i am not a huge fan of research. the word itself kinda gives me the heebeegeebees. i have been trying to compartmentalize research as much as possible. separating my teacher hat and my academic hat. when i am in class teaching, i try to “be here now” a la ram dass, and when i am compiling data, i try to turn the emotional part of my mind off.
looking at students like numbers doesn’t feel good to me. looking at the number of questions that were answered correctly vs. the number that weren’t saddens me, rather than inciting me to action.
what gets me going in a huge way, is seeing the faces of the kids as they begin to see the whole picture coming together. yesterday at Eli Africa, we taught a lesson about emotion words. angry, sad, shy, disappointed, nervous, worried, happy, silly. some of the words were known, and some of them were definitely new to our younger students. but watching the wheels turn in their heads, when the realize that the face i am making is “timide” in french, and then finally making the connection that in english that is shy, is overwhelming.
every kid participated yesterday. the kids who i was pretty sure spoke no english, got up and performed an open scene, the kid who is way too cool to be there also got up and performed an open scene, and the girl who clearly was born for the stage also performed an open scene. the cohesive participation is exhilarating for me, and so encouraging as a teacher.
but then i have to come home and write an analytic memo, and break down the fantastic, adrenaline inducing, thinking on the fly class that was just taught into its most basic parts. it seems like i am dishonoring the progress that was made in class, by focusing on the minute details of what could have, should have, and might have been, instead of the beauty that was.
Yesterday we taught our first class at ELI Africa! It was a great success. We were a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect so we got there really early, parked by the sugar cane field and then waited for the kids to get there and let us in! 3 older girls got there first, they seem to be the…
2 productive days in a row! Yesterday at the MIE we were put in contact with a Mauritian who recently graduated from Yale and has moved back to Mauritius to grow a small Learning Enterprises type non-profit that he started called ELI Africa. Our new friend runs a community center in…
the wonderful guys that harry and i met with at the MIE who are primarily focused on the english dept there also head up the very, tiny, almost invisible performing arts dept!!!!
they have produced a number of shows through the MIE. they use MIE students as actors hoping that a little bit of drama education rubs off on them, and can one day be brought into a mauritian classroom as a teaching tool (YAY!!).
students at the MIE take one module of drama for their studies and I have been invited to observed, participate and even perhaps lead a few classes for them… swoon
most recently the produced “the night thoreau spent in jail” (they love american theatre), in a car dealership show room. they explained to us that they like doing shows that challenge and alarm the sleepy and complacent mauritian audience. (i don’t know how you can be complacent as an audience member if there is almost no theater available to you) and that they like doing their in a more experimental way, which they consider using alternative performance spaces (i just call it student theatre).
they recently proposed to produce “inherit the wind” to the MIE and were shut down. this was incredible shocking to me. the MIE’s reasoning surround the media potential perception of the production, but our new friends suggested that perhaps it was more about the religious content that would have caused some red flags surrounding the text. i disagree, however, and think a show like “inherit the wind” not only exposes these MIE students to drama, but also raises questions regarding moral and ethical teaching practices. where does a teachers reach end and what is acceptable content.
they are brainstorming some new idea now, in addition to adapting another show about science to perform for primary schools.
they told us that all in all is takes about 5 months to put up a show for them. mostly because of problems of proficiency. meaning, because of the difficulty found with the use of english it takes them longer to simply understand the text than to put it up on its feet and analyze character etc. this issue brings me back to harry’s research and the direction some of my research has been going.
if english is the “official language” and starting at standard 4(8 years old) kids are supposed to be taught and tested only in english, why are these university aged or perhaps even older students still having such difficulty with the language?
i am thrilled to be invited to experience this process and think that is will be an unbelievable asset to my research.
yesterday harry and i had a meeting at the mauritius institute of education. which is essentially the research and training body responsible for teacher training in mauritius.
here are some things i learned:
you cannot apply to the MIE. as in if you wake up one day and realize that you want to become a primary school teacher(which apparently very few mauritians do) you cannot simply send in an application like you would to a normal university. (both of our research focuses on primary school, secondary school is a whole different ball game).
so, first you must be recruited by the ministry of education. then you must take an exam, which is similar to a civil service exam in america, and then you are referred to the MIE. which means that the people being recruited generally already have jobs and a diploma or a degree in another field. these may or may not be the best suited people to stand in front of a classroom of eager (or not so eager students) and mold their minds.
the MIE offers a number of programs for teacher training, in the form of diploma and degree programs. but having a diploma or a degree is not required to become a teacher.
i repeat there are teachers in classroom as i type this with no more than the bare minimum for a high school education.
in a study conducted in 2010, of 4,168 teachers surveyed
HSC and SC are hard to explain in terms of US studies, but a US high school diploma falls somewhere in between an SC and HSC. the HSC is similar to the british a-levels.
but this means that more than half of the teachers teaching primary school have no formal teacher training. no in depth understand of pedagogy or methods.
as a country they are working toward a system that requires higher education to become a teacher, but as a profession as a whole primary school education is not highly sought after. the pay is bad, significantly less than that of a secondary school teacher. and educated and trained teachers are not replacing older teachers with less training, but just being added to the workforce.
in 2009 only roughly 68% of mauritius primary school children passed their certificate of primary education(CPE) which is essentially an exit exam for primary school.
WHY? perhaps it is because of the language barriers. children are tested in english, though they do not speak it anywhere near fluently. perhaps it is because the teacher don’t have the right tools and training. perhaps it is a combination of both.
how a child does on their CPE determines what secondary school they go to, and ultimately their success in life. if you score badly on the CPE, whether or not it is from lack of intelligence, lack of resources, or you as a student have not been given the best circumstance in the classroom to achieve to your highest potential.
it seems that students who score lowest on the CPE go to the worst secondary schools, and those who score highest go to the best secondary schools. which just perpetuates the educational growth and divide of a society which is most definitely on the brink of social and economic developmental boom.
people in mauritius like to complain, express their opinions, but no one wants to rock the boat.
it breaks my heart.
Maha Shivaratree is as I have come to understand it a very important religious day for those of the hindu faith. I do not claim to be any kind of an expert on the day, (neither is wikipedia) but I will explain here what I have come to know, love, question and accept about Maha Shivaratree in Mauritius. (no disrespect meant by any of my own ignorance or confusion surrounding this truly fascinating holiday)
While the pilgrimage itself was an experience, being at grand bassin was incredible. the energy and spirituality was infectious, particularly because i find hinduism so fascinating. it is so completely foreign to us, it seems so mystical and fantastical. walking through thick clouds of incense, watching as people prayed over flowers and fruit was astounding. i have been writing a lot of poetry about the evening, perhaps soon i will post some here.
it was a trying experience, and a long night. but a night that i will probably never have the opportunity to witness again. and it is experiences like this one that remind me exactly why we adventure to the other side of the world. research is all well and good. but it is the people we meet and the once in a lifetime experiences that we have that make this all worth it.
still alive and kickin it in Mauritius.
quick rundown of the recent days events….
we have made more progress on teaching our class… and will hopefully have a place soon
i am still in the works of planning 2 workshops for ms. nalini, one drama for kids and one for adults
we went to an event held by the us embassy at the university. it was a Skype lecture from a professor in france about obama… we weren’t exactly thrilled with what he had to say.
i have been taking bollywood, contemporary and kalari dance classes… aka i am sore and gimpy
we have been going to the beach everyday
we are not sunburnt
we are both making good progress on our research
we went on a hindu pilgrimage (post and pictures to come)
we were wrecked after said pilgrimage
it is hot
we went to another event held by the us embassy celebrating black history month, they asked all of the fulbright scholars and me to speak… harry and i both killed it
i read my own poetry for an audience for the first time
i did not vomit on myself
we are truly settling into a routine and a way of life here… and it is almost starting to feel normal
until you remind yourself that you are on the other side of the world and then its a little weird again
Today I ventured out on my own (i know, huge deal). Drove myself, to Floreal… no idea how I actually go there, because I got unbelievably lost in the process of trying to find Nalini Aurbeeluck’s Faith Beauty and Dance Complex.
Once I had finally arrived, I gathered my wits and entered through the main door. I was wished into a Kardashian type clothing store (some things were adorable, some were not as precious), which was only the front of a beauty salon (facials, hair, nails, the works).
As I waited for my meeting with Nalini, I had time to get rationally uncomfortable about the fact that I was wearing flip flops and a peasant skirt, and Nalini was wearing a red mini dress and flower number accompanied by stiletto heels.
Lucky for me Nalini was as sweet as could be, and proceed to ask about my dance and theatre training and to explain what her studio had to offer. Yoga, Bollywood, Contemporary, Zumba, and Kalari Martial Arts. She explained the pricing which comes out to about $34 in registration fees and $110 for 6 months of unlimited classes in one type of class. Meaning for $254 I can take unlimited Bollywood and Contemporary classes… umm hi thanks that offing awesome.
Even if the classes are terrible, I can be up and moving and have fodder for writing for less than $300 for 6 months…. WWALM? what would Abby Lee Miller say?
In addition to discussing the prospect of my attending classes, she also brought up the wonderful idea that I teach a drama workshop for her… a three month long workshop… I was floored, ummm yes. i’d love to. gahhhh. what?
technically i cannot work here, but perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement about payment? (haven’t approached this question yet)
but now I must prepare because on monday she wants to see what i’ve got… materials, videos of my work, etc….. only problem is, what have i got? I am like a 11,000 miles away from home.
I have no videos, I have no scenes, sides or excepts from plays…. but uhhh ya I can make it work, tim gunn style.
Any help, support, ideas, class structures, syllabi, lesson plans, scenes, plays…. anything that can be emailed electronically, PLEASE PLEASE send to me.
So for now, I will be scheduling myself full of dance classes… and preparing myself to teach… something