Posted by: kam6761 | August 8, 2008

Give and Take (31/7/08)

So the internet is back, but our water is out. When I say our water is out, it could mean one of two things:

1. The water is out inside of the house, but the tap outside still works.
2. Nothing works.

Now it so happens to be #2, which is much more serious and difficult to live through. I don’t know what happened, but at the end of the first term something in the pipe was “fixed,” and ever since there’s a 50/50 chance our water won’t work. Luckily, we’re now treated like members of the community, which means people help us. This is awesome. Dan got a call a bit before 6am from a colleague who was just telling him he would be dropping off a big container of water for us. The cool thing about this in Namibia is that you don’t have to feel indebted to the person, because it’s just understood that if someone can help you, they will. Nonetheless, we are Americans so I’m hoping we can return the favor someday.

In other news, exams start tomorrow. I’m much less crazy this term, which is good. At the end of last term, I was working my kids to the bone and I think they’re much better prepared this time around. I hope that means that their grades improve, but there’s really no telling. As usual, I’m sure some kids will ace it and some kids (who I call my “Mad-Libbers” will essentially treat the exam as a Mad-Libs exercise, except they just insert any word into the spaces, rather than a specific type of word (“Father chair me Oshakati.”). At least they end with full stops.

Other fun news is that my learners finished writing their penpal letters to America, so I’ll be shipping them off this weekend. I had them write the original letters in their exercise books, and then gave them nice paper to write their corrections on, and they were so excited. I told them to give me their finished letters the next day and walked in to find Grade 6 masterpieces. They were all colored, many with flower borders and their names written in some ornate fashion. Some even had the idea of including “Namibian” things such as the flag and huts and homesteads, which I thought was very clever.

It still hasn’t hit me that we’re essentially finished the second term. Dan and I had predicted that the second term would be the most difficult—the first term being a learning experience and the last being the light at the end of the tunnel, but the second has surprisingly gone much faster and better than the first. I guess I was better prepared and my classes understand and follow the correct procedures, so things get done a lot faster.

One thing I implemented in the second term that I think I will be skipping the third term is the Star Chart. The Star Chart gave learners the chance to earn two stars per week—one for good behavior and one for completing all homework. The result was that the good kids became angelic, and the bad kids became disheartened. I had a feeling this was happening with the “bad kids” (I say bad, but what I really mean to say is not perfectly behaved), but it was confirmed yesterday when I had to pull Elifas out of the classroom for making noise. Lately his schoolwork has been suffering (even worse than usual) and he has been misbehaving even more than usual. I asked him why, tried to see if something was wrong at home, but all he talked about was the “black squares” that he always gets. If a learner has bad behavior or doesn’t do any of his or her homework, they get a black square for the week. I guess seeing his name littered with tons of black squares didn’t do much in terms of encouragement, so maybe I can think of better ideas for the third term (peanut gallery is welcome to jump in!). I want my kids to recognize when they exhibit bad behavior and good behavior, so maybe I could have each learner keep a private “behavior” sheet that they can fill out in their exercise books.

My last bit of fun news is that I showed my learners a movie for the first time! We did a mini-unit on colonization/discrimination/apartheid/all those not fun things that come with judging others. I showed them Pocahontas and they absolutely LOVED it. At first I thought that perhaps it was simply because it was a movie, but since then my learners have been scouring the library for Pocahontas books (which we actually have quite a few of!). I put on the subtitles to help them follow along, and I was actually surprised how much many of them understood. Something I didn’t think about is how humor is learned, and while we grew up with Looney Tunes and understand slapstick sort of humor, learners here just become confused by it. There was a part in the movie where Flit (Pocahontas’s friend, a bird) runs his beak into a biscuit and then the biscuit falls onto him, essentially crushing him. To us, we see this as something silly and understand that the character will be okay. To my learners, this was not so. As soon as the biscuit fell onto Flit, my learners became very upset because “Flit died.” I tried my best to explain to them that Flit did not die, and they soon saw that the bird was in the following scenes, but it got me  thinking about how many things in movies and media are potentially really confusing to people who don’t have previous exposure to things like it.



  1. that’s so interesting about…how humor is learned. your learners are so precious though – they hate seeing people (or birds) get hurt! it makes me think of your other post when…nelson, was it?…was so concerned about you cracking your knuckles.

  2. Kathryn, maybe just leaving a blank square will work. Tell Elifas, if he wants something in his square, like a star, he must be very good and behave. Worth a try!! Positive versus negative black boxes.
    Slap stick humor must be very strange to the children. We are used to such silly stuff. Quite frankly, I used to get annoyrd at all the things I would see on children’s cartoons. Hitting, bopping over the head etc. Then people wonder why children go out and do the same things. Crazy.
    Good luck with the exams. I hope your hard work pays off with good grades. Love you and Miss you.

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