kids talking about me and one of them explaining I'm a teacher. It means they actually pay attention to what I do, and not just that I'm here.

Things are still rough at times, but I do like my school. I'm hoping to do all my trainings there, and include teachers from the other primary school in town, Boru Qalaxxa which is the hub school for the other cluster.