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Saturday, March 24, 2012

UP TO MY EYEBALLS


Well, I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work!  We spent most of the last month  helping young adults finish their applications to BYU-Hawaii – I know we helped complete at least 50 applications.  To 
be scanned and faxed:  high school transcripts, family financial papers, recommendations from LDS Bishops and Stake Presidents (local and regional leaders), letters of sponsorship from U.S. relatives,  certification of English proficiency (from a test we administer monthly), and applications for BYU’s version of work-study, called IWORK.  Ends up being about 12 papers per student.  Add to that about 4 hours of typing in a second language -  I’m glad I’m not applying to college these days, because I  don’t have the patience for it!  Whew!



BUT, the surge is finished, and since BYU has no available IWORK for this fall, most of our qualified applicants are going to be online students to start off.  The school here may open one of its computer labs in the evenings, so young adults can use it to “attend” their online classes.  I can’t wait until that happens, because already we have three and four people waiting on the two available computers in our office.  I have to run someone out of the classroom where I teach in order to hold my own classes from four to six in the evening! 

The entrance to Liahona High School.  





Jim is enjoying the chance to observe teachers, as they do the version of student teaching we do here.  Even though most teachers here have four-year degrees, almost none of them have degrees in education, so in come the Szokas  (latest in a very long line of senior missionaries) to act as adjunct professors for BYU-Hawaii, to teach these college-level courses in education.  But since these teachers are already in the classroom, we tend to approach them as graduate-level workshop classes, rather than “read the chapter and answer the questions” undergraduate classes.  Makes the courses a lot more pragmatic when you can go back to your own classroom and try something out.
Anyway, Jim has been thoroughly delighted with two particular teachers he has observed.  Kalo (Kah-low), a math genius, is in her third year of teaching, and she is remarkable already.  Not perfect, but every time Jim gives her a suggestion, she puts it into practice, and he sees it the next several times he comes into the classroom.  She has a better understanding of teaching, both in theory and practice, after two and a quarter years, than I did after 12 years! 

The other teacher, Makaleta (Mah-kah-lay-tah, the Tongan version of Margaret), is simply incredible.  She has been a lab assistant for the past four years, and is serving as a long-term substitute this year.  But she has applied everything she has learned in the classes she has taken here, and both Jim and I feel we could recommend her to any school system in the world.  She teaches 9th grade science, and here’s an example of her teaching:


In any second-language situation, you want to use a lot of visual aids.  Makaleta was teaching the concept of peristalsis, in which the muscles of the esophagus contract downward in a pattern that moves the food down to the stomach.  So what was her visual aid?  Not a simple picture, not something high tech – she put an apple inside a nylon sock, and pushed it down little by little from behind the sock, while her students watched the apple “magically” get pushed down.  Great demonstration!  Even if her students had a hard time pronouncing the word, they certainly understood what it meant!

Sometimes I feel like I'm  trying to
get a cow to fly, when the cow wasn't
designed to fly...knowhatImean?
Me, I’m having a roller-coaster ride helping classes of teachers figure out how to teach.  I go from being impressed that a Seminary (LDS religion class) teacher decides to try out reader’s theater to help her 9th grade English language learners get past the archaic English used in the Old Testament, or being amazed at the grasp of “hands on” activities a new automotive teacher has, even to the point of having students create an active scenario about treating a victim of electric shock (rather than just talking about the safety rules) to being totally tickled and not a little wide-eyed when a new teacher writes in his “reflecting on our practice” journal that he never considered sharing his vocabulary words with his students.  That makes me wonder what he thought vocabulary words are for – are they classified information or something?  Hee hee.

Seriously, though, most of the teachers are making earnest efforts to apply what they learn in these classes, and you have to be impressed that someone with a business degree who decides to come back to Tonga to teach, spends a couple of years taking classes after putting in a full day of teaching, in order to satisfy the requirements the LDS Church has placed upon them.  That’s dedication.  Now if I can just get them to recognize that we have to teach BEYOND the year-end exams.  We need to teach skills which these teens will use for the rest of their lives, skills like time and resource management, decision-making, problem-solving, flexibility and self-direction – these are skills very absent in the traditional Tongan culture, but the curriculum here at Liahona Middle School and Liahona High School can be an effective vehicle for learning those skills.  Hey, wish me luck – I dream big!