What a week this has been. Am I really a high school teacher? I wake up thinking that every day. It has only been four days and my year at Leone High School is already full of wild, hilarious, frustrating, and interesting memories.
Let’s go back to day one. This past Monday, I was up at 5:30 a.m. and ready to go. I had no idea what to expect about my first day as a teacher. I was excited to meet my students, but I was also nervous because I knew that everything was riding on all my first classes. Throughout the WT orientation, we were warned about the behavior of Samoan students and how classroom management was the key to having a successful year. In AmSam, students can be extremely cheeky, a word that they use to mean everything from being flirty to being rude. I’ll be honest and say that this scared me. I’m not a confrontational person but if my students were going to be cheeky, I would have to deal with them. Getting into that mindset was hard when I had not yet experienced a Samoan classroom.
My first day was rough. The kids were excited to see their friends, but not quite ready to get back into the “I have to sit here and be quiet” mindset. Trying to simply get them to stop making noise was the biggest chore of all. If I haven’t said this already, Samoans are LOUD, and they all have the exact same laugh (all the WTers think they sound like hyenas). I don’t have a very loud voice, but in order for them to hear me, I pretty much yelled all day. Most of my students were friendly and nice, but then I have the few in each class who try and push my buttons constantly. During my prep period, I had to “babysit” 35+ seniors from 2 other English classes (their teachers are off island – apparently it’s okay to miss the first week of school here?) and it was 100% awful. They were annoying, rude, disrespectful, and embarrassing to be around. One student asked (in front of the entire class) if he could sleep with me. Others refused to listen to me when I spoke. What a damper on my already stressful day! By the time I got home, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted in every way possible, and my voice was pretty much gone. Although my day had been hard, I kept my chin up and hoped that the next day would be better.
My second day was better and so was my third. I started to figure out who my sweethearts are, who my flirts are, and who my “AARRGGH YOU MAKE ME SO MAD” kids are. I’m sure every single teacher has them. I also found out that I’d be babysitting the senior classes the entire week during my prep period…hooray…
Day four was both enjoyable and frustrating. We talked about the word RESPECT today. I had the desks in groups of three and within their groups, the students had to come up with their own definitions of respect. Respect, love, and family are what make up the Samoan culture. They live around these three things, so I knew that having a lesson on respect would hopefully mean something to them. For 4 out of my 5 classes, they all seemed to like and understand why I was having them write about being respectful. The 5th class was rowdy, obnoxious, and rude. They were my last class of the day and would not be quiet. After I repeatedly shushed them and asked them to be quiet, I gave up. I then had them write about respecting me as their teacher and my classroom for the last 15 minutes of class, and then busted out my teacher face (thanks Mom!) and knocked some sense into them. I told them that how they were treating me was unacceptable and that if they wanted, I could make this the most boring class ever. I said that I was not going to put up with that kind of behavior for the rest of the year, and that I was disappointed that after an entire class of learning and discussing the concept of “respect,” that they could not even give me the respect I deserved. After that, they were quiet. We’ll see how they are tomorrow…
All in all, I’m still really happy to be here. I haven’t gotten upset to the point that I want to breakdown and cry, but I know that those times will probably happen, and that’s ok because I’ll get through it. Teaching these kids is going to be an adventure, and I am so so so anxious to actually start teaching and quit entertaining. By the end of next week, I should hopefull have all my students and we can finally start an exciting year of American Literature.
To end this post, I’ll leave you with a first day of school picture and some fun facts about my classes and students:
This is my WT puletasi (poo-leh-tah-see), the traditional formal wear for a woman. I had the top made and WT gave us the fabric for the skirt. I've been wearing puletasi's and lavalavas (the skirt) to school all week and have been receiving compliments from both students and co-workers. Conservative dress at its finest!
· As of right now, my largest class has 19 students and my smallest has 12.
· All the students at Leone HS now know who I am. I am constantly hearing “Hi Miss Quinn!”
· The bell schedule has been different every single day. Sometimes it rings ten minutes late. School is supposed to start at 8:30…and it usually doesn’t start until 8:40. Sometimes class gets out at 3…or 3:05. We’re on “island time” here in AmSam – things will happen when they happen.
· I am SO SO SO SO SO thankful that I don’t have to teach the seniors. I think I would come home crying every day.
· Most families here are farmers and have plantations. I’ve been making the farm connection with them but no one has heard of soybeans or alfalfa. Probably just like you have never heard of breadfruit or taro!
· On the first day, we played the “I’m going to a BBQ” game (it’s a good way to practice and learn names by coming up with a food that starts with the same letter as your first name)… “My name is Quinn and I’m bringing Quail to the BBQ”…I know, I know…who eats quail? But Q is such a hard food letter! Either way, Samoans have no idea what a quail is. I told them it’s a cousin of the turkey with long feathers…haha. Someone also used “asparagus” even though they had no idea what it was. Had to explain that veggie too…which made me hungry for some!
· I’m one of the advisors for the junior class and in our first class meeting today, my lovely co-workers decided to introduce me to the class (which at this point is around 150 rowdy, rambunctious students) and tell them that 1) I’m a WTer and 2) I’m single but unavailable. OHHHMYYYGGOOOSSHH. The room went WILD. People were yelling and laughing and clapping. They were all so confused. “How can she be single but not available???” I’m not much of a blusher but I’m sure I was bright red. Now I’ve got kids who aren’t my students calling me their girl and their girlfriend. UGH. Samoans LOVE to poke fun at people’s relationship statuses. Only in AmSam…
· If you know me well enough, you should know by now that I LOVE names. When I was younger (and I suppose I do it even now…) I would sit around and think of new names. I’m fascinated by people who have different and creative names. AmSam was the perfect place to come for those. These are a few of my favorite names: Ioane (still not quite sure how to pronounce it – it means John in English), Iosefa (Yo-sef-ah: means Joseph), Tumema (Too-mem-a),Tui (Too-ee), Oeti (Oh-et-ee), Si'i (See-ee)…the list could go on and on. Then I’ve got old school names like Fred, Ronaldo, Judy, and Rose. The “newest” name that I have is Reagan (which I can only assume that she was named after Ronald Reagan). I’ve also got names like Niue (which is the name of an island in the South Pacific), Niu (means coconut!), Fa’afetai (means thank you), Keke (means cake… “Yes Miss, my name means cake”) Lucky, Miracle, Maze, Nash, Dynamite, and Kus (Cuss). Two of my boys prefer to be called Clay Matthews aka the football player who played/plays? for the Packers. Last but not least, I have a student whos first name is 64 letters long. 64!!!!!!! I can’t not type it for you, so here it is: Palemenepuleilemalotutoatasiasamoaisisifoiletapuaigaatumuamapule. That is his first name. What does he want me to call him? Mene. LOVE IT!
Welp, that’s about all I can give you for now…I’ve got to finish my syllabus and write some lesson plans. Fa’afetai for keeping up with my blog – I am loving the comments! Stay tuned for more stories!