Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Typical School Day

It's 8:30am and the bell rings, the children line up at the flag pole in lines by class. The girls are wearing red dresses and white shirts. They have their hair in braids with red ribbons holding them together. The boys wear khakis shorts and white shirts. They sing their national anthem as the flag rises. Once they are finished the principal addresses them about the day and what jobs are to be done before the school day begins. Once dismissed they march off to the classroom where it will be swept and set up by the students before the day starts. The children who are late to school must wait by the gate before they are allowed onto the school grounds. Some days the principle will hit them and tell them not to be late again, some days they will get off easier. Once the classroom is swept and set up the students line up outside and wait for permission from their teacher to enter the classroom. Usually they are let in right away but if the teacher is lazy or in deep conversation with the other teachers the children can sometimes wait awhile before entering the classroom. The classroom consists of old country school desks and benches. Each student has a cubby where they keep their notebooks and pens, no textbooks are given out because no textbooks exist in the schools. Students perform a lot of copying from the blackboard to get information and also do a lot of writing activities to practice. If they misbehave or get questions to answers wrong they get hit. Usually they are struck on the hand by a wooden stick no wider than 2-3 fingers. Most students are unfazed by this, but some cry at times. Tongan students are constantly hitting each other, and when a teacher does it it's no different. I do not hit the students in my classes. I use many classroom management techniques to help control the pace and environment of the classroom. I have tried to teach these techniques to my counterparts, but they are still in favor of hitting.

When the students enter the classroom school is started. They begin with English for an hour, this is where I step in. I usually start off introducing the daily lesson and then make my way into a fun activity to get their attention. I am usually in the classroom for 60-90 minutes. At around 10:30 the bell rings for recess and the students race outside. Locals arrive early to sell the students cake and ice pops. The students play and eat treats for 30 minutes before class begins again. The children also are allowed to come to the library during recess time to check out books or to just find a book and read quitly in the reading area. I supervise the library as class 6 students reshelf books and offer assistance to students with new books. Once recess is over students return to their classrooms and start on their Tongan, Math, and Writing. Some days they listen to a radio program that is broadcasted across the country that covers lessons in all subjects. There are activities that are done to go with the radio broadcast and at times teachers will make up lessons to go along with the radio lesson. I tend to bounce around the school during this time helping teachers with lessons and activities they are doing. At 12:30 the bell rings and the students make their way home for lunch. Some students will stay and play at school during lunch break, but most will go home.

At 1:30 they all return and class begins. Science and Health are covered from 1:30 - 3:20, and sometimes I am allowed to bring students outside for gym. We play rugby, soccer or netball. Most of the kids like soccer so that is the sport of choice most of the time. At about 3:00 students from classes 4, 5, and 6 are called out of class to pick up rubbish around the school yard and then burn it in the burn pile behind the bathrooms. Other students are assigned to cleaning the bathrooms and washing the windows around the school. Every student gets a turn at this and there is no one who gets away with not doing these chores. There is no funding for janitors and the teachers refuse to do any cleaning so it falls on the students to pick up the slack. Once they are done they return to the classrooms where school is dismissed at 3:20 and the students stream out of the classrooms and to all places around town.

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