Thursday, October 07, 2004

Some days are like that

Well it’s not often I write a black kind of letter from here – usually make sure it’s (mostly) sweetness and light – but today just SUCKED!!! And I guess if I’m going to do this blog/journal thing properly, it comes warts and all…

The day started in a mad panic because I knew I was going to be observed teaching my Grade 11 Computers class this morning, with a report written for the Inspector to view next week on his visit. And normally this kind of thing wouldn’t phase me at all – give me an English lesson, or Library, or teaching how to use Word or Power Point or even Publisher – but today I was supposed to start Excel with the girls, and I’ve only ever used it in a format made by someone else, with very explicit instructions. I wouldn’t even really know how to begin myself, let alone teach it! And all the notes I printed yesterday from the intro package didn’t really give me any clear guidelines or definitions or even starting points – so I did what all good techno’s do – hit the internet at 11pm last night. Now you’d think the Microsoft web page, esp the training bit would give you a brief blurb about what the software is, and how it works, wouldn’t you? Think again!

So I got up early, figuring I’d have time to check out the computer lab for notes before class, and time to practice in Period 2 which I thought I had off. Silly me forgot I had a Class Patron meeting before class, then a double Grade 9 when I thought I had a free – so I’d be walking into the Obs lesson cold - no notes, no practice – nothing!

The lesson itself actually went ok, because I ended up doing a revision lesson on tables and Word formatting (the fact that the Excel student notes hadn’t been photocopied yet gave me a legit excuse to not be able to teach the ‘planned’ lesson), but it wasn’t exactly the way I had hoped things would turn out.

The rest of the teaching day consisted of lessons that went ok, but at lunch time I realised I had 45 English books, 45 fairytales and another class load of Library books to mark before Monday’s Inspector visit, as well as Grade 11 record sheets to complete, Term 4 programs to write, and Term 3 evaluations to do (to say nothing of organizing the piles of paperwork Papua New Guineans seem to adore creating into orderly labeled bundles) – all before Monday. With Night Study Boarding Duty til 9.15pm tonight; Ben’s farewell stuff on the weekend; and a (probably most of the day) Parent Teacher meeting on Sunday leaving very little time to get it all done.

Then this afternoon I had to supervise Grade 9 Work Parade (mowing the oval by grassknife); help the Magazine Committee continue working on re-writing last year’s Yearbook which some absolute #@!*head managed to lose from the server (a year’s worth of work down the toilet, and which I – for some unbeknownst reason considering I wasn’t even here last year – have to organize the replacement of); download & edit digital photos of the Mufti Day for the Prefects and help them judge the winner (the best dressed from a bunch of young girls wearing ‘street’ clothes – I ask you???); and recruit new Specialists to work in the Library in the afternoons. All in the same 1 ½ hour block of time. I don’t know how the hell I ended up with all these extra-curricular jobs – also trying to coordinate the ordering and sale of photos from the Cultural Day as a fundraiser (which I’m already beginning to realise, after just seeing how many order forms have been picked up by the girls, it going to be a HELL of a headache); organize a different library monitor system; and get the library cleared of the 5000 odd books that are sitting waiting to be covered and catalogued. And start a monthly newsletter written by the students. Aarghhh! Capacity building??????? Who has the time?

But actually, the bit of the day that really took it to (almost) the top of the ‘Worst Days in Moresby’ list was this morning when one of my classgirls (their terminology – it’s stuck!) came to see me just before first period to ask if she could go home because she was really sick. Her eyes were totally puffed up, with little pustule type things around them and she said it was a reaction to the medicine she drank for her sickness. She was absent yesterday, and when I saw her not in class then my stomach just sunk because I’d warned her at the end of last term that she’d been absent 30 days and reached her limit – I’d give her one more day, but after that I couldn’t do anything to help her. Here at Marianville (maybe all throughout PNG?) there’s a 30-day absence limit – once they’ve reached it, regardless of the reasons, they get de-registered, dis-enrolled, kicked out. Even if they have legitimate reasons.

Now this girl had certainly been anything but a committed student – never did homework, lazy in class, rarely motivated – and probably wagged a lot of those 30 days. But she had missed the first 12 days of school because she hadn’t paid her school fees yet and wasn’t allowed in until she had paid them. And she was legitimately sick at least the last 2 days she was away. But unfortunately the rule is a hard and fast one – based on the premise that whether they’re sick, didn’t pay yet, or just plain wagging, they’re too far behind after that many days off – they can apply to repeat the next year, but places are much sought after and if they’re not going to use their spot, well they lose it. Which I guess is fair enough.

But having to tell a crying girl who’s begging you to let her stay because “my daddy will belt me good and proper if I go home and tell him” (and a PNG daddy’s belting means business)… How do you cope with that? And it’s even worse when you know she probably won’t be allowed to try again next year because they’ve already wasted so many kina on this year’s education. Where will she go? Will she even go home? Chances are she’ll run away to escape the belting – that happened to the last girl in my class who reached 30 days – she ran away before things even got that far along, back when she was just afraid to show her report card.

I just ended up crying at my desk while I wrote her a letter to take home, explaining that I knew she was legitimately sick but rules were rules, and there was nothing we could do. How do you find a way to say ‘please don’t beat her up’ without actually saying that?

Some days here the sun just stops shining, even when it’s bright outside.


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