methodology

my crazy housemate almost hospitalized herself the other day.  not surprising, really, but a funny story.  she comes running out of the senior 2A classroom holding a big leaf she’s yanked off a bush outside the teacher’s room – about two feet long and kinda plastic-y, something jungle-like, right outta jurasic park.  she’s frazzled and anxious and not her usual bouncy self.  she gives me the leaf and says urgently ‘go find pasteur’ (the other bio teacher), ‘ask him if this is poisonous.’

‘poisonous?!?’

‘i ate it. now my tongue is swelling and tingly and i think i’m gonna pass out.’  and then she runs home leaving me sputtering and holding a dinosaur leaf with a bite-size chunk missing while the concerned 2A kids are peaking out the door at me.  so i go looking for pasteur, find instead an upper-level bio student who tells me happily that yes of course the plant is dangerous or maybe not or he doesn’t really know and why did she eat it anyway?  at home amanda is spitting into a bucket.  her tongue is twice normal size and has little white bumps sprouting.  she refuses to go to the hospital, has taken a heavy-duty antihistamine (now why didn’t i bring any of those?) and is rapidly getting drowsy.  i run about, leaf flapping.  i ask anyone and everyone i can find if they know anything about this stinging health hazard growing on school property where any unsuspecting teacher could have a nibble.  i’m hoping for local wisdom, a traditional cure, medicine man, or, as a last resort, the health center up the road where they treat everything from amoebas to twisted ankles with quinine.  i get  nothing.  but lucky for us, amanda’s tongue deflates to normal size and color within an hour or so, the antihistamine knocks her out, and she curls up snoring peacefully.

why did she eat the plant anyway you ask.  it was part of a demonstration for bio class.  autotrophs and heterotrophs.  autotrophs make their own energy through photosynthesis, heterotrophs consume other living things to get energy.  the demo went something like this: taking the dino-leaf in both hands she asks ‘do plants eat people?’ and then proceeds to make the leaf eat one unlucky student’s head while the kids all laugh and say silly teacher of course they don’t.  ‘do people eat plants?’ she then bites off a chunk of the leaf, mmmm, munches contentedly, kids still laughing.  until her mouth starts to sting.  she coughs out the plant (imagine the trouble we’d have been in if she’d swallowed it).  her eyes start watering.  kids aren’t sure if this is part of the demo.  it’s not.  she runs out and you know the rest.

the plant was didactic material to help the kids understand, and it’s one of the skills she’s here to share.  she makes lungs out of water bottles, straws, and balloons.  she makes protein-chains out of beads on a string.  she plays the telephone game to demonstrate the nervous system.  she dissects flowers from the garden and goat leftovers from the restaurant up the street.  in the elaborate copying machine that is the current rwandan education system (teacher copies obscure passage from out-of-date textbook into notebook, then from notebook onto blackboard, students copy from blackboard into notebooks, memorize it word-for-word, and spit it back out on the exam), amanda’s methods are out of place to say the least. 

as are mine.  once every week or so, i get an angry teacher or prefet or often the director, banging on my classroom door saying we’re making too much noise and why are the students speaking.  in a language class.  and i say politely, but sir they’re speaking english.  i do didactic materials too sometimes, like when i poured water till it overflowed all over the classroom floor to demonstrate ‘too much’, or piled six students onto one desk to show ‘too many’.  in ebc i turned the classroom into a market selling bottle-caps in order to explain supply and demand.  we play simon says and do role-plays and have discussions and its all rowdy and participatory.  the kids have fun, and maybe in the end something sticks, at least more than hand-copying a textbook.

all well and good.  but here’s the problem.  when we leave next year, what happens?  the kids go back to the copy machine with their old teacher?  the director hires a new copy machine teacher?  forget next year, what about this year and the students we don’t teach?  wouldn’t it make more sense for us to teach teachers the methodology we know, so that they can then continue it when we’re gone?  this is what amanda and i are pushing for now.  we’ve been in talks with big D and little e (the new prefet des etudes) about squeezing teacher-training into our schedules.  the negotiations are causing stress on the home front because it’s going more smoothly for me than amanda, simply by virtue of our different fields – six language teachers have more potential for organized collaboration and methodology training than two bio teachers, two chemistry teachers, and a physics teacher.  so while i may try to do weekly sessions with apagie language teachers, amanda may try to do regional biology workshops with teachers from nearby schools.  it’s all dependant on funding and cooperation from the school administration and the other teachers.  i’m optimistic from our meeting yesterday, in which the director okayed most of what we want to do, of course without yet promising to decrease our course loads or those of the other teachers.  so i’m aware that the battle’s only just started.  next term will tell i suppose.

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~ by aliciawolcott on March 21, 2008.

One Response to “methodology”

  1. Hi Lisi, I read your blog often; Sara sez you would love to know that!! Expect you all are having a robust reunion & celerating by showing your parents all (?) your haunts.
    Tell Amanda not to use any leaves for latrine purposes!! Your Mom can relate a tale of Norman’s experience in Montana in the ’70s …so much for going “back to nature”.
    I’ll try the youtube but have no skills in that department so I may not be successful.
    Sorry the print is so tiny….that’s also my excuse for any typos/spelling errors!
    Love to all, nancy ranger

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