Thursday, March 15, 2012
Teaching Haiku in Vanuatu
The teacher in the years four, five, six classroom has moved to the years seven and eight classroom, leaving me in charge of their class. They have proven to be quite unruly. Keeping them quiet and getting them to participate is challenging. But a new teacher is scheduled to arrive soon to assist me. Mostly I have been focusing on the art of story writing. However yesterday, I decided to switch gears and teach them poetry. I introduced them to haiku and allowed them the chance to write their own haiku. I did not correct grammar or spelling and told them that e.e. cummings and other poets have transcended those rules in the past, and they were free to do so as well. I was surprised at how well they understood the concept once I explained the rules of a haiku, and by their enthusiasm for writing them. However, their recalcitrant behavior still proved difficult and various teachers had to come in and reprimand them. They continued to rebel and I felt a headache coming on. Since Fridays are half-days in Vanuatu, I told them they could leave early once they showed me a valid, original haiku, taking advantage of Melanesian chaos in order to teach them a new skill (and giving me an opportunity to go home and take an Ibuprofen). I realized how little consistency the school system can offer the children here. While the children frustrated me, it was difficult for me to blame or judge them for being unruly when Vanuatu's school system itself is unruly. At my school, teachers are incessantly switching classrooms, arriving late, and canceling class at the last minute. One common practice in Vanuatu is to cancel class for an entire week simply because one student lost a family member. The children here simply reflect the practices of their school and their culture. It is a systemic issue that will not be likely eradicated during my two years in the Peace Corps. However, I have been wondering the past few days if the trick is to flow along with the chaos and still leave the students more enlightened than before.