Today is the last day of classes for the first term and I am ready for a nice long vacation. Who knew that being a teacher could be such a demanding job. Not only demanding from the standpoint of having to teach the kids, but also demanding from the standpoint of having to be creative in how you teach them. There have been days where I have had every kids attention in the classroom and then there have been days where I could barely hold anyone's attention. God bless the teachers who love doing this.
Even though it has been hard at times, I've still learned a lot during these first 5 months of teaching. I've learned how to be a better organizer and leader here because I have to be quick on my feet all the time, making decisions on what gets taught and what does not – especially in regards to Year 12. Since this is the first time that I've actually been in a managerial position, it was quite overwhelming the first few months but once I got a good feeling of how everything works and (I think and hope) gained the respect of the teachers, things have been going very well. I have also learned a lot more about computers because when you're the only tech support, you tend to be very creative with how you fix things.
As for the culture, I have learned that it takes a while for kids to get to know you but once they do, it's pretty easy to have a good relationship with them. At first I had to be very stern because I was told that if you're easy on the kids at first, it's hard to instill discipline later on. So I didn't crack a smile and was very serious (I know some people are saying 'how's that different from your normal personality) but that way of being stern in the beginning has made it much easier for me to control the class without having to raise my voice or yell at anyone. Now at the end of my first five months, the kids know they can talk to me about anything related to computers and I will do my best to help them out – heck, on the last day instead of being hard I let the kids play around the computers and even let them see the pictures I took of them at culture day yesterday (soon to be posted online, don't worry!). The one thing I constantly have to keep in mind is that I have to continually challenge these kids to use their minds instead of just handing the answers to them on a silver platter. The way I was taught to succeed was not by having the bar lowered to me, but instead having people raise me up to the bar. I've become a firm believer that if enough people say 'you won't understand this' or 'I don't believe you can learn this' then you will start to believer it, whether its true or not. So the major lesson that I learned in regards to my kids is that I have to let them know that I believe they can do every single thing I teach them – it may be hard, but they can do it and they can pass every single CAT if they try.
So now we start our two week break and fun times shall be had by me. Next week will be our Early Service Conference (marking our first 6 months in country – meaning we're half a year away from home!) and then the week after that, a few of us volunteers are going to bike Savaii. So the trip to Falevao was more of a test run to see how my body could handle a long ride and now it's time to actually do that long ride.
Time has definitely flown here – but there is still a lot of work to be done: within the students, within the computer lab and within me. Thanks for supporting me through the first 7 months, here's to successful and rewarding (but not as tiring) term 2. L8r.