Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Last Day of School

I have a fair amount to share seeing as I didn't get to post on Thursday, so you'll have to bear with me as I recount the final days of my teaching at San Pedro High School. To begin, Thursday was a relatively boring day for me. Miss Usher had the students take a test on pronouns where they had to copy a paragraph that was written on one side of a piece of paper and write it on the other side. I could tell this annoyed some students, because it probably would have made more sense for the students to just fill in the answers on the front side of the paper, but after speaking with Miss Usher, it is important for students to copy correct writing so they can get accustomed to it. While I counted on this taking maybe 15-20 minutes, most students took the entire class period to answer this test, which seems a bit ridiculous to me. I expected good grades on it, seeing as students took so much time concentrating on it, but I was sadly disappointed when I graded the tests and a majority of the students only got five out of the ten questions correct, and many got fewer than that. Heck, a handful of students filled in all of the blank spaces with nouns and verbs. This was frustrating, to realize that I spent two class periods with students and they didn't even walk away with the concept of what a pronoun is.

One of the things that surprised me on this day was when I entered a classroom and two students were sitting in plastic patio chairs.  I should probably point out that, since all students stay in their rooms all day, they all have "their own desks," meaning, when I asked a student to move to a different part of the room, they would take their desk with them. When Miss Usher asked the students about what happened to their desks, they simply didn't know. I figured that maybe a teacher needed extra chairs, but when the students went searching for their desks in the other classrooms, none could be found. This was a strange occurrence, and one that I couldn't imagine happening in American high schools.

During the tests on Thursday, I saw Miss Usher whisper to students and they would give her money. I wondered what was going on, but I assumed that it had something to do with the trip they are taking to Las Vegas. When I got to school on Friday I was surprised to find out that Miss Usher was collecting money from her students so each class could buy me a gift to remember them by. When the first class came out, Miss Usher told them to take a seat on the bleachers so that I could get a class picture of them. After that, one of the students made a quick speech. Each student was so well spoken and they speeches were extremely nice. Most students spoke about how nice it was to have me in class and how much they would miss me; I was very impressed by the speeches and was really touching to think that maybe I was able to have such an influence in the classroom, having only been teaching for three weeks. 

Next, someone from the class presented me with a gift from the class. I got so many cool things: a mug that has a map of Belize, a key chain with some Belizean sand, a black coral necklace, a hat that says San Pedro Belize, and a ceramic plaque with a picture of my 1A students that has all of their signatures. I couldn't believe I was getting so many gifts. The rest of the time the students asked me questions and we talked about my future plans. I told them that I hoped to come back one day, that I'll be teaching at a middle school when I return home, and that I will make sure they each get an email from a student back home. Miss Usher made it a point to tell me that all of the students asked if they could have a party for me the last day and that she was merely the one who collected the money. I don't know if I believe this, but it was an extremely sweet sentiment and it really made me feel good about the time I spent with the students here in Belize.

After I met with all of my classes, I thought the day was over. After school we knew that the school had planned an assembly. We were all gathered in the staff room when we heard our names announced and we were called to the auditorium. When we got to the auditorium, all of the students were seated on the outside bleachers of the basketball court overlooking five empty chairs. Guess who the chairs were for. As we took our seats in the center of the court, we saw the school rock group, Rocking Peace, take the stage. The band played four songs for us, including Katy Perry, Guns 'n Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" and two songs by Central American rock sensation, Mana. This was a really cool way to send us off. While it was only a school rock band, the students were really talented and it made us feel like we had VIP tickets to an actual Guns 'n Roses concert. After all of this excitement, Miss Martha, the co-founder and chairlady of the school thanked us for all of our hard work, which was also quite nice.

After the assembly, we went into the conference room to have a quiet party with the staff. They made rum punch, queso dip, pimento cheese sandwiches, and a fruit cake they referred to as "better than sex cake." This was quite delicious and it was fun to mingle with the staff members. We will be having a party on Sunday at Mr. Gustavo's house to send us on our way.

All in all, this was a great day. I think that many of us got caught up in the work we had to do to prepare everyday for class and all of the excitement of being in a new country that we never got a chance to sit back and think about the relationships we were building with the teachers and students at San Pedro. It was obvious that the students cared about what we were doing and they realized the sacrifices we went through to be there with them for three weeks. At the end of the day, I felt appreciated, as if my time here in Belize hasn't been wasted and that I will always have some fond memories to look back on as I move forward in my teaching career. 

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