Thursday, June 12, 2008

The silver lining

The semester is over! Hooray! Although this cold weather makes it feel more like a winter vacation back home:) The end of the semester ended fairly smoothly and calmly. We held an end of the semester running race from the village offices to the mission, both boys and girls-of the 78+ girls that started, about 37 finished(the winner this awesome girl in form 2) and of the 60+ boys that started, about 20 finished(the winner the hardest working form 1 students I know) It was really fun to watch-I was at the finish line...we set up some teachers at the start with a piki piki in the front to lead the way and clear out any "traffic" and at then end, we set up a string barrier, and conviently, the primary school students were just ending their day during the race, so they all waited anxiously for the runers to arrive near the finish line. I thought it was erally funny-I remember when I was in cross country, the finish ilne was always the loudest place..cheering, yelling, trying your hardest and sprinting to the was the complete opposite! They arrived up a big hill-the last stretch was a big flat lane leading to the finish line. As soon as they got up the hill and onto the flat stretch and saw the finish line, they just sort of jogged their way to it...and no cheering from all the kids! so there is the crazy mzungu yelling at the top of her lungs(along with 2 other students) RUN! KIMBIA! YOU FINISH HERE!!!! and instead of watching the runners-all the kids look our way:) I was REALLY proud of the girls! We didn't time the race so I can't tell you how long it took them to run it, but it was about 1.5-2 miles? My guess would be about 10 minutes. we plan on doing another race next semester, hopefully to tie into our world aids day program!
Did a marathon grading session this week! I think yesterday I put in 16 hours straight of marking, compiling grades and writing up report cards....but I'm finished and the break has started! My students faired better than expected in some areas, and worse in others....My favorite answer to a statistics math problem: what is the probability that a female mathematics degree holder at Dar university is over the age of 40? ANSWER: 169 degrees. :) The way I compiled the grades is a little different than the way we have to write the report cards...I put equal emphasis on the midterm, final, HW and that the students work hard ALL semester, however, on the report cards, we have to give half the points for the final and half the points for everything else. So, grades were a littel different then I expected...some students did WAY better on their final grade, and others(the ones the diligently did the HW and came to class, did group work, but aren't the best at taking exams....) did a lot worse on their end grade b/c of this little difference in compiling. It made me reemmber college finals...
We had a great staff meeting a week or so before final exam started.(and I am actually being serious here!) not too long, in ENGLISH, talking about important topics... Previously, I talked with my second headmistress about all the issues that were bothering me-teachers sleeping with students, teachers asking students to write exams, coming to school intoxicated...beating of students for little things...and she provided me with a lot of insight. I wouldn't consider myself a guest, but I wouldn't consider myself understanding this culture by any there were certain things that I didn't know how to handle. For example, teachers sleeping with students: do you go right up to a teacher and say " hey pal, rumors have it you are shagging some students, how about it? is it true?" or, do you do what the teachers are doing right now? keep your mouth shut, its none of your business, and it will keep happening, but the peace is kept? On this particular topic, she confirmed all the rumors I heard-she heard them too from other sources(including students themselves having reported it) adn said that it was time we had a meeting with all the teachers to discuss it openly....and it was discussed, not as openly as I had thought, but it was great to hear/see all the teachers reactions. The other women teachers looked as disgusted as I felt...the ones that there were rumors floating around about...didn't really look up from the hands. AND one of the male teachers, one that I think has the best english...said "It pains my heart to hear this, and I don't know, maybe I'm one fo the teachers suspected, but this makes me sick and....." and went on and on! He even wanted to set a trap for the "bad guys" to catch them in the act! Proactive, that's a start! the headmaster talked about beating the students, and praised teachers to doing laternative punishments...and emphasized the rule of writing the names in the book.....and I noticed an improvement in the school the following week(granted, it was the last week of school..I hope it continues!) and we talked about the teaching load of teachers. I left feeling good about it. It is our culture, or at least in my opinion, to talk about problems and work towards a positive goal. Change takes time and I think the things that are really bothering me were all talked about, discussed until noone had anything else to say....and we'll just have to wait and see if people are just using words, or if they also use their actions....I went from a really bad month-frusterated, cranky, lonely, irritable(as I'm sure came across in my previous blogs) to now, where I have a feeling of releif, positivity and hope...I just need to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can, as are the other teachers. so thanks for the encouragement that you sent...and the phone calls! It helped me through that rough month. BUT, now onto brighter times, right?


Blogger Mom Knight said...

Jenny -- hang in there. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you to be in the midst of this culture - so different from our own, and want to see change happen, but not have the authority to do so. Its tough. But change/improvement is a slow process,and you'll never know how much of a positive impact you've had there. I'm proud of you.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Mom Knight said...

Jenny -- hang in there. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you to be in the midst of this culture - so different from our own, and want to see change happen, but not have the authority to do so. Its tough. But change/improvement is a slow process,and you'll never know how much of a positive impact you've had there. I'm proud of you.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Carla said...

I agree totally with Cathy...

Jenny, you are a very passionate, stubborn person, and you're not afraid to speak up when you see injustice or people getting hurt. You have a good heart, and you want the best for the people you meet.

All you can do is let the goodness and compassion shine out from your heart and soul. At the same time, remember to step back, look at it from another perspective carefully before passing judgment, consider all your options logically, and choose your battles well. Be quick to love and slow to anger.

Just remember- you're planting seeds. It's up to people who receive those seedlings whether to cultivate them so they can grow and blossom.

You dad and I are so proud of you- you can do this. Stay safe, and stay happy, and know that we miss you and are thinking of you always.


11:42 AM  
Blogger jess said...

Hi Jenny,

My roommate has just found out that her Peace Corps assignment is teaching Biology in Tanzania, so I googled "Peace Corps Tanzania" and came up with your blog. I've really enjoyed reading your adventures, and seeing how your posts have changed over the course of the experience. I'm both relieved, because living in Tanzania is not as scary as I thought it might be, and not relieved, as it seems teaching there is about ten times more frightening! Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Keep up the good work, JP. By virtue of being yourself, you will have a positive impact. Thinking of you. -Anthony

9:27 PM  

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