On the first day of school, Feb. 1st 2010
On Wednesday, February 24, I was the only teacher from my school who showed up to work. There were about 90 kids running around the school like wild animals and I knew I had to do something to reward them for their efforts in showing up at 7:30a.m. I also wanted to do something to take control of the situation so that I could prove to myself, my ability to manage a group of kids, despite a language barrier.
I had the kids (grades 1-8) come into the school and sit for morning prayer and songs. Some of the older kids were invaluable in helping lead this and they really stepped up to the challenge. They could see I was in need of a helping hand. I will return the favor in the near future. After morning prayer and songs, I asked them to continue some songs that they knew. They started singing more up-beat fast paced songs that I never heard them sing before with the principal or other teachers around. They were pounding out beats on their backpacks and swaying side to side. They had smiles on their faces and they were having fun. I just smiled at the whole situation. Here I’ve been in the classroom for less than a month and I’m running this school by myself like a well oiled machine.
Well as the time passed, some of the grease began to dry up and things started getting a little loud. I tried asking them to be quiet in Samoan—that didn’t work. I tried asking them in English—that too didn’t work. As I stood there in the noise of a foreign language, I felt as if they were starting to tie me up in knots. I was becoming frustrated at the situation and had no better idea than to start singing. The first song that came to mind was Amazing Grace, and it was by the grace of God that they all turned their heads in amazement and stopped talking. They just sat there and listened and I didn’t even have to raise my voice one bit—I just had to stay in tune. I almost stopped singing in amazement of the change in their behavior. They didn’t understand all the words, but they understood the tone had changed in the room. I followed up with an encore of the Star Spangled Banner. I started to lose them at “whose broad stripes and bright stars…” but finished it off in the true American spirit.
I introduced some housekeeping issues: 1.) Turn off the water at the pipe outside when you are done with the water. 2.) Throw your rubbish in the rubbish pile. 3.) Don’t hit other students. 4.) Don’t throw things in the classroom. They have a long ways to go on this, but I hope to model by my behavior the proper ways to act and continue asking them to change.
I ended up letting grades 1-4 go home at 9:30a.m. because the older kids wanted to play a noun game I had taught them last week. We played for about 30 minutes before I started to lose them too. I didn’t want to press my luck to the breaking point, and decided that them going to school until 10a.m. was still better than not going at all, and I let them go home.
I learned a lot from the experience. I learned that I have enough patience and confidence to tackle such a situation. I’ve learned to be prepared for similar events in the future. I learned that the children can really enjoy school, even in challenging situations. I also learned that they look at me as a teacher figure, and that can only help as I continue my two years of service. This experience wasn’t without pot holes, but I’m at least happy we traveled the road, otherwise they would have missed out on Amazing Grace!