Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Schooling Differences

Things have just gotten so routine over here at Diaz Primary, but I thought maybe I could reflect upon some things from my schooling years that are somewhat or very different from my school here.

American Primary School
Namibian Primary School
An automated bell rings at the end of the period
The bell rings whenever the secretary/whoever is in the office gets up to ring it… sometimes it rings early, sometimes the secretary forgets about it and I end up with rowdy kids because my lesson plan is finished. Also, the bell here sounds like what I imagine an air raid siren sounded like during World War II. True story.
There is a large building on school grounds, in which you find the offices, classrooms, and other assorted important rooms to a school. Often this involves STAIRS and even better HALLWAYS.
No stairs, no central building with everything, no hallways. Unless you count the hallway being the great outdoors. Classrooms are lined up in blocks. Stairs are pretty unheard of here.
There is a librarian, and generally someone in charge of the computer lab. Learners have access to the library and the computer lab.
There is no full-time librarian/computer lab person. Currently I am librarian along with another teacher. At the start of Term 3 hopefully I will share computer lab responsibilities with an ICT committee of teachers. As of now learners are not allowed into the computer lab at my school.
There is a gym. Maybe even a field on which you can play sports.
My school’s grounds are made of sand [#desertlife]. There are three concrete platform type things where we have PE and assembly, and learners practice netball. During track season, they run outside the gates of the school on the gravel/sand/rocks barefoot.
There is a cafeteria!!!!!!!! And a different time for recess!
Learners race outside of the classroom at break time to line up and receive their food outside the soup kitchen. Havoc ensues outside with 970 learners running around for 40 minutes. There is just one break, as school ends at 1:30.
There are class sets of fiction books to use in English class. There are also textbooks, spelling books, vocabulary books.
We have a class set of English textbooks. However, I find them boring/not challenging enough, so we literally never use them. I hoarded my copy paper to make a class set of copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Students wear whatever they want, within reason/a dress code
Learners have a set uniform.
If you fail the grade, you repeat it, end of story.
In Namibia, you can fail and repeat a grade just once during each phase of school. At the primary school level, the phases are Grade 1-4 and Grade 5-7. This means if you fail grade 3, but you have already failed grade 2 and repeated that year, you get passed on. Once you hit Grade 5 and fail only then will you repeat that year again, but just the once.  This consequently means I have about 6 learners who are completely illiterate, even though they are in Grade 6 and about 13/14 years old. Things start to get more serious with regards to failing in secondary school.
If you get a 66 you pass the year.
If you get a 29 for the year you pass. [will have to go into the marking system at another time, it’s a whole other story]
If you are bad, you go to detention.
If you are bad, you probably get beaten. And if you are Miss Nowlin, the boys don’t care how they act towards you because you aren’t going to hit them, and they run home instead of coming to detention.
If you are a teacher and have something to do, you do it yourself
If you are a teacher and have something to do, you send a child to do it for you. 
Students write however they want to, unless they have specific instructions from teachers
Learners are obsessed with ensuring that their notes are written perfectly, and take their time writing to make sure of this. They are also obsessed with drawing lines [using their oft fought over rulers] under their notes when topics are complete. In my classroom some children love asking me if they should draw a line when they’re done, because I get annoyed and another child shouts in their imitation American accent “Miss N doesn’t caaaaaaaare!!”
Handouts are common, whether as worksheets or homework assignments
Paper is a precious commodity, and has to be used sparingly --> lots of note taking from the board

Namjam of the month: this is a song that my learners got me hooked on during one of our recent Fun Friday dance parties. I actually like the version I have of them singing and dancing to it better, but I can’t seem to find the video on my computer! I BELIEVE

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