3 Months in (Dec 7th)
on Susan Somers (Namibia), 17/Dec/2009 10:02, 34 days ago
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Turns out that keeping a blog is more difficult than it seemed– somehow over a month has passed since my last update! I think its something to do with spending the whole day in an office in front of a computer typing that makes writing a blog in my spare time a bit of a chore. Or perhaps the novelty has worn off or I’m just lazy! There is also the fact that the last 6 weeks or so haven’t been all that noteworthy! November in particular has been an unremarkable month. Like at home its just a month to get through on the approach to Christmas. Not unpleasant or even particularly boring, just unremarkable.Work-wise I’ve been continuing to plod away at NIED. Even though I’m working up to 2 hours longer each day it hard to judge if I’m making any progress. Maybe its because teaching is so hands-on and everything here can seem insubstantial, long term and its hard to see results. Mostly I’ve continued to wrestle with ‘the bloody manual’ (as I’ve come to think of it) which is slow and mostly unrewarding work, since I’m still not convinced of its actual necessity.One of the more interesting aspects of my recent work was a workshop I organised for local teachers. It was what at home would be called a course or a lecture (on some language games, some strategies for teaching reading and how to use‘the daily news’ effectively) Nothing too challenging - fairly basic stuff really but the local teachers of grade one and two seemed to really appreciate it. They don’t get much by way of in-service training and their initial training is often poor. They have tons of challenges; the languageissue, the class size, lack of training and resources to name but a few, but pretty much every teacher that was invited turned up (some were even turned away) so there is an enthusiasm to learn.I also showed the how to use a Big Book but I also had to show them how to make one as they aren’t really available (it was pretty basic since I had to keeping in mind the resources available to the teachers) but they seemed impressed and keen to make their own. Can you imagine the reaction of Irish teachers if it was suggested at a course they make their own resources?! My Mam thinks it’shilarious the same as when she left Mary I in ... well I won’t say but it was a while ago!Teachers here generally have a reputation for being unmotivated and disinterested - teaching isn’t so much as career choice as a last resort for many. I’m told there is a particular disinterest in the lower primary teachers as they are seen as the bottom of the barrel since they are considered the least skillful and the worst trained! Considering the pay and conditions I suppose it’s notthat surprising. I haven’t seen it personally but teacher motivation is apparently a big challenge for teacher trainers.Last week it was finally time to present the work so far on the manual to the Lower Primary Advisory Teachers. There is at least one for each region and it their job to advise, train and support the primary teachers in their region. They were a very mixed bunch– some seemed very coped on and ‘with it’, others seemed kinda clueless! It’s their job to advise on the direction and content of the manual and eventually train the teachers on using it (and persuade them to ‘plan in an integrated manner’) It was interesting to hear their reactions which were mostly very positive although they tended to get caught up on little, fundamentally irrelevant details (for example the use of the word ‘soil’ or ‘clay’ in a list of building materials) rather than looking at the big picture (the progression of the maths scheme from week to week). Infact in some ways I’m not sure they saw the difference. I also shared the literacy presentation that I did with local teachers so that they could (possibly) do that ‘workshop’ with local teachers in their regions.Socially things have been good. I’ve headed into Windhoek most weekend (all bar one in fact) where I’ve met up with other volunteers to eat out, go for dinks, have a braai and generally hang out. One weekend I hired a car and we got to see a bit more of Windhoek (which is quite spread out) and even drive into the ‘country side’ 20 minutes from the city centre and you’re in the middle of the Veld (scrub land) with baboons on the road!We also had a‘Global Education Weekend’ which was where VSO very kindly helped fund an educational camping trip to the Waterberg Plateau National Park (for about 35 of us) We had some lectures but also went hiking and did lots more eating/drinking/hanging out (except this time in tents) There were 2 large storms while we were there, I left my tent open during the first (but everything dried within 2 hours once it was over) and the other was at sunset which was amazing to watch. Because the land around was so flat we could see the storm approach as the sky changed from blue to black going through a hundred shades of red, orange and pink in between. There was cool lightning and even a full moon to top it off. Unfortunately my photos don’t even begin to capture it - you just had to be there!We also had a birthday party for Katy last weekend. The theme was‘debauchery’ but even though we played drinking games, ended up with lipstick all over us (well some of us!) and underwear on our heads (well clean lingerie) it was actually pretty innocent (although the neighbours weren’t happy with noise and there were some hangovers the next day!)We’re starting the run up to Christmas now, and the same as at home, it kind of a wind down at work (but since I’m in an office there are no hyper kids or Christmas concerts!!) Its not my first Christmas in a hot climate but it so hard to get used to the ‘festive season’ in 35 degrees. I quitelike that there isn’t same hype here – less decorations and carols blasting from everywhere. Its calmer somehow as its more of a religious and family celebration with people travel home to their villages or heading for the coast (where its cooler) I suppose people don’t have money to spend on‘the trimmings’!Sometimes I can't believe I've been here 3 months already, and sometimes Wexford, Ireland, Scoil Mhuire, Bridge Drama and all the rest of it seems like years ago!