Posted by: kam6761 | July 5, 2008

Hooray for Highlights!

After waiting many, many weeks, my grandparents’ fun filled and exciting packages finally arrived from the good ol’ U.S. of A. For those of you that haven’t heard, my grandmother wrote a letter to Highlights for Children, explaining my teaching post and the situation of many of the children here. They responded almost immediately by sending her 50 or so Highlights magazines along with several different magazines for teachers. My grandparents graciously sent these, along with a ton of awesome storybooks and workbooks for children, and they FINALLY arrived!!

I held a library club meeting after school, and because I happened to have my camera with me (I was filming “dramas” that my learners put on, which were pretty much as bad as you could possibly imagine), I asked if they wanted to have their picture taken with the magazines. Cameras are quite rare here, and the mention of a picture sent all of them scrambling for a magazine to hold, along with the “Thank You” messages I had quickly scrawled onto scrap paper. The result, although a bit chaotic, I think effectively captures their excitement over the new things (they loved the magazines and my grandparents had also sent cookies—the cookies had become crumbs, but the kids happily helped me gobble many of them up!):

Library things are going really well. I have a small group of learners that are always eager to help, many coming on days I haven’t even scheduled them on and asking if I mind if they straighten the books. The other day I left school immediately after closing up the library, and I got to watch the learners stumbling home, noses in books. At this point, learners have developed preferences and I think it’s adorable. Some want Franklin, some want Winnie the Pooh, others want Amelia Bedelia, and one my Grade 6 learners is constantly wandering over to the Science section to browse through Dinosaur books. I’m so grateful for the work of the previous volunteers (they literally had over a thousand books donated to the school). The kids here have so little and it gives them something to really look forward to.

Something I’m looking forward to is the return of my HOD, who has been absent for over two weeks. I’ve been covering her classes (there’s no such thing as substitute teachers here, so if I didn’t these kids would just be sitting unsupervised in their classroom) and it’s driven me to the brink of insanity. She teaches Math and something I’ve learned is that I’m absolutely awful at teaching that subject. I wouldn’t call myself a mathematical genius, but I’m decent enough to make change quickly and do calculations in my head, but when it comes  to explaining how to do those things I’m completely incompetent. It doesn’t help that the math/logic skills of these children is so low that it makes me dizzy. The most frustrating thing is that I know that so many of them are bright and could be so much more advanced if given the chance. There were many kids who couldn’t even add properly, let alone attempt long division. One day I had them play Number Munchers on the computers in groups, and only one group could get past Multiples of Four within a 40 minute class period. I don’t really know what the root of the problem is, but I can pretty safely say that the education system is failing them. When I took the time to sit with some of the kids, I found I could quickly correct some mistakes that they’ve probably been making for years (if an addition problem answer is 16, some kids would put down the 6 and  carry the 1), but there were many learners who were so far behind I didn’t even know where to  begin. It seemed like my explanations only made sense to some of the learners, and the others spent entire periods trying to solve incredibly simple addition problems. Although I’m not sure about my HOD’s teaching ability, I would imagine she’s at least decent considering she’s as high up in the school hierarchy as she is, so I’m eagerly waiting for her return (both for the sake of the learners’ education and for my sanity).

And that’s all. Tonight Dan and I will be judging Eengedjo’s “Miss Winter” beauty contest. We were told it would start at 7, so we’re banking on it beginning at around 10. Feel free to take bets amongst yourselves and we’ll be back to you with the results soon.



  1. Finally. The pictures are great, I noticed Dujmich in one of them. I know the children will get many hours of fun from the Highlight Books and the story books. Glad all arrived safely BUT OOOH all those lucious Oreos and Chocolate Chip cookies didn’t make it in one good shape. Too bad. Guess the crumbs tasted good anyway.Enjoy.

  2. Dear Kathryn, Dan and of course “Gam”!

    I TOO must give a REALLY BIG “high five” to Gammy for reaching out to Highlights. What a neat idea and how fabulous that they replied in such a great way!

  3. Dear Kathryn, Dan and of course “Gam”!

    I TOO must give a REALLY BIG “high five” to Gammy for reaching out to Highlights. What a neat idea and how fabulous that they replied in such a great way!

    Some of my favorite childhood memories are of “gam” taking me to the doctor or dentist where i could play with my Highlights before my teeth or “whatever” were inspected!

    When Kissy visited me in June, I had to go to the doctor. While we sat in the waiting room, the sweetest little boy and girl climbed up into my lap and sat with me as I read to them from the office Highlights. We all tried to find the hidden objects. Kissy was laughing bit I told her that this is just what I did as I kid ansd how much I LOVED it…and obviously still do.

    Sorry about the cookies. Gam wants me to send lots of stuff to you but I think I should wait until you get back and figure out how we can bring a kid or two back to America and then have cookies. You know me. I approach things a little bit differently….Hugs, Aunt E.

  4. So how did the Beauty Contest go? Do you have a picture of the winner?

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