Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My time year living and teaching in Marshall Islands is sadly coming to an end. It has definitely been the most rewarding and eye-opening experience of my life. Teaching in the Marshall Islands has been challenging at times but also an extremely rewarding experience. I have formed a strong attachment to my job and the 140 teenage students that I have spent most of my days with.

Since leaving home last July, many aspects of my life and my way of thinking have changed. My blessings and priorities have been clarified in a way that I am pleased with. I have been fortunately given opportunities that have allowed me to fulfill my goals, explore my passions and broaden my mind. I am grateful for these opportunities on a level that I was incapable of understanding before living in the Marshall Islands. Here, most students are not as fortunate as I was; students are often passed through the education system without even reaching an ounce of their potential.

Recently, I (along with the other worldteach) worked with a group of students on applying to the Junior State of America (JSA) summer program. JSA is a three week intensive program discussing government at three very prestigious schools in the United States; Georgetown University, Princeton University and Stanford University. We were so excited to find out that five of our brightest and most outstanding students were accepted to the programs. However, we were greatly dismayed when we heard that the scholarship money had already been distributed to students at another high school. Our students were also very disappointed that this wonderful opportunity was out of reach to them because of financial difficulties.

These five students, despite the obstacles presented in their daily lives, have been able to understand the value of education. They are active participants in the limited school activities. They are members of clubs, sports teams, and the student government. They are self-motivated individuals who strive to attend college in the near future. They are focused on continuing their education in a more structured educational system. My greatest hope is that students like this will be able to attend colloge and follow their dreams.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's the first day of March and I realized haven't written since last year. A lot has happened since November. I unexpectedly spent a month in Majuro and had Christmas on the outer island of Arno- following something tragic that happened out here in early December. There's been a lot of sadness so I stopped wanting to write online for a while.

Lately things have been going well. School continues on Ebeye...kind of. A few weeks ago school was cancelled most of the week for Kwajalein Memorial Day festivities. I was sick last week and this week is education week. Ironically, there is no school during education week... Marshallese style. Although it seems like I haven't taught in a month, I've gotten used to the teaching thang. It's become fun most of the time. I've come to terms with the fact that I can't teach every student everything. I can teach the students that want to learn some valuable skills or lessons. Most importantly, I can be a role model and friend to them. I've definitely grown attached to my students in a way I didn't expect. I have a few months left but I can tell that I'll miss them a lot.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Arno Arno on Christmas

Weekend Trip to Kwaj Missile Base

Sunday Snorkel, Surf and Fish Trip in the Lagoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010


How is it already November?  I find it hard to believe that Christmas is a month away, it doesn't feel like November- It's 80 degrees and sunny.  I've been without internet for a while which has been good and bad.  It's been good focusing on more creative and mind-broadening activities in my free time and to take a break from the enthralling world of facebook, gmail and skype.  I did miss my daily contact with the outside world.  There's something comforting about hearing how everyone's lives continue in a similar fashion at home while I am so far away.  I know it's only been a few months since I left home but I feel like i've been here for ages. It's strange the way that time moves here.  Because the seasons don't change, it feels as though time stands still, yet every time I look at the calendar another month has passed by.

The past few weeks have been new and interesting.  My schedule has been flipped by the ongoing bus crisis.  Usually, all 400ish students are bussed a half hour bumpy ride from their homes on Ebeye to our high school in Gugeegue.  The school owns 3 buses, 2 of which customarily function.  For a while, however, only one bus was working.  This meant that it would take half the day to get all of the students to school.  The endless, overcrowded and pot-hole ridden trips took a real toll on our lone bus.  On top of this, we ran out of fuel.  To conclude the bus saga, the teachers are now bussed to Ebeye to teach at the Middle School in the evening.  In our brief stint at the Middle school, our high schoolers have wreaked havoc.  Each day, I get complaints from the teacher whose classroom I am using that various items are broken or missing.  Also, one of the math classroom windows has been smashed by one of my delightful freshman.  In fact, I was locked out of my classroom on Friday (I'm guessing on purpose). The school security guard ordered one of my students to break in through the window and let the rest of the class in.  During my roommate, Amanda's class, there was a diaper throwing contest outside. Imagine trying to teach a class of unruly sophomores as dirty diapers fly at you through the second story window. During my other roommate, Mary's class, a drunk man walked brazenly across the room to the doorless bathroom and relieved himself.  It's been an eventful week. Well, that's enough internet for me, I've had an internet overdose today...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recent Highlights and Thanksgiving

Life continues to fly by as usual. Today, however, I suddenly felt cold for the first time in months. I had a quick onset of the chills- some type of illness is spreading rapidly across the islands. From Majuro to Gugeegue, many of the teachers have been catching whatever it is that's going around. I think we've all reached a breaking point. From my point of view, we like to think we can handle all that is thrown at as because that's what we are here for and it's the commitment we have made. As we've learned this week, the stress eventually catches up and takes a physical toll. Unfortunately, this is the worst time to be sick. The first quarter is coming to an end and next week is finals week. I feel a mixture of relief and worry. I am pleased with the material I have covered thus far and am proud of many of my student's hard work and also of my own accomplishments as a teacher. At the same time, I am worried about those students that have fallen behind and are failing. In some cases, it's a lack of effort on their parts. In others, I am sorry that I don't have the time and resources to be of assistance to those students who really need extra help. I feel discouraged in my ability to help these students mainly because my lack of Marshallese skills and inability to relate to them in any way.

Anyhow, I don't mean to constantly complain and make life sound so difficult. For the times that I feel in despair or frustrated, I remind myself of how lucky I have been with my own opportunities (and education) in my life so far. I also think of how purposeless I would feel if I wasn't doing anything to help others who haven't been as lucky as I have been. For the most part, I wake up each morning and go to bed at night happy with myself and where I am. That is and should be all that I ask for.

Since I haven't written in a while, I'll list the highlights of the past few weeks...

A few weeks ago, we went fishing in the rain with our kind and friendly neighbors, Andrea, Terry and their adorable 3 year old son, Sebastian. Together, we caught about 20 fish (3 of which I caught) and we ate them later for dinner. While fishing, I spotted my first shark. He was only a foot long but it scared me considering that I had been diving to unhook the fishing line and bait that was stuck on coral.

Last Friday, we checked out the nightlife on Ebeye. We went to a bar/club with some of our coworkers. The night was fun- especially the dancing. The following day, Amanda and I walked to our secret swimming spot I have renamed mermaid's lagoon. We relaxed in the beautiful water for a few hours as the tide quickly came in. Lara met us at the spot a few hours later so we stayed and became prunes in the water for a while longer. Finally, we realized that the tide had come in higher than we had ever seen before. We looked towards the end of the island where we had come from. The waves were breaking against the tree line and we came to terms with the fact that there was no chance of getting back around the island the way we had came. It was clear that we could not get back lagoon side unless swimming (as there was nothing left of the beach). We considered waiting it out but couldn't because of how hungry, thirsty, sunburnt and pruney we were. Amanda and I decided to cross the very thick mysterious jungle that covers most of the island (our mp3 players deterred us from the long swim). Lara, whose number one fear is spiders, began swimming away after one look in the cob-web infested jungle. Amanda and I, in our soaking wet guams (that resemble night gowns) looked like a mixture of Wendy from Peter Pan and a wizard from Harry Potter as we stumbled in, over and between branches while we waved wand-like branches in front of us to snag the oncoming spider webs. To keep our morale up, we yelled out spells along the way. We finally emerged from the jungle proud of our small accomplishment. As we reached the meeting point of the island we had been stuck on and Gugeegue, we met up with Lara. She had successfully swam back with her bag tied around her neck. We were surprised to see that the tide was so high that the 40 foot coral pathway between the islands, that is usually completely exposed, was now covered with water. We walked knee-deep through the water directly where the ocean and lagoon met. Looking to either side was a very memorable spectacle. I was standing, literally, in the middle of pacific ocean :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Essay Writing & Mannit Day

Not too much has changed in the past week and a half. School continues to be hectic and the weekends have flown by. Fortunately, my mood has dramatically improved. One of our two buses was working for most of last week, leading to shorter classes and my happiness. I spent last week going over the basics of grammar. The review was a necessity and went relatively well. The material was certainly successful in putting many of my students to sleep. I’m proud to say that I have learned 120 or so of my 140 students’ names. Getting to know them has made my job more fun and has been helpful for classroom management. I have definitely come to see the need for discipline and have been demanding more respect as a teacher. Luckily, I am not hated by all just yet. During the assembly today, one of my students asked me, “Miss, do you have children?”. When I told her that I did not, she whispered to me “Well, then do think I could be your daughter?” I laughed and told her she was too old to be my daughter but we could be sisters. My roommates found it creepy but I think it was sweet. Another student wrote in his journal, “I like you Miss, you are my mother of English”. It was reassuring to me that even though I can be a total bitch in class at times, some students still like me enough to want to be my child.

This week is designated to the Social Science department. This is great news to me because it somehow means that we only have two real days of classes. Last night, the head of the English department paid my roommates and I visit to let us know that there would be an essay-writing contest in our classes today and tomorrow. We couldn’t help but laugh when we read the theme and criteria. The theme is, "Responsible citizens contributing to the prosperity of the Nation". Seeing as many of my students had trouble answering simple questions such as “What is something you are good at?” and groan when asked to write more than a full sentence, I felt that the expectations were slightly unrealistic. The grading rubric described standards that I think might have challenged a number of people from my graduating class at college. After explaining the vocabulary, question and components of an essay, the chaos began. With myself as the only teacher and 35 students in each of my classes, it was nearly impossible to be of assistance and answer questions while maintaining any kind of order in the rest of the classroom. All I can say is- I did my best.

Because we are lucky enough to have such a diverse staff, on Wednesday, the teachers will split up by country and teach students about our respective cultures and history. My three roommates and I will be giving a brief US history and pop culture lesson to students from grades 9-12. To my surprise, Marshallese teenagers seem to know more about pop culture than we do. According to journal entries I have read, my student’s lives are highly influenced by pop-sensations: Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana and the rest of the Disney crew. Perhaps I can convince some of my grade 9 to put on a Justin Beiber concert (as they do sometimes between classes). Although I have been living in the RMI for about 2 months, there is plenty for me to learn about Marshallese culture. Luckily, I will have an opportunity to learn more about Marshallese customs this week. Friday is “Manit” day. This is a day set aside for the celebration of Marshallese culture. I hear there will be delicious food and activities such as coconut husking contests and basket weaving. It should be an interesting week…