Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Robert Gonzales, Peace Corps Teacher

June 7, 2011

Robert Gonzales, night tutoring lessons

Rob's Classroom

Robert Gonzales is a first year Peace Corps Volunteer primary school English teacher at the village of Tafua-Tai on the island of Savaii. I had a chance to stay the night with him and to briefly sit in his classroom.

In many ways Robert typifies Peace Corps English teachers. His primary school is grossly understaffed with three teachers, including him, handling eight grades. While he teaches one class, another class sits, theoretically doing assignments. He spends his evenings holding tutoring sessions for any student who shows up.

As I sat in his classroom, he was trying to explain English regular and irregular verbs to what seemed to be six graders. Almost all the class seemed totally lost, trying to grasp not only the concept of regular and irregular verbs, but the concept that there is not pattern to irregulars. You simply have to memorize them.

Since the classrooms have no windows, I could easily hear the teacher in the next room drilling her students to memorize the phrase “Saturday is the last day of the week”. Most of her students probably having no idea what the sounds they were reciting actually meant. I don’t mean to be critical of the teachers for I have found them to be a very dedicated and underpaid group. It is just that they must cover the required curriculum, whether understood or not. This is a fact teachers around the world understand.

As I spent some time with another Peace Corps teacher on Savaii, she related having to teach seventh grade English to students who did not even know colors in English.I could only relate to my own experiences learning Samoan. If you don’t understand what is happening on day one, you certainly won’t understand day two.

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