Scenes from the Peace Corps rollercoaster
The day already had markings of trouble. The students refused to sing the Lesotho national anthem and didn’t properly do so until about the fourth time. This is never a good sign. Assembly ran later as the principal, upon my request, asked the students to be on the look out for my iPod. It was taken the day before out of my house, a loss still fresh that morning.
Time to charge batteries after the weekend, although I distinctively notice the electronic that is missing. In a span of three weeks, I’ve lost my Kindle, camera and iPod to a variety of troubles. Still, I was trying to keep my head up, until another tsunami of tech disaster hit. My computer, one of two electronics I have left, wasn’t charging. The orange light would come on and then fade out. Not this, I thought, please not this. The light didn’t come back and tears and shouts of Why me flowed freely. Another hit to a life without so much. I looked at my phone, the only working devise I own. All it would take is one phone call and I could be on a plane tomorrow. One five-minute call and I wouldn’t have to live without comforts. Instead, I messaged a friend for support.
The orange light has returned and my computer is peacefully charging. I know that there is a bigger issue, likely with the power cord, but I chose to ignore it for now and call it a success. My emotions are calmer when the head of the school board finds me. He asks me to put together an introduction to strategic planning presentation for our all-day planning meeting later in the week. This type of work, versus teaching, excites me. It reminds me of my work at the SDSU Foundation, a job I truly loved, and I wish that I had a copy of David L. Chicoine’s master plan in front of me.
Seventeen minutes into my class and the students finally show up. They were off campus working on a project for agriculture class, but I know that they heard the bell. Still, they saunter in as if they weren’t procrastinating. I try to engage with them but am met with silence. When I ask them to recap a subject we’ve talked about for a year, only stares. Then I ask them to define a word, one that is written on the board behind me, nothing. Some put their heads down and others look out the window. My bad attitude is not helping and they slip further from me when I scold them for passiveness. To ignite them, get some energy going, I have them do jumping jacks. Two refuse, typical troublemakers, so I kick them out of class. I will certainly not win Teacher of the Year but I am noticeably happier without them around.
My next group of students tends to behave more than my first class, but their effort is not much better. Why are they not getting this? Am I not being clear enough? The topics are so simple, but they are not grasping it. Is it me or is it them?
My teaching is done for the day, thank goodness. I have proposals to write and a presentation to put together, not to mention emails to write. Then a knock at the door. The principal needs to see me.
One of my students – also my neighbor and friend – ran away last week to get married. She is 17. Her family is devastated and trying to get her to come home. Despite the lack of clear thinking in her decision, she wants to continue school in her new home but needs a letter from the principal, so she sent her new father-in-law to collect one without a new school picked out. The principal refuses, saying she needs to come back to school but the ntate doesn’t listen. She brings me in for support and, after a terrible morning, I do not hold back. I tell him that the student is dear to my heart and that if she is going to be a good wife and a good mother she needs to come back to school. However, she is a special kind of student – she learns differently, I said – and only our teachers know that. Another school would not be able to help her. She needs to come back here. He says that it is not his decision but his son’s, still he will go back and try to convince him. It may be my only win for the day but it is probably the most meaningful.
My principal and I come up with a group of students that will receive this year’s TAP scholarships, which are funded through Friends of Lesotho in the U.S. The students have to be in the top of their class and they must need the economic support. We call the students in and explain to them that have been nominated to apply and they must begin writing essays. “They nearly fell over with excitement,” my principal said. They smile at me while I explain the assignment, showing me that their lives just got a little better. I love this moment.
Another volunteer and I make plans to meet Friday for a training we are organizing over the weekend. Then I am finally able to set up a meeting with my APCD to confirm details of a country-wide writing program My phone keeps beeping with affirmations from the web. I am glad I didn’t ET that morning; I feel like a good PCV now.
The sun is setting and my heart is beating fast. It wasn’t the worst thing for my iPod to be stolen, because now I get to experience the pleasure of running to my own breath. My brain runs through upcoming projects with fervor and I think back on the crazy day. There were ups and downs, but, in the end, I am not sure I would have changed a thing. As I run home, children scream my name and wave their entire arms to get my attention.
It’s time for our nightly soap opera and I sit next to my ‘mme and ntate. We chat about the students who will receive scholarships and my ntate says that I have brought a good deal to the community. I hold my sister’s precious baby, only three months old. I feel so loved in this family. Yeah, life is good.