The first day

Hello, all,

As I continue to record my Peace Corps service through words, I am going to take my writing a step further and will be a regular columnist for my former employer, The Capital Journal. The column will run every other week and will focus on my experiences in Lesotho related to America, specifically South Dakota. The columns won’t be much different than these blog posts, however, maybe with less errors thanks to my editors. I plan to post them on my blog as well, after the publish date, for my beloved blog readers. However, if you are in Pierre, make sure to pick up a copy of the paper and check out other local news, especially stuff from the other Mangan. Below is my first submission for the paper.

Also, just so my readers are aware, posts on the blog are usually one to two weeks old. I schedule my posts a week before they run so that I always have content in case a huge rain storm knocks out the electricity box and I can’t charge my computer or the network stops works because it can (which does happen).

I am really trying to make something of this blog and believe in consistency. With that, I would love you forever if you recommend posts to friends, followers or random people on the street.

Thank you, and enjoy.

In August, I pulled up to the front of Washington Elementary before the majority of students had arrived. I was there on assignment for the Capital Journal to cover a big event for every student in the Pierre School District: the first day of school.

My job was to capture the glow and wonder of a new academic year, so I decided the best spot would be the kindergarten room. A teacher graciously allowed me to observe the five and six year olds walk into their new classroom. Some students where excited and rushed to their cubbyholes, while others hung close to their parents and slowly tested the waters of the new place.

Being there brought back memories of my first days. In preschool, I tried to take off my shoes. The day before my freshman year of high school, my mother and I rushed to the store to repair a terrible dye job that turned my hair orange.

Still, no matter what had happened during the previous year or the summer, the first day full of hope.

This week, I had another first day of school, this time as a teacher. In October, I left South Dakota and the country to serve with Peace Corps in Lesotho. After eight weeks of training, I became an education volunteer and spent the first month in my new village integrating into the community and preparing for my own big day.

School in Lesotho is different. Instead of the parent drop-off ritual, students walk to class, sometimes as far as six miles. They may have a few notebooks and pens, but most schools don’t have textbooks, let alone other colorful posters or SMART boards. At the middle school and high school level, all classes – even complicated courses such as physics – are taught in English, a language they only start learning in the fourth grade.

It is not easy for students in Lesotho, yet, even a culture different from ours, the magic of a new year isn’t lost. Sunday, before the first day, a student walked by my house and said with a giant smile, “School starts tomorrow.”

The first day brings nerves and, as a first-time teacher, that anxiety is stronger: Will my teaching be so terrible that the students learn nothing and I completely ruin their lives forever?

Even with my over-exaggerated anxiety, the first day of school brings out something better – hope. A new year means hope for new adventures, new friends and a new you.

With only three months in Lesotho, I still feel link a stranger in this country. However, the energy of the first day of school is something I can relate to, something I can find comfort in. It marks the beginning of my teaching career with hope, not only for the school year but also for all of my two-year service.

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