…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

An all too typical Friday

This weekend, Todd, John and I decided to take a trip to Ha’ano  to visit Blair. As per usual, we had to arrange a ride from our village to the wharf and then find a boat to take us the 45 minute ride to the island. I am fortunate in that my busy days for school are Monday-Wednesday, so I am “usually” finished with my class in the morning. Let me take that back, there is no usual schedule at St. Joseph’s.
This week, our Friday schedule was “special” because it’s netball and rugby season. For the past few Fridays, we have had half days and then the games with the other 3 high schools commence at 12 noon on the field next to my school. At first, our deputy principal decided that it would be a good idea to only have 3 periods on Fridays and then break for sports. I asked the principal if we could maybe just have shorter periods and run our whole day’s program instead of missing 3 periods on Friday’s for 8 weeks. The principal agreed and we have shorter periods on Fridays now. Don’t ask me why, but we don’t run the day periods 1-6. Sometimes 2nd period is first, sometimes 5th, and I never know until I get to the teacher’s meeting at 8:10am Friday morning (and Thursday). I even asked my principal (one of the nuns that I live with) what our schedule was that morning before school, she didn’t even know!
Back to sports: So, the night before, it was decided by Ha’apai High School that we would have half days and start the sports program at noon (unbeknownst to my principal). My school’s sports advisor agreed and we had the shortened schedule. Then, at around 9:30am (after my 30 minute class was complete-you can’t get much done in 30 minutes with 12 and 13 year olds!), I was told that Ha’apai High had called and that they now wanted to have a full day of school and start the games at 3pm. My principal agreed and adjusted the schedule accordingly. About 30 minutes later, Ha’apai High called again, saying that they wanted to go back to the half day schedule. My principal wouldn’t stand for it. She kept the full day schedule saying that they needed to make up their mind and stick to it. I was proud of her!
“Usual Schedule”
Here is a list of things that could and do affect my daily school schedule:

The Cadet program: Thursdays & Fridays (during the off season), forms 4, 5 and the vocational students participate in a Ministry of Defense Cadet program. A soldier from the “base” in Ha’apai comes and drills the students in our field. This is a great program except that it messes with the schedule dreadfully. Every Thursday and Friday’s schedule is different, the kids never know what class they are going to and the teachers have a hard time keeping it straight too. The problem I have with it is that this was a late add. It was not worked into the original schedule for the term, so every week, class time is forsaken. It wouldn’t bother me if we weren’t getting ready for the National exam that is very important to these kids future. They are missing English, Tongan, Accounting, Science, Geography and/or Computers once a week for this.

Mass: I do work at a Catholic High School. So, once a month, the priests that live in front of me hold a special mass for the students. Usually on Fridays, two or three periods are sacrificed.

Funerals: As noted in a previous blog, if someone related to a teacher at the school dies, the entire school attends the funeral. This usually takes two or three periods.

Rain: Yup. No lights and flooding…full days gone.

“Special Assemblies”: Today, the form 5 students performed a traditional Tongan Wedding Kava circle for one of their internal assessments that is sent to the Ministry of Education. Yes, it was informative but it also swallowed up most of period 1.

The bell not ringing: Sometimes, the student who is responsible for ringing the bell just forgets to do it (understandable). Your 55 minute Economics class turns into an hour and 20 minute marathon, thus forsaking most of the next period.

Sports, oh sports. For all of you fans out there, I understand why physical activity is important for high schoolers. They need to get out there and run around. But, the amount of time spent on unorganized sporting events in Ha’apai is ridiculous. We had an entire week off of school term 1 for a track like event that no one trained for. Then we have this 2 month season of rugby and netball which eats into our Wednesdays and Fridays. We have inter-school competitions which give us half days a few days each term.
All this to say that we have not had a full week of school since the middle of term 2 (mid April).

All’s well that ends well, right?

John, Todd and I did make it to Ha’ano on Friday. We had our normal excellent time with Blair and her gang up there. Lot’s of fish, blackjack playing, kava circling and relaxing. We even saw some more whales on our way home.

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1 Comment»

  Heidi wrote @

haha! I love how a student has to ring the bell. So you can’t just change classes without it ringing? sounds crazy. The list of disturbances made me laugh. Does “form” mean grade?


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