I can't believe we've already begun the 3rd trimester in this school year! I'm almost through my second full year of teaching. Weird. So since I'm an expert--not!--I thought I'd bore you all with some teaching philosophy stuff and a weird story. One thing I've learned so far is that a majority of classroom problems I encounter are my fault or partly my fault as a teacher. I never thought I would think that in a place like this where much of the blame for classroom problems can easily be placed on situational or environmental issues--like ridiculously large class sizes of 120 8th graders, lack of doors and complete walls, and little to no administrative support--but when I reflect on the past 5 trimesters here, I come to the conclusion that a really well-prepared and delivered lesson trumps all those other issues...usually. (There are those times when I think Mozambican classrooms would get the best of the greatest teacher in the world). So toward the end of the second trimester after a frustrating 2 weeks of battling for the lil monsters' attention, I sat down and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. If I was an 8th grader squished into that classroom and some weirdo foreigner lady delivered me that lesson, I concluded, I wouldn't pay attention either. Back to the drawing board.
Since we were working on the circulatory system, I thought I would try to bring in something to grab their attention. So I went to our market one day after a cow was slaughtered and bought some cow guts. I got lucky. The heart with portions of all the major vessels was still in-tact and no one had taken it yet. I took it home, dissected it, and identified the structures I'd been explaining in class. Show and tell went quite well. Although, I don't think anyone has ever done anything like that before. They started giggling and exchaged the all too familiar glances that they exchange whenever no one knows--since they're only 8th graders and I'm a foreigner and sometimes the only teacher at the cashew factory--if I'm doing something wrong, taboo, or just weird. They got pretty into it though.
They're not a bit squeamish like American students are when it comes to guts and blood. In fact, I had to ask them to stop grabbing and poking the heart with their bare hands...cause after a whole day in the hot sun being squished and poked at (and with no bathrooms or running water for miles), I had no idea what lil extra microscopic prizes were growing on my cow heart. And to confirm what I feared, they all wanted the heart. Sick. I knew that they would cook it up and eat it if they took it home and I didn't want to be responsible for a salmonella death, so I told them no one could have the heart. They asked me if I was going to eat it. I said no and tried to teach them about bacteria, but that just sounds dumb and finicky to a kid who has always seen meat purchased after sitting in the market exposed to flies, poked over by anyone and everyone, and handed to the buyer in no packaging whatsoever. My plan was to take the heart home and throw it away, but people always go through our trash. Darn. So I told them that I was going to swim out to one of the islands and feed it to the sharks. Good one, Professora. They told me Allah would be mad at me for that sin. Got me there. After class, they all started following me home. Creepy. So I started running and someone driving by saw the American teacher with cow guts running from a pack of students and gave me a ride. Whew. So anyway, after their initial anger about me burying the heart in a top-secret location wore off, we've been doing a lot better in class. Yay cow hearts. Yay fresh starts.