Glad All Over
February 11, 2013, 4:25 PM

Hey world,

Salama from Andapa once again! Thanks for all of the feedback on my last post. You asked a lot of really great questions (keep them coming!) and gave me loads to think about. Much appreciated as always!

This past month has been my busiest at site to date, and I’m loving it. Productivity suits me well. I’m back to teaching full time and things with my classes are really starting to come together. My 6eme classes are still huge huge huge, but as I wrote last time, this trimester is going much more smoothly. January marked 6eme’s first exam of the trimester (the next one I’m giving is next week), and most students did surprisingly well. I attribute this to a) me being more in control of what I’m doing and b) my students really jumping on the English learning bandwagon. I’ve had a few more lessons that have felt like complete breakthroughs, leaving me smiling all day. There are some days in 6eme where things just happen: I teach, they (hopefully) learn, we laugh, I joke around, class over. But then there are some days when everything just clicks. The class is engaged, I am on fire, they hit all of my learning objectives for the day, and everything runs like clockwork. Last trimester, those days were a rarity, but now they are quickly becoming the norm. It’s a nice reminder of how much I love my job.

In addition to teaching, I have officially started all of my secondary clubs that I wrote about in my last post. I now have three that I teach a week: one for Lycee students, one for beginner adults, and one for advanced adults. To get the clubs up and running, I went on Andapa’s Public Radio to make some announcements and also delivered typed invitations to major agencies around Andapa (police, World Wildlife Fund offices, Marojejy National Park office, all schools, etc). The Lycee club is a lot of fun; there are around 25-30 students who come each week. We focus on speaking and vocabulary mostly. I switch it up, but the format for now is one week we have conversation on a chosen topic (I choose the topic with our newly elected English Club president, Johnny, a student at the lycee who is so great). The other week we do activities like games (Telephone is a big hit) or American music vocabulary with the lyrics. Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and Akon (really) have been big hits so far. I desperately need to update my music library it seems! I wonder if some CSNY or Stones would be way over their heads. We’ll see.

My classes for adults are also a real treat. I co-teach both of these classes with my counterpart, Derio, a fellow CEG English teacher and my good friend here in Andapa. He is a real asset in these sessions, since the dynamics of teaching adults is obviously very different than teaching eleven year olds. It’s informative for both of us I think: he sees some of my teaching styles, and I get to observe him as well and offer feedback. Mutually beneficial! Our first session had a low turnout (probably due to the cyclone passing through!) of around 5 adults, but our weekly classes keep growing – last week we had around 17 beginning adults eager to learn English! A great sign. I have a few friends attending the class when they can, so it’s really fun for me to teach my Malagasy friends some English (especially since they are so helpful working with me on my Malagasy). The advanced class is also slowly growing. The first session at the library had around three adults, but we’ve since grown our number to around six or seven. I am blown away by how advanced these folks are and am thrilled to work with them. We’ll be working mostly on writing (similar to my Kenya program) and speaking, as they’ve requested.

What else can I tell you? Well, the month of January was also the month of fetys (parties). So many new years parties. So many. I went to one that my best Malagasy friend Zita had a few weeks ago and it was an absolute riot. I was a little unsure of exactly where the party was, but as soon as I turned the corner, I saw the entire road lined with plates full of rice, and I knew I found the right place. There were a few houses dedicated to the affair (block party!), including one just for a dance floor with mega speakers. I hung out with a lot of my Malagasy friends there and caught up from my month away. The CEG and Lycee have also had their new years parties, which have been really fun. All teachers and their families attend, so it was a great opportunity for me to hang out and get to know some teachers a bit more. As always, lots of dancing with everyone in the vicinity was involved. I’m quickly learning to not be shy about my awful dancing abilities – Malagasy people get a huge kick out of me just attempting to dance and making the effort anyway, so it’s a win-win. This week is the new years party for the CISCO (the government/educational bureau where I live, it controls all education-related things in the area), so that will be a lot of fun too.

I have also started to work more with English teachers in Andapa and in the surrounding countryside on teaching methodology to enter into the capacity building arena. I have an open invitation extended to any and all teachers who want to come observe my classes, and a few are eager to join when they have some free time. Today, I had a friend who teaches in Matsobe observe my 6eme classes and we debriefed afterwards about how he could take what he saw and use it in his own classes. Very interesting to hear what he had to say. Also, last week, I taught with my friend Hyacinthe, an English teacher at a school in Bealampona (a rural town around 20km away from Andapa). He invited me to bike out to his school and teach his students for two hours and have all of the teachers at the school observe me. It was a really interesting experience. The bike ride was a bit long and at times quite strenuous (a pretty messy unpaved road), so when I arrived to teach I was a bit (aka a lot) of sweaty mess. Awkward. But the teaching went well, and I had a great debriefing session with the teachers afterwards about techniques and methodology. After the session, I ate lunch with the headmaster before beginning the long bike ride back home. I hope to work with these teachers at least once a month, because they are all so nice and eager to improve!

In other news, I am proud to announce that I have gotten back into my yoga grind finally, and I’m feeling quite centered at the moment (I’m writing this post after wrapping up a solo session in my house a few minutes ago). I practiced yesterday with my sitemate Kim on the porch area outside my house, and it was rather funny. At some points we had a bit of an audience; some Malagasy kids passing through didn’t know quite what to make of us. One of my 6eme students asked me in class just what in the world I was doing at my house yesterday, and then demonstrated tree pose. Too cute. If anyone has any good suggestions of yoga podcasts or music for playlists, I would really appreciate it!

Alright, that’s all I got for now. Trying to keep the rambling to a minimum for your benefit! Hope all is well!