January 10, 2013

Don't volunteer to make the schedule...ever

For the past couple of weeks, I've been kind of an emotional wreck. I don't really know how else to describe it. I keep apologizing to my roommate for being such a freak, but she says she hasn't really noticed...which makes me feel like I've just been an emotional wreck since meeting her back in Philly. So that's great. Anyway, I have already enlightened you all to the ever-so-pleasant experience that followed from my back problems. After a week of being pain free, the back pain returned in full force a few days ago. I promptly texted the Peace Corps medical officer, who told me that I should take ibuprofen and sleep on the floor for a week to see if that helps. So on top of stress about the impeding school year (with curriculum and everything about teaching unbeknownst to me), medical problems galore, and just in general doubting my abilities to live in Mozambique for two years, I was about to lose it a couple of days ago. Luckily, I have a pretty great support system both here in Mozambique and back in the states. Talking to my friends here, I quickly realized that I am not alone in my feelings of “what the hell am I doing in Mozambique?” Also, upon further examination of my wacky behavior, I realized that the malaria prevention that I've been taking for the past three and a half months of which I'd previously shown no side effects has a kind of personality altering side effect. It just makes you kind of a crazy version of yourself. So when I realized that all of this crazy might not be my fault, it made me feel much better about the situation.

In other news: I found out that I will be teaching 4 sections of 11th grade math. Curriculum here isn't exactly the same as it is in the U.S., so 11th grade math includes a little of everything: mathematical logic, algebra, trigonometry, logarithms...yeah...should be fun. Of the 4 sections I'll be teaching, 3 of the sections are the exact same, and one is a similar class, just at a slower pace. I will teach for 15 hours every week. I teach in the afternoons. I have a loaded schedule teaching 6 classes on Mondays and Thursday, and teach one class on Tuesdays and two on Wednesdays. If you guys can do the math: 6 x 2 + 1 + 2 = 15. No classes on Fridays for me. :) Yay!

To be fair, Sarah and I made the schedule for the school. The whole school. Yeah, it was a mess. We started working on it on Monday, and just finished today (literally working on it for four days straight with hardly any breaks...). We were told by other volunteers that it was a good idea to volunteer to make the schedule for a few reasons:

  1. Peace Corps supplied us with a program that can make schedules, and otherwise the school has to do it by hand...which is a huge pain.
  2. We can determine our own schedules.

So clearly, at the beginning it sounded like a great idea to make the schedule. When we brought home all of the papers on Monday to get to work, we honestly had no idea what we were getting into. We thought the program was fun to use and we were really excited about it. Then we brought the schedules we were oh so proud of to the school the next day, and promptly learned that we couldn't print anything from the program we had been using. So we set out on the daunting task of transferring everything to excel by hand before printing it. So there was a whole other day of mind numbing work on the computer. When we returned to the school and printed the schedule, our pedagogical director told us that we needed to change it...like basically re-do the whole thing. He gave us a bunch of stipulations to follow that we hadn't had in the first place. So by that time I was pretty frustrated, and then sitting at home for 6 hours redoing the whole thing didn't help my frustration level. By 11 o'clock last night I was practically crying from being so tired of the freaking program and messing with the near-impossible puzzle. And then there left the daunting task of recopying everything back into excel to print it. Mozambique, man. Sometimes it's rough. Finally at 12 today, we printed out the schedule. And I haven't heard anything from the school since then, so I'm crossing my fingers that we're done with it for good. But yeah, seriously regretting volunteering for that task now. If we have to do that again for every trimester I might cry...

I do feel bad for all of the teachers though because while we were doing all of this crazy work on the schedule, even today they didn't know what grades/classes they would be teaching or know anything about their schedules (some of which are pretty rough...). In Mozambique, school is set up differently than in the U.S. In most schools, there are not enough classrooms to have everyone at the school at the same time. At our school in Messica, there are 13 classrooms on the school's property, and then there are an additional 4 in an annexed building that is about a 20 minute walk from the school. So in the morning, 9th and 10th graders have classes. Then, in the afternoon 8th, 11th, and 12th graders have class. Then, for all of the people that can't go to school during the day because of jobs or whatever else, there are night classes of every grade.

Also, classes are set up a lot differently than in the U.S. They do not change classes like a typical high school in the U.S. Here, students are assigned to a turma (homeroom). They are with these students all day, every day, all year. Each turma is assigned a classroom. The professor's move classrooms, the student's don't (which actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it). They don't have the same classes in the same order every day. They have between 8 and 10 subjects for each grade, so obviously that wouldn't be possible. Therefore, as you can imagine, scheduling is a freaking mess.

Classes start on the 15th, but the 'official opening' of the school year is on the 14th. I'm not quite sure what that entails, but it should be interesting to see what happens. It is coming up so quickly, and I really have yet to start preparing due to the scheduling situation. Today we briefly met in our respective subjects and 'discussed the curriculum.' Basically, this entailed copying the mandated objectives and procedures onto a different sheet and submitting it to the pedagogical directors. I thought I would get a little more information than that, but I'm learning to roll with the punches. I have the 11th grade math book, so with that and the list of things I should be covering, I will hopefully be able to get some plans together. This weekend, I am planning on writing out my lessons and studying the vocabulary that I will need to give an effective lesson. I'm thinking that I have a good review activity to do the first day though, because I'm stealing someone's lesson from model school (thanks Anna Derby!).

I know by the time Tuesday rolls around I'm going to be super nervous. Luckily I only have one class on Tuesdays. For right now, my nerves are under control and I'm feeling more or less capable of doing this...crazy, I know. But that feeling could probably change by the time I finish writing this blog...stupid Lariam.

For now I will leave you with something that spoke to me today. It was one of my New Year's Resolutions to read a devotional by Mother Teresa every day called “The Joy in Living” and reflect on it. Today's reading really struck a chord with me, so I'll share it here.

“To students: I pray that all those young people who have graduated do not carry just a piece of paper with them, but that they carry with them love, peace, and joy. That they become the sunshine of God's love to our people, the hope of eternal happiness, and the burning flame of love wherever they go. That they become carriers of God's love. That they be able to give what they have received. For they have received not to keep but to share.”

This just explains so perfectly what I hope to be doing over here in Mozambique. So here's to sharing my love, my knowledge, and all I have with everyone I come in contact with here. Whether they are Mozambican, Zimbabwean, Portuguese, Brazilian, American, or anything else, may I carry God's love to them. I know that they've most definitely already shown His love to me.


  1. Anna, I am weirdly comforted by your state of freaking-out because it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one. I dunno, the last week or so has been ROUGH. I also still don't know what turmas I'm teaching, or when, but I'm teaching three different grade levels, so that's going to be... challenging.
    Remember that they say the first three months at site are the hardest. If we can get to re-connect, we GOT this.

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  3. All of you remember that there will be more crazy moments than perfect moments. Hold onto the touching and perfect moments that you will have in teaching, those will get you through. Teaching in America was challenging, so I can not even imagine in Africa. Also try to talk and vent to each other as much as you can, that will relieve a lot and give each other ideas. During my student teaching one of my friends and I called each other every day while driving to teach, those time helped us get through here, so I am sure they will be more important to all of you there. None of you are ever alone. Jamie (Japher is Jon's google name)

  4. You will do great! And I am so happy my model school lesson will get used, since I definitely won't be using it...

    But seriously, you are going to do an awesome job, the kids are going to love you. And remember that as a lady math teacher here, just showing up in the classroom is already changing live for girls who think they can't do math!