Sunday, February 19, 2012


My Grade 6’s have been learning about the writing process for the past couple weeks [due to our fragmented classes], and we are just finishing up writing letters! I’m corresponding with a class back in Chevy Chase at Blessed Sacrament School, through the World Wise Schools Program Peace Corps has, which matches teachers in the US and PCVs for cross-cultural learning! My learners are SO excited to hear about America and to tell the Grade 5s in America about their country.  I’m crossing my fingers that my letters arrive in a timely manner, apparently it takes three times as long for mail to get from Namibia to America than it does the other way around.  For this reason I asked the kids to introduce their penpals to Namibia, talk about their culture, their town, and their families, in case these are the only letters to arrive before the American school year ends. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to share with you two of these letters that reveal the very wide gap in abilities of my learners [although I should mention that the handful of kids who can’t read or write didn’t complete this assignment or turn in anything for me to mark]. Figuring out how to plan a lesson that helps this wide of a spectrum of skill levels is something I really hope to improve upon throughout my service. These learners had the same time to complete this in class -- I’m not changing any spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes, this is exactly what they look like.

Letter #1:
My name is Patresia, and I’m in grade 6. I’m schooling at Diaz primary school in Luderitz. I like people who are fun and loving people. My hobbies are playing and singing. I speak oshiwambo, but I come from Angola, I’m just schooling in Namibia because I don’t know Portuguese. My culture, we eat beans, porridge, spinach and meat. I live in Luderitz in the south of Namibia. Namibia is a very beautiful country. But I will tell you about Luderitz where I live, here in Luderitz we don’t have many bricks house we have shacks, but we love our homes. I’m not rich, I’m a simple girl. I’m poor. I’m proud to be a poor person. We have natural resource such as diamonds, we use diamonds to make our shoes, shirts and trouser beautiful.

The president of Namibia is Hifikepunye Pohamba he’s living in Windhoek the capital city of Namibia. In Luderitz we have a beach and it is a big sea and in Luderitz its very cold. In Luderitz some people catch fish. We have many festivals. We have also a Waterfront where we enjoy our crayfish festivals. We have crops such as mahangu, Maize and Wheat in our country, but not in Luderitz. We sell mango’s, apples for a business. My parents both work we just sell for extra money.

My dream is to become a doctor cause I want to help people who are sick. My mother’s name is Miss Josephina she works at pescanova. My father works at diamond motor his name is Pedro. In grade 1 I got 1 diploma in Afrikaans and I was so happy and my parent were also happy and proud of me. I grade 2 I got 5 diplomas in all subjects and I got N$200.00 and a trophy. In grade 3 I got 1 diploma and my parents were not so happy because I went down behalve of going up.

I want to know whats your name, where do you live in America, have you ever been with beyonce, Rihanna and maybe chrisbrown? Hows America, do you play netball Me I’m fantastic in 100meter and long jump. Do you do kind of sports. My favourite song is if I let you go by West Life. I like to buy my things in pep, spar, ok and shoprite. Does America have store like ours, how old are you/Me I’m 12 years old and I’m brown with black hair. I’m short, I’m a little bit fat. Please sent your picture/photo Me I will send oneday cause my photo are in our capital city where my auntie is living ok.

Letter #2:
My Country
I love Namibia namibia is a good country namibia is my home namibia have moundens namibia moundens is very long and big namibia also have animals and many trees biutife trees.

Questions I live in Ludritz my stree is Jakals draai my frind’s name is Moses he lives in 7 areas. I school at Diaz Primary school it is very nais we keep the school very clean.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Last weekend was the culmination of Diaz athletics! The Upper Primary grades [5-7] were divided into the Blue, Red, and Yellow Houses and went up against one another. Friday was field events at the school. We had shotput, discus, long jump, and high jump, with boys and girls divided into Under 11 and Under 13 categories. I watched/helped judge the boys shotput which was fun. Then Saturday morning was exciting because we had the track events at the stadium in Luderitz. As usual, chaos ensued in when it came to getting the learners together, but everyone still had a good time. I think only about half of the kids from the blue house [my team] showed up, ahhhtata. Also some of the learners that had won races in the practice and were therefore on my lineup straight up refused to participate – ‘but miss I will not run that length it is too far, I will faint!’

high jump!

sprints at the Luderitz Stadium!
 It was really fun to see all the houses sing chants against each other – I wish my camera hadn’t died or I would’ve taken a video! Anyway, the last event was the relay and everyone was pumped about cheering for it! Then all of a sudden teachers were telling me it was time to run. Oh no, ohhhhh no, I have proven to myself the past several months that in many, many ways I am willing to embarrass myself, but I have a limit, and this was that limit. Revealing my inability to run through racing in front of 250 or so naturally gifted athletes, aww hellll no! Thank the dear lord that no one informed me to wear sneakers [and that my foot was paining me/preventing me from running barefoot!]. I watched 5 other teachers race alongside kids which was hilarious. In the end, the blue house was crushed... we were in last place by a lot, but everyone still had fun!

Anyway, in a couple weeks Diaz and the other two primary schools here will face off - hopefully we will win and make it to the regional competition!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lessons in Namlish

As you know by now, English is the official language of Namibia. However, people here speak much differently than we do in America, and they call this version of English ‘namlish.’ Since arriving in nam I have become increasingly good at this type of english, in fact for almost the entirety of our holiday in Swakopmund we spoke to each other exclusively in namlish just for fun. I’ll go over a few terms now, thanks to some of the Core 34s who I sought out in compiling this list due to their excellent namlish.

Now: this does not mean actual now. It means some time in the near future, like maybe a few hours. However, now-now means now. Now-now-now means like urgent!
Example sentence: We must go now-now to get to school on time.

I am coming” this actually means “I am going,” I don’t really understand why. If you say ‘I am coming’ when you are actual arriving, people would be confused.
Example, as my colleague walked away from me but would get back to me eventually with the answer to my question: Ah, I am coming now.

ne’ [pronounced like nay] I can’t emphasis enough how this one word is used all the time, it goes at the ends of phrases or sentences and it’s equivalent is kind of like an affirming ‘right? Got it?’
Example used by my host mom showing me how to get to school from my new house: Do you see that you just go with the road here, ne?

Is It??” This is my favorite namlish term, it is most used amongst Afrikaans speakers, the equivalent is ‘really?’ Literally people use this term CONSTANTLY, so much so that I too have replaced the word really with ‘izzzit?’
Example sentence from another conversation with my host mom from a while ago:
Me: Guess what, I’m making red beans and rice for dinner tonight, and my mom in America just sms’ed me that she’s making the same thing!
Host Mom: Is it?!
[yup, it was]

Ayyyyy june [pronounced yuh-nna]: this means Oh lord, it too is common in conversations

Et seeeee! [pronounced ate sayyyyy!] I love this one. It’s used for emphasis or exclamation

Aahhtata: I’ve already referred to this one, it’s like a sigh

Oyyyoyoyo: this is also like a sigh

It’s true.” There’s no strange meaning to it, people just insert this phrase into a lot of conversations for some reason.

Used to” this means habitually, as in “They used to call me David”

Is it fine” being ‘fine’ here is a thing. Fellow PCV Allison does this namlish phrase the best, “it is fine my de-ah”

that side” this is used a lot in referring to places. As in, “ah, when I return that side [America] I will be speaking nice English, ne?”

Nam-lish phrases that I hear all the time at school
-ahhhh this one, he is not serious. The whole concept of ‘being serious’ is something talked about a lot.
-this one, she is very naughty [note: naughty is used a lot too, like my host mom refers to some of the teachers who like to party as a ‘naughty’ group, it’s pretty funny]
-“Teacher, borrow me a pen?” People don’t seem to be familiar with the word ‘lend’ here. The ‘borrow me’ thing is going to be my main project during term one, it drives me crazy!!! Goal is to get my learners to say “Ms. Nowlin, can you please lend me a pen?” we’ll see how long that will take. They also still call me ‘teacher,’ which really bothers me for some reason – I’m learning all 160 of their names, they are going to at least call me by mine!
-When talking about class expectations: “Teacher must learn us good English” In Afrikaans [and I assume Oshiwambo too], the word for teach and learn is the same.
-also, this is more cultural than namlish, but here people do not say 'you' to their superiors. this means that the learners will say "what does miss nowlin do when miss nowlin is in america?" and also that my friend the other night [a grown man] spoke to his boss like "did sir attend school near windhoek?" I guess that's how Namibians modify English to be more like Afrikaans, which does have a formal 'you.' inneresting

*at this point I have gotten the kids to use the word lend!!!! VICTORY!! Although, they don’t always give me my pen back… hmmm. i'm not sure they will ever stop calling me teacher it's so engrained in their school lives, but i'm going to keep up the fight.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Note: this has turned into a somewhat disheveled piece about my frustration with corporal punishment. Be warned.

Eish, I present another unfortunate story of my failures in classroom management. I reached a new low on Thursday – these intense highs and lows are killin’ me! I was teaching a lesson that was actually fun, brainstorming using topic bubbles. It went really really well with 6C, 6D and 6B [which is normally my bad class as of yet], but once 6A came it went down fast. Out of my 160 learners there are about 30 or so who literally have not one shred of respect for me. In large part this is still due to the fact that I don’t beat them. Sometimes I can manage it, but today they chose to really get out of control. For a double period with 6A I essentially was able to teach nothing. There were 8 or so boys who didn’t care that I was writing their names on the board, or that I would be holding them after school on Friday. I wanted to give a speech at the end of class about their behavior but I choked up too fast so all I got out was ‘your behavior has been outrageous, I am extremely upset.’ Then 6B came back for BIS [library] class, and at this point they didn’t feel like behaving anymore. I was tired and already on the verge of tears so I sat down until they quieted down. Then once I got teaching, albeit with a slightly cracked voice the behavior started, boys jumping out of their seats, getting in fights, kids backtalking me… about four were bold enough to yell at me that I can’t make them stay after school on a Friday [wanna make a bet?!]. During all this chaos one of my learners who is repeating the year [and was a member of the 6C bathroom fiasco of this past November], was literally begging me to go get another teacher who would handle it [note: ‘handle it’ means beating everyone], thus making me feel even more incompetent. The end of that class was not my proudest moment, and culminated in me screaming GET OUT OF MY CLASSROOM rather loudly at those boys [which didn’t work even though I screamed it several times, they weren’t done with pestering me] in front of half the class. Thankfully, I found out a couple other friends had an equally hard day. Let’s poll based on the actions we each took: Is it more inappropriate to:
a)    send kids out of the classroom/home 45 minutes early
b)   scream at learners to leave me be[and proceed to give them until the count of 5 to leave when screaming didn’t work]
c)    walk out of the classroom with the learners still inside
yep, I think I probably took the worst approach. However, options a and c were not in my spectrum – I’d get in trouble for letting them leave early, and if I left the classroom they’d just party even more! Nambles. The rest of the afternoon was spent baking/eating out my frustration in the form of caramel- frosted brownies. At least I can be thankful to have baking back in my life.

So, follow-up. I couldn’t keep the kids on Thursday because of a meeting so I moved detention to Friday. 7 boys were scheduled to be in my classroom, however, of those 3 ran away when the bell rang [can’t trust 11 year olds… they will be visiting the principal tomorrow], and one is discounted because he actually did what he was supposed to right away. Sometimes, when someone in a position of authority at the school feels like it we get out early on Fridays. So towards the end of period 7 of 8 the end-of-school bell rang. Another form of what almost turned violent chaos ensued in Ms. Nowlin’s classroom. I proceeded to press my back up against the door, not allowing anyone to exit until I said so. As this was 6A, learners couldn’t leave until they finished the homework I had assigned, for this is what I told them the day before. This meant that half an hour after school was out the majority of the class was still captive. The institutional workers [aka maintenance staff] were extremely confused.  Once I had gotten the majority of those kids out, the war with my 3 detention kids began. They didn’t think I was serious, and 2 almost attempted jumping out of the window to escape me. Thankfully, I was prepared to be calm and firm, despite the fact that I really thought one of them was going to shove me to get out the door. It took about 40 minutes of them yelling at me and me not backing down for them to realize that they were not leaving my classroom until they completed the assignment on the board. At about this time the same institutional worker Tate Shikongo came by and he now definitely thinks I’m weird. He witnessed me standing outside blocking the door saying very firmly “Natangwe you WILL respect me, I don’t care how long it takes, I have nothing but time today!!” Anyway, the score rests on stubborn scale of Nowlin:1 Learners: 0. Of the three boys, I think I got through to two of them. One of these two tried to complete the assignment, at which point I discovered he can’t read or write – sweet, now I understand why he causes disruptions. He also proposed moving another boy away from him so he could focus better! Whooo! The second of these boys ended up crying for 20 minutes… I couldn’t get him to tell me why, but I’m going to assume he can’t read or write either, so now I understand that too. The third…. Matthias, you are on my list buddy. At the least I think I got through to him that he would be staying after school every time he caused disruptions, a fate far worse than being beaten in his eyes.

As an aside, let’s talk about corporal punishment. As I’ve said countless times, it is illegal in Namibia, yet still occurs regularly. This means that while it still happens at my school, legally speaking if a parent were to file a complaint against the teacher that my principal would not be able to defend him/her. In my opinion, corporal punishment will continue in the schools as long as a culture of violence prevails in the country. Stopping violence in the schools, while a good start, is not stopping the extreme violence that many of my kids experience on a daily basis at home, whether they are being beaten by their parents or witnessing domestic violence. It is endlessly frustrating to me to try and propose alternatives because most of the Namibians I have spoken to about this really and truly believe it works. It is just what they grew up with and what they know. My attempts at making alternatives work in my classroom face obstacles when learners who want to help me go tell other authority figures – other teachers who will beat the learners, or on Friday one girl came and told me that she would go to Natangwe’s father for me – to which I responded please don’t! If she goes to him then that detention in which we did end up resolving things will have meant nothing! On Saturday I went to dinner with my new Namibian couple friends – they had his boss over as well, and a conversation somehow came up about corporal punishment and all their experiences. The wife Deli, who is from Botswana, talked about how corporal punishment did actually prove effective in scaring her into behaving. In Botswana, whipping learners is still legal – the child’s parents are called into school and then watch as the principal whips them. Roger and Mr. G [don’t really remember his name] both talked of their experiences as funny memories. Roger recalled it teaching him respect. Mr. G went off on a rant about the one principal he knew of who didn’t allow corporal punishment, referring to all those who don’t beat as ‘wimps.’ [after this was said I could not safely object with my opinions on the practice] He remembered beating his kids to teach them respect. He then told a story that completely and outright rejected his arguments for corporal punishment. I believe it was in an effort to support his defense of beating as long as it is done following strict rules. I find it funny that he did not realize that it was not logical, but nonetheless I will share it.

Back in the day, Mr. G [who is white and therefore attended a white school] had an American classmate, who was called ‘Yank’ by all the other boys. Yank got in trouble every day. He received the maximum three hits during school hours, and three hits after school hours in the hostel every day. None of it seemed to phase him, and he continued to be up to no good, having acclimated himself to being constantly beaten. One day Yank got to school early, and teachers arrived to him warming his hands over a fire he had made. The teachers also warmed their hands a bit while greeting Yank, then continued onwards towards their classrooms. Turns out, Yank had broken into the school and collected all the beating sticks from every teacher’s classroom, and used all of it for firewood. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to break into the principal’s office [which held rods of different sizes, for differing levels of offenses]. Yank had his fun, but still was beaten that day.

While this proved to be a funny story, it also proved the inefficacy of beating! Most of the time the kids who are getting beaten don’t care! It obviously isn’t an appropriate form of punishment if the same kids are getting beaten every day, they aren’t learning anything! Sure, they may quiet down for the rest of the class period, but the next day they’re up to the same old tricks. How does no one realize this madness?!?!?! Ok, rant over.