Model School

For the past week and a half, the education trainees have been participating in Model School, which is exactly what it sounds like: local teenagers come to the secondary school every morning, and we give lessons in English, chemistry and biology. It has been by far one of the most useful things we have done, to actually practice teaching Mozambican students, even though these classes are very small and composed of volunteers—granted having been enticed with free school supplies and a daily package of biscuits.

I worked with a group of four other female English teachers to put together a two-week curriculum for two classes, or turmas, of ninth grade students that we share with a group of chemistry teachers. Each day, each turma has two English lessons and two chemistry lessons. My group trades off teaching lessons so it works out that each of us teaches about once a day. I think we lucked out because our kids seem to understand us and get what is going on, even if they are unaccustomed to the kinds of activities we try to bring into the classroom. They are not at all sure what to do when asked to work in groups, and an exercise in reading comprehension that had them answering questions generated responses copied word-for-word out of the text we provided. Some of them in particular are bright and motivated, requesting homework and seeking our help outside of class.

Teaching itself has been fine, challenging but straightforward, and what I’ve enjoyed most is just interacting and talking with the kids. We were required to work HIV/AIDs information into one lesson—HIV rates hover around 17 or 18% in Mozambique, so it’s a crucial public health issue. My lesson incorporated some vocabulary that the students were well-versed in (“condom,” “HIV test”) and others that they were shakier on (“needle,” “to prevent”). It was probably a little on the challenging side, but it managed to hold their interest, and it was cool to feel them so engaged. We also did a cultural lesson on Thanksgiving which was less successful. They had a hard time wrapping their minds around “to be thankful for,” as if the concept of “giving thanks” as we interpret it wasn’t something they had thought about in that way before.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday so we have a day off from teaching and Model School resumed on Thursday with an exam that my group wrote together. Though it will be very different and obviously more formal when we get to our sites, we have gotten to practice what will become part of our daily lives: singing the national anthem every morning, taking attendance, speaking English very slowly, dealing with indisciplinados, leading review sessions, writing and grading tests.

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