At my school here in Ribeira Brava, I teach 6 classes. For those of you not familiar with the Cape Verdean education system (aka everyone reading this blog) there are a couple things I need to explain. First of all school runs from mid-September until the beginning of July. At my school, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classes are held in the mornings, from 7:30 until 12:30. Younger students, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade then have classes in the afternoon, from 1:00 until 6:00. The kids have 5 classes a day, but they have 10 or 11 subjects, so they do not have every class everyday. This year, I teach 7th grade and 9th grade. I have my three 7th grade classes each 4 times a week, and each of my three 9th grade classes 3 times a week. On Monday I have 3 classes, on Tuesday I have 5, Wednesday 3, Thursday 5, Friday 2, and Saturday 3. The kids here do not move around from classroom to classroom. Instead, they sit in the same class, in the same seat, with the same people, for 5 hours a day. It’s the teachers that go from class to class. There are 10 minutes breaks in between the classes. There is one 20 minute break between the 3rd and 4th periods (during which the kids like to run around and eat candy and beat each other up so that they come back to class sweaty, and thirsty, and having to go the bathroom, and–to sum it all up in one word–overstimulated). During the breaks the students leave the classrooms and the teachers shut and lock the doors. Each classroom has a different key. There are 16 rooms at the school. After finishing class, the teachers go back to the teacher’s lounge and put the keys on the table there. It is not uncommon for a key to go missing or to be forgotten in someone’s pocket and then to find yourself frantically searching for a key about 2 minutes before class starts. It is also not unheard of for students to stick a toothpick or a piece of paper into the lock of their classroom so that the teacher cannot open the door and teach class. Needless to say, all of this took some getting used to.
At my school, grades 7, 8, and 9 each have 5 different classes. There is 7A, 7B, 7C, 7D, and 7E. There is also 8A, 8B, etc. Classes labeled A or B start studying French in 7th grade. Then in 9th grade, they also start studying English. So classes 9A and 9B are level 1 English and level 3 French classes. Classes label C, D, and E start to study English in 7th grade. Then, in 9th grade, they start to study French. So, 9C, 9D, and 9E are all level 1 French, level 3 English classrooms.
I teach 7C, 7D, 7E, 9C, 9D, and 9E and each class has its own unique style.
7C–This is a rowdy, fun class. There are 33 students in this class. There were 34 but one student was kicked out of school for behavior issues at the end of the 2nd trimester. The class has 21 girls and 13 boys. This class is chatty and late in the day they can be hard to manage, but they love to participate and they love English. They get the highest grades out of all of my 7th grade classes and they are really interested in English. All in all, they are a really fun class to step in front of. There is nothing better than a class full of dedicated students that like to participate and are interested in the subject.
7D–This is a well-behaved, quiet class. This class also started off the year with 34 students, but 5 students have dropped out as the year has gone on. This class started off with 21 boys and 13 girls, with 3 boys and 2 girls dropping out. Although this class is very well-behaved–they are, the best behaved class I have ever taught here–their grades are not particularly high. There also is a boy who grew up in America in the class, and he speaks fluent English, which is a big help to me when I struggle to come up with a translation from English to Creole. Out of my three 7th grade classes, 7D has the second highest grades.
7E–Oh my God. The ‘E’ classes are notorious for being badly behaved at our school and 7E lives up to its name. They are, by far, the worst behaved class that I have ever taught. They are a class of 36–they were 37 but one student was kicked out of school for behavior issues–and they are made up of 12 girls and 24 boys. The class has about five or six dedicated students, but the rest do not pay attention. I have multiple kids in the class that refuse to open their notebooks and do work. There are a handful of students that consistently get a 1 or a 2 out of 20 on the tests. To teach them is a constant battle, they are always talking, they don’t like to participate, they often get into fights with one another over a stolen pen or pencil, they have a classroom at the center part of the school so there are always kids hanging out at the windows and causing distractions, they throw spitballs, they use lazer pens, they play on their cell phones, and to sum it all up…I once had a student spill a bottle of live fish onto the floor during class. All that being said, I have really enjoyed teaching them because it has been such a challenge. The common form of discipline here is to kick a kid out of class if he misbehaves. It is not uncommon for be to kick out 3 or 4 or 5 or more kids in one class with them. Even when I start to kick kids out of class, kids continue to misbehave. But like I said, I enjoy them. I’ve learned the most about teaching from them and no matter what, there is never a boring day with them.
Alright, that’s it for now.