New School Year

            October 5th signifies the official beginning, although not the real start, of the new school year here in Madagascar and the beginning of my last year of teaching (maybe) here as well.  I have gone into this new year looking forward to the year ahead.  The new year brings in a new set of students and a fresh start; a new beginning.  Not that the first year had a bad start; it was just a bit rocky.  I went into it with little idea of the school culture into which I was entering, the scheduling (or the lack of abiding by it), or real experience in a Malagasy classroom.  Any one of these alone would create a learning curve for any teacher, but all of them together are a far greater challenge.  It is not like Peace Corps did not try to prepare us for all of these because they did; at least to some extent.  They told us about the school culture during training, but, like all of you following my blog can most likely attest to, there is only so much one can extrapolate from the words and stories of another without seeing it
for yourself.  We also had a teaching Practicum during our training, but this was highly inefficient.  We taught only ten hours, observed less, and it was in Mantasoa where the students are far more different than anywhere else because they have had the opportunity to attend these extra English lessons every year.  These issues are being looked into, with a little help from me; though they are hard to overcome within the training schedule. Needless to say again, these all created a less than ideal start to my first year and, in some instances, a less than ideal continuance of the year.
That first year of teaching has taught me a lot though and there is no doubt that I am better for it.  For starters, I have gone into this new year without fretting about when classes were actually going to start. I knew they would not actually start until the following week of the official start date.  In the same strain, I have gone into it understanding the “schedule” of the vacations and meetings.  I have learned the school culture and when/how to work with it and when/how it is opportune to work against it.  And as far as classroom experience, not to mention the language experience needed for the classroom, I have had a whole year of it in not so ideal conditions; which any volunteer would probably argue is worth years of experience in a developed country.  
I go into this new year of teaching with hope, no…with knowledge, of a great year to come.  I know the ends and outs of the system now.  I know how to set limits on the students in this system I had once been blind in.  I know what is expected and what I can do. I have met my new students and they seem to be great, though time will tell. Yes, this “last” year in Madagascar will be great one!

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