Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Acting Out

Today was another long day here on La Isla Bonita. I don't mean this in a bad way, it was just full of excitment. Today, I had my lesson prepared for Miss Usher's classes, but when I got to school, she explained that she wanted me to do it a particular way. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Miss Usher told me she wanted me to present a lesson on plays and drama. I had to describe "dialogue" and "stage direction" to the students. I planned on doing this with notes and then using everyday examples. Miss Usher wanted me to go a little further and do some drawing. I'm probably one of the worst drawers, but it is very hard to tell Miss Usher "no."

I began class by explaining the purpose of dialogue and play direction and then started drawing a stick figure of Brad Pitt and had students imagine that he was the star of the play we were creating. From there, I drew a picture of Angelina Jolie, who approached Brad and told him that she was breaking up with him because she found a new man, Mr. Will. The students really enjoyed this scenario. I then explained that the plot thickened, as I decided to break up with Angelina for another woman. When I asked the students who I started dating after Angelina, without any fail, all of the classes shouted "Miss Usher." I don't know what kind of twisted students pair up a twenty-three year old guy with a fifty-nine year old lady, but all of them got a kick out of imagining us in love. Anyway, the moral of the story is "what goes around comes around" and that Angelina was the one who suffered in the end after she broke it off with Brad. Both the students and myself had a good time with this.

After the drawing activity, it was time to demonstrate some acting. I have never claimed to be any type of thesbian, but I had to model some of the concepts of playwriting explained in the textbook, so Miss Usher and I then acted out a scene from "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt, which tells the story of Thomas More, who was jailed and eventually killed after rebelling against King Henry VIII for taking the head of the church away from the Pope. Anyway, there was a dramatic scene where Miss Usher, who played my wife, Alice, had to grasp my hand in the air and we had to say goodbye. It was very dramatic. There wasn't a dry seat in the house.

Anyway, after performing the play and having a quick discussion, I realized during my first class that there were still ten minutes left in class and there was nothing prepared. I suppose Miss Usher knew this going into class because she took over and began reviewing the topic from yesterday. In each class she discussed heroes and why we need to have heroes, but not one of her lectures was the same from class to class. One of the classes got a lecture on why Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are so important, one class got a lecture on the holocaust, another was told that they need to stop North Korea from sending nuclear bombs into space, and another class learned about the plot of the movie "Australia" with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman that made her cry. Somehow, everything she said had something to do with heroes and standing up for what you believe in, but it all seems like a blur to me now.

Like many days, probably the highlight of today was lunch, when we had rice and beans, coleslaw, and reef eel, otherwise known as barracuda. I had never tried fried barracuda before, but it was pretty good. It was a perfectly round fillet with the vertebral column in the center of the meat. It tasted like any other oily fish, but it was pretty interesting because the skin was really crunchy. Miss Usher brought me a cookbook today, so I'll have to prepare some reef eel when I get home.

After a long day of teaching, we had to stay after school because we were giving the staff of San Pedro High School some staff development. Dr. K asked my fellow high school teachers and me to do some break out sessions, teaching teachers about some techniques and tools that we use back home. My topic that he chose for me was concept mapping. I like concept maps and think they're useful, but an entire 15 minutes on circle maps, bubble maps, double bubble maps, tree maps, and flow maps isn't terribly exciting. I can be a pretty charismatic person at times, but I struggled at making concept mapping enthralling. While some teachers were really into it, I could tell that I was losing others and they would prefer sitting at home or taking a nap. All-in-all it was a pretty typical example of professional development.

After our professional development, it was time to go home and relax, right? Wrong. We decided to work on a service project where we would paint the high school basketball court. Today ended up being a really good day for painting the court because it wasn't too hot and the mosquitos weren't out in full force at the school. The court is beginning to look really nice. I hope the students appreciate it. If nothing else, it is something for them to remember us by.

Surely after all of this action it was time to go home and work on lesson plans, correct? No no no. Tonight was Amanda's birthday, so we all went out to dinner in town. We went to a pretty nice place called Lily's Treasure Chest, which is located on the beach. I'm rather confident that we all smelled bad from a long day of teaching, sweating, professional developing, and painting, but none of us seemed to mind. Amanda seemed to enjoy it, and it was nice to celebrate her birthday. It truly seems like we are a small little family at this point. I figured that by the final week of this trip, we would all hate each other or grow really close; luckily for us, it is more the latter.   

I'm now sitting in my room putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's lesson will be a test on pronouns and we will continue our lesson on heroes. I'm surprisingly not feeling terribly tired from all of today's excitement. I think I'm getting used to this Belizean lifestyle of working hard all day long. It has helped me to appreciate the hours teachers in the United States work. While I still think teachers don't get compensated for the amount of work we do (and the torment some students put us through), at least we are given an environment that is conducive to working (that is, unless your health ratings range somewhere near a 70). While I probably went to school at 7:30 am and worked on lesson plans until 10 pm during my internship, I have seen some teachers who work both at the high school and junior college who get to school at 7:45 am and don't leave the school until closer to 8 pm. This is crazy to me, but I fully realize that there are teachers in the United States who lead the same ridiculous schedule, namely coaches. Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that both my internship at Laney and my teaching here in Belize have given me a pretty good taste of what teaching has been like. While the schedule can be very demanding and students never seem to realize how hard you work outside of school and how much you care about them and their academic success, there is not another job that I can think of that could make feel me so happy and fulfilled day in and day out.

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