18 May 2012

Funnyquote Friday

The reception to my work on-island lately has been as variable as the weather this time of year.   In just the past week, I have been met with both extremes: at once I am praised and thanked for work I have not had a chance to do yet, and then again I am openly criticized for work that is proceeding on-schedule and showing great promise.  Fortunately I've managed to avoid becoming discouraged, or allowing my emotions to become equally mercurial.  Instead, I've managed to keep things in perspective here and maintain an even affect, though this was not particularly easy on Tuesday, when it wasn't just the students who were out to challenge my authority (although this happened in good measure) – it was a teacher as well.  Apparently responsible for the lowest-performing students in the sixth grade, she regularly sends three of her students for maths tutoring, which is two more than the median amount of all the classes.  When I went to pull out the three students as usual, she stopped me and casually informed me that she didn't believe her students were learning anything from me.  Stunned, I simply and politely responded, "Oh?"  She repeated, "I don't think my students are learning anything from you.  Do you think they are learning anything from you?"  I pointed out that, while the progress is slow, particularly for some students, that I believed that the work I was doing was indeed helping.  She requested proof: she asked to see the evidence of the work we were doing on paper for that day.  Since we have been reviewing for the Test of Standards (end-of-course testing) the last few weeks and have been working example problems on paper and in composition books, I obliged, though I was astounded at the gall and impertinence of this woman.  Shaken, I escorted the kids to the classroom, where they were no less unruly than the others had been that day.  We finished the session with less progress than I had hoped to achieve "under the gun," but since the work is largely cumulative, I presented the teacher afterwards with the notes sheet from our previous sessions.  She proceeded to quiz one of her students right there with the notes on the paper, at the entrance to her classroom, in front of me.  At this point I had had enough, so I walked away to collect my final gaggle of sixth graders.  She called after me, "Do you want to keep this sheet?"  To which I replied, "Yes I do.  I'll come back for it."

In my mind that day, I went through a dozen different ways I could have responded more assertively, esprit d'escalier that would have really stuck it to that careless teacher just looking for a scapegoat or someone to bully.  But I'm glad I handled it the way I did – I reminded myself of the support I have from virtually every other adult at the institution, and the positive strides several of the students have made in the handful of months we've been working together.  In this way I got over it in a few days, but I also don't plan to subject myself to that kind of unnecessary harassment again.  So believe me, if she abuses me once again, I will report her to the principal for unprofessional behavior.

My brother told me about a similar incident that happened to him at work recently, where a superior, tragically mistaken, alleged a lack of faith in his abilities.  I commiserated with him on the thoughtlessness of people no matter where you go.  I should have told him then that we have a saying for this down here, though I suspect it's not exclusive:

"Same s**t, different dialect."

Alternatively, I also have good news rife with positive life-changing potential.  I have recently made the acquaintance of a Dr. Izben Williams, former SKN Ambassador to the U.S., who lives on-island and who is involved in starting a youth development NGO in Basseterre.  His organization, picturesquely dubbed The Ripple Institute, has not yet launched and is looking for assistance in starting a website and online presence.  I received word of the need from a fellow PCV, and said I could help.  I've already begun work on ideas for logos, though I am waiting on the SKN Department of Information, Communications and Technology to identify and cordon the server space and domain for the organization's use.  There is no telling how long the turnaround on this largely simple task could take; fortunately, I can begin work of designing a simple website on my local drive.

As with everything I do here, the new work did not go unnoticed, and I have already received one proposition for website design assistance in the efforts of another volunteer.  This is fine; I welcome the sense of busy-ness that comes from having a full schedule, though I hope I can continue to create and problem-solve for as many groups as I can without sacrificing on potency.

Work at the AWANA chapter on-island is also going well.  A missionary couple from Indianapolis (this is their SKN blog) have set up the program at a church in Middle Island, and I go there on Saturday afternoons to be a team leader.  I never really got into AWANA in Hiawassee, even enough to be a Listener, despite my parents' diehard commitment to it.  But here and now, necessity almost demands that I be a Team Leader (Blue Team, so far) every week.  Though I must confess, I enjoy the Book Time with the children far more than either Council Time or Game Time.  I find it very inspiring to listen for the handful of kids that take the verses and activities in their books seriously enough to participate week in and week out.  Sure, there are the majority of the kids who didn't even remember to bring their study book, who are just there for the Game Time or the social aspect or for no other reason than their parents made them.  But every night I've gone, I've been able to find at least one boy or girl who was sharp enough and dedicated enough to have learned at least one section's worth of verses over the previous week, usually coupled with a willingness to study the next section for the half-hour we have devoted to Book Time.  These moments of successfully challenging the children and discussing the meaning of the verses with them has been more rewarding than I expected, and significantly more meaningful than simply watching our team outrun the other three teams around a big circle.

In other news, I received my first invitation for an interview, a mere 2 months after beginning my most recent job search.  Paired with this positive if dubious revelation is the fact that today is, by my understanding, the final day to hear back from the company I applied to last month, the one that I had devoted my entire April's free time to completing the largely abstract deliverable assignments.  Since I have not been scheduled for a telephone interview with that organization yet, I wouldn't be surprised to find out very soon that I have been passed over once again.  Despite these inauspicious results, I'm doing my best to stay positive, and haven't lost steam in continuing to seek out opportunities.

I wasn't exaggerating before: we really have had back-and-forth weather the past few weeks.  After the warmest March in recent memory, and an April that reintroduced rainstorms to the dry island, May has enjoyed equal shares of both phenomena, and seemingly on alternating days.  It's that time of year (again) when one has to pack both an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, in the event that both are needed in the same short period.


  1. Couldn't you just use the umbrella as a parasol?

  2. I'm not clear on how serious you are with this comment, but the simple answer is: yes you could, and actually this is a much more common practice here in the islands than back in the States, though it's safe to say that it remains a predominantly feminine habit, and it would probably infringe on my masculinity somewhat to engage in it myself. Thanks for the idea, though.