February 2, 2013

"Multi-choice" Nightmare

Happenings in Mozambique never cease to amaze me.

On Thursday at the end of the school day, I came home very frustrated. My eleventh grade students were INSANE during my lessons in my last two turmas. They would just not stop talking, and I'm having trouble demanding their attention. It's just really annoying because I thought since I was teaching eleventh grade, they would want to be in school and learn and I wouldn't have disciplinary problems like this. But I was wrong. So I'm going to start kicking people out. Things are going to get serious. No cheating, no disrespecting me, period. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it...or at least until I get back in the classroom and chicken out. When I told my students that they would have to turn their homework in on Monday, they all jumped down my throat saying “what do you mean, Monday, we don't have classes on Monday!” Which was news to me...so I asked them what they were talking about and legitimately I had 50 students screaming the reason at me at the same time. Obviously I couldn't understand any of them, especially when I couldn't even hear myself think. It was so rough. It took all the patience I had to get through the rest of that turma. And at the end of the day, I still wasn't sure if we had classes Monday or not.

I got home and started venting to Sarah (poor girl). I told her about the no classes on Monday rumor and she told me she hadn't heard anything about it. We were both kind of hoping it was a lie because we are both already really behind in the curriculum due to the slow start of the school year and we have provincial exams at the end of the trimester to prepare the students for. She also informed me that we had a seminar the coming weekend on Saturday from 8-4. This was my reaction: “umm....WHAT?! Um what the heck could we be talking about for 8 hours...? Do we get lunch...?” And not surprisingly, she didn't know any more answers than I did. Oh Mozambique...

So Friday was a nice day of relaxing and planning for my unlikely lessons on Monday. I texted one of the Pedagogical Directors asking him if we had school Monday, and legitimately he texted back “I don't have information.” Okay, if the freaking Pedagogical Director doesn't know, we have a problem. So I took things a step further and texted the Director. He called me and explained that Sunday is a Mozambican holiday (Day of the Heroes) and normally when they have holidays on Sundays, they don't have school on Monday. He said it wasn't officially announced yet, but we weren't going to be having classes on Monday. I then asked him about the seminar and he confirmed that it was happening (and also that it was 8 hours long). I mean, it was helpful to learn what was going on, but I wasn't so stoked about the results of the phone call.

This morning, I got up and ate a hearty breakfast in anticipation of an 8 hour day with no sustenance. Sarah and I made our way to the school, and talked with the other professors who were waiting for the seminar to start. We asked them what the seminar was about and they told me something that I had a hard time believing: multiple choice tests. I actually almost laughed thinking that we would be talking about multiple choice tests for 8 hours. But I shouldn't have laughed. I should have known that since I'm in Mozambique, it indeed takes 8 hours to explain how to write a good multiple choice question, the different types of multiple choice questions, etc. About an hour in, I was out for the count. I've never really taught before, but I've taken enough multiple choice tests in my life to know how questions should be written. Apparently that's not the case for all of my colleagues. They were chalk-full of questions, doubts, and comments. Seriously, guys?

After about 2 hours of riveting 'multi-choice' information, we were allowed a break. Upon announcement of the duration of the break (5 minutes), there was an uproar from all of my colleagues. In that moment, I thought I was back in my turma on Thursday. It was a slightly comical and slightly horrifying realization that it's not just an issue of my students being easily riled up, but more of a cultural norm to not let things you don't approve of go by unnoticed.

After our slightly longer than 5 minute break, we were back in for 2 more hours of (repetitive) information. At least 30 minutes of the two hours was debating whether or not it is better to use arrows or lines to indicate parts of diagrams. I'm not kidding. If you know me personally, you know how I was feeling at that point. And if you don't, I can paint the picture a little better for you: I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. So not the happiest camper.

A little after noon we broke for lunch, which the school provided. We waited around for about a half hour before it was delivered, and when it arrived, things got pretty out of control. It was literally like my colleagues hadn't eaten in weeks. Sarah and I stood back and watched the madness unravel. Then one of our colleagues grabbed a plate and handed it to me and handed another one to Sarah. So we were in on the madness. I got one of the last pieces of chicken (score!) and my xima and headed outside to sit and eat Mozambican-style (with my hands). When I sat down outside, there was some chaos going on inside. Apparently the people that made the food didn't bring enough plates even though they were told the right number, so there were a fair number of people that weren't able to eat...one of the Pedagogical Directors being one of them. Oh man, bad day for the cooks. Eventually it all got sorted out, but there was a lot of yelling, and it was a little uncomfortable there for awhile.

After lunch, we went back into the classroom and started up with the seminar once again. Yes, I know you're shocked, but we were still discussing multiple choice questions. It lasted for about an hour longer, and then 'closing remarks' from professors, Ped Directors, and the people leading the session lasted about a half hour. Finally at around 3:30, we were free (Praise Jesus)!

Then Sarah and I decided to go on an adventure with our Ped Director, Jorge. He has a car, and he took us to Manica to walk around and hang out. When we got to Manica, he asked us if we'd ever been to Machipanda, which is further west on the EN6, right on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. We told him we hadn't, so he decided he needed to take us. So we continued on our excursion to Machipanda, which is located in the Chimanimani Mountains and absolutely beautiful. The drive was great, and we went all and the way up to the Zimbabwe border, but didn't cross. We're going to hike up the mountains on the border sometime and hopefully I'll step into Zimbabwe at some point. :) On our way back through Manica, we got some money out at the bank, stopped to buy some homemade peanut butter, and got some pastries at a bakery that Jorge pointed out to us. Then when we got back to Messica, Jorge took us a different way to our house and past the place in Messica that produces lots of wood for Mozambique (Yes, Mom, I finally saw it...good job doing your research). So it was a successful excursion and I enjoyed exploring Machipanda, Manica, and Messica.

So today was a little rough at first, but it got a lot better as it went on. Tomorrow I am going to church in the morning, and then Sarah and I are re-doing the schedule for the school...again. Apparently we got more teachers, so it needs to be redone. Oh joy. I'm going to be the most patient person in the world in two years...