Good morning class! How are you today?
We are well and glad to see you, Madame Lerato!
That is how my classes start. The students stand up and greet me as I walk in the classroom.
Pretty cool, huh? You rarely get that in America, lol.
But I'm not in America. I'm in Lesotho, and teaching here has been quite the learning experience.
Although the Peace Corps gave me solid educational training when I first arrived in country, I'm still on a learning curve.
I've gotten much better at using different teaching methodologies and classroom management strategies this session, though. And the good thing is that I'm very passionate about teaching and want to learn how to be a better teacher.
I teach at a school named Tsoaing Primary, which sits atop a tiny mountain in the district of Mafeteng. The school's located less than 200 feet from my house, which makes my early morning "commute" easy:) Tsoaing has no running water, electricity, air conditioners or heaters. Students call teachers "Sir" and "Madame." School starts at 8 a.m.
About 70 percent of the students are orphans. Most are dirt poor. Despite their personal challenges, the students come to school with good attitudes and are loads of fun.
I have compassion for them (you have to) but I also lay the law down when need be by using alternative discipline techniques. Spanking, or "shapa," is illegal but still used by many teachers around the country. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I can't shapa (and wouldn't if I could). Instead, I punish by having naughty students run laps around the school, do squats or clean the classroom and front office.
Recently, though, I've implemented "Student of the Month," and that's helped significantly with bad behavior. If a student talks during class, their name goes in my little black book and they won't be eligible for SOTM. Students get so sad if their name gets written but they end up getting the message.
I work with a co-teacher who's a brilliant woman. She's a math teacher who has been teaching for 13 years. We are working on a letter exchange program where students are writing pen pals in America. (The letters will be mailed within the next two months.) It's good having a counterpart in the classroom because I'm a first-time teacher and she helps me with language and relay things to the children if they don't understand me.
Fun is something I try to incorporate a lot of with my 170 students (between 3 classes). We sang songs. They teach me their mother tongue, Sesotho. They get a kick out of my American accent. (The Ministry of Education wants the children to speak English and I follow this, but sometimes, I have to speak Sesotho so the students can understand me.)
After school, I have a super busy schedule. I tutor on Mondays, teach craft classes to the teachers on Tuesdays and Thursdays (I'll get into this in a separate post at some point). On Wednesdays, I run the school's English club. And teachers have been teaching me a traditional dance after all of our school activities are done.
Whew! A lot, right? It is, but I'm here to work and I really enjoy being in the classroom with the students.
Things aren't perfect here in Africa and Tsoaing and I have a few meltdown moments in the classroom, but please know that I truly, wholeheartedly enjoy waking up each day and going to Tsoaing to teach:)