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.


LindaC said...

Hi Gwen - sorry I haven't stopped by for so long. I have the opposite problem - no time on my hands! Goodness, the job you are trying to do sounds enormous and I can imagine the obstacles. I hope you're enjoying it, though. I imagine it's like living in a different world. Take care!

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