Life on this side of the world isn’t all about adventures, game drives and encounters with snakes. Ever wonder what keeps us busy on a daily basis? Here’s a small glimpse into my world…
Students at MICS are only taught in English (besides Tonga class) but virtually every student has another first language. It’s pretty much the perfect place for someone who specializes in ESL. Since we settled here in February I’ve had the chance to work with a small group of students who are struggling with their English language skills. I love my job. I hadn’t taught ESL since I went on maternity leave with the boys so getting back into it has felt like returning to my sweet spot.
I have three groups throughout the morning with students from grade two, three and four. There are so many students I could be working with but with my current energy levels and pregnancy it’s been a good place to start.
For two of my groups we do a variety of activities each day. We review days of the week and shapes. We talk about how we’re feeling while trying to avoid the word “fine” (their favourite response here!). We read books and poems and learn new vocabulary. We work on letter sounds and putting them together to make words. We work on writing proper sentences. We learn through playing games and having conversations.
I am working one-on-one with my two students in grade four, teaching them how to read. Although the progress felt slow at first, they are starting to make steps forward and it is incredibly rewarding. One of my students is in grade four but he is fifteen years old. That is not uncommon here as students are often placed by ability rather than age, repeating grades if necessary. Some children do not have the opportunity to attend school in the early years but are still eager to work hard when they do. Part of my job is to help them catch up with their peers and give them the extra support that is difficult for a classroom teacher to provide.
This past Friday all of my students shared a poem we had been working on with the whole school and I was so proud of them. It’s a big deal for many of them who are early readers and something that I hope has boosted their confidence. Next week their classes will have the chance to learn the poem and they will get to be the ‘experts.’
As time goes on I also hope to work more closely with the classroom teachers, helping them learn new ways to teach the curriculum effectively. At the beginning of the term I had the opportunity to lead a short workshop on strategies to reinforce multiplication skills. Teaching adults is not my strong point but it was fun to watch them trying out the games I had introduced and now seeing some of them start to implement the strategies with their students.
While I don’t claim to know much about international development, I do agree with Nelson Mandela that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Each of my students has a very unique story, some of which are heartbreaking. I hope to share some of them as time goes on. The chance to get an education will no doubt give them hope for a better future and is changing their lives. I love what I do and it’s an honour to spend my days with these students. And we wouldn’t be here without the support of so many of you. Thank you for partnering with us and together, helping to make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve at MICS. Twalumba!