…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

First Day of School….Check!

Well, I did it, survived my first day of school as a teacher. I will say that it’s not what I expected, but a great day none the less. First off, the staff agreed that we would all arrive at school at 8:10 each morning to pray together before school starts. Getting all of the teachers to agree to this was not without its challenges. In the past, the students were waiting in the classroom for their teachers. The new principal said this was not acceptable and that we all needed to agree upon a time before began that they could get here. You should have heard some of the excuses for coming to school late! One of them was that there is a world news radio program on at 8:00am each morning and teachers wanted to listen to it and that’s why they were late to work. My solution was to bring my Peace Corps radio into the teachers’ lounge so that we can listen to the radio together. We also decided that for every three times you are late, you have to pay $2 pa’anga to the social committee. (It was $5 pa’anga, but some complained that that was too much, I mentioned that they just shouldn’t come late to work. I was thanked for that comment by my principal later, I thought I should have kept my mouth shut :))

So, most of the teachers arrived on time. We shared a prayer and hymn together then went outside to see the students. I think one of our goals of working together as a model to the students was met this morning with our prayers and songs, the students saw us meeting together. We went outside and the students had lined up according to their forms. I teach at a college (high school in America) with Forms 1-5. This is about 8th grade through 12th grade. I am teaching English to form 2 students, so after the students sang the school song (a throwback to Saved by the Bell!) we took our respective forms to their classrooms. I did not know that we were coming together as form teachers to introduce ourselves and get to know our students a little. (I had a lesson planned, oh well). So, it was myself, Meliia and Lomano as the form 2 teachers. Lomano took role for us since my pronunciation of Tongan is still not that great and Meliia introduced us teachers. I started the class off by having the students give me an English word for each letter of the alphabet. Then, we started the name game. It goes like this, I started with “Joyful Juleigh”, Malaia was “Mother Malaia” and then our first student was “Pencil Peni.” The kids caught on very well, it ended up being a fun exercise.

Then it was time to clean the classroom. Yes, the students actually clean the classrooms. We don’t have janitors at our school, so the students and teachers are 100% responsible for keeping up the classrooms and common areas. The kids went to work right away. Lomano got them an old sheet, we tore that a part and gave each student a piece. Then, some boys went and found a bucket (from where, I don’t know) and filled it with water. I asked the kids to begin by scrubbing the walls (I don’t think they’ve ever been cleaned)! We scrubbed and scrubbed. Then, we started on the windows and doors. We ended by bringing in buckets of water and “mopping” the floor. We didn’t have a mop, so we swept the water outside of the door. That got most of the dirt and grime out. The students worked hard for 2 hours! Our room looks much better now! The day ended with the students all sitting under the mango tree listening to our deputy principal Kolio thank them for their work and welcome them to the school year.

I was thankful today for the work of the students and teachers; our school looks and feels much better. Just another day in Tonga, adjusting to the new and different ways they do things. Now I need to get busy making visuals for my lesson tomorrow. I think we are going to start class by reading a chapter of Charlotte’s Web and then talk about the parts of a novel/story. I am also preparing to start our pen pal program with my cousin Jeffery’s school in Cypress, California! I can’t wait! So thank you for your prayers, today went well and it’s even ending with a glorious rain shower!



  gypsy wrote @

I so enjoyed reading this. And I can’t wait for one of my kids to complain about school so I can tell them how lucky they are that they don’t have to scrub their classroom walls and floors!

  B.J. Newell wrote @

Wow! Talk about your culture shock! So much discussion about being to school on time! And then the KIDS clean the room on the first day of school! Love it!
Enjoy teaching “college,” Juliegh! Your students look so dear!

  Heidi wrote @

Oh my gosh this makes the US kids look way spoiled! I can’t believe they have to clean their classroom. Thanks for posting all these photos, I need to catch up!

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