DING DING DING! The sound of the empty propane tank (aka the school bell) echoed throughout the village on Monday, January 25 as it officially announced the commencement of the 2010 school year at GPS Matamaka. I have been waiting for this week to finally come for the last month, because I can actually start to “work” at my site.
My co-teacher (Ma’asi) and I returned back to the island right after planning week in Neiafu. It was nice to be back and retreat to one of the nearby beaches around my house since it has been ridiculously hot the past two/three weeks. However, the last three days have been windy and rainy, but it has made the temperature here very pleasant (plus we really need the rain). Anyway, members of the PTA have been very busy preparing the school property for the year. The lawn has been neatly trimmed and all the rubbish was disposed of from the school yard.
The first day of school first started out with all the students lined up in front of the school and Tongan flag. Just like any event here in Tonga, we have our opening prayer which was shortly followed by the Tonga national anthem. We have a total of 16 students this year! It is a big number right? We may have a couple of stragglers still coming next week, but for the most part that is everyone from class one to six. We were originally anticipating around 25, but some families moved to Neiafu or elsewhere around the area. The students were priceless when I watched them all line up with their little red and white school uniforms singing their national anthem. My new goal has been to get the Tongan anthem memorize so I too may sing along with them.
My principal/head teacher of Matamaka is teaching classes four to six, while Ma’asi teaches classes one to three. If you have not figured it out already, GPS Matamaka has multi-level classrooms. I will be observing both classes for the next two or three weeks so I can get an idea of where students stand with their English language. In addition, I have been busy trying to get the library up and running. The work has mostly been reorganizing the books, due to the fact that there has been no form of organization system at all in the past. All the books seem to have been placed randomly on the book shelves. On the contrary, the library could use some more books for the children. Most of the books have been donated by yachters who visit the school, so if anyone is reading this and would love to help contribute the English development of children in Matamaka, please send us some/any used or new books. There are other projects floating around the school that I am starting to work on. The biggest and most important has been trying to figure out the solar panels. I am still looking into some missing wires and equipment, but I hope to figure it all out soon so we can get some computers online at the school.
One of the highlights of my week has been with the Ma’asi’s class one to three class. I was trying to teach them new and different animals from around the world. I drew various animals on the blackboard such as a pig, a giraffe, and an elephant. After having the students say the animals in English and Tongan, I asked them what sound each animal made. Everyone knew what the sound of a pig and elephant were. When it came to the giraffe, Ma’asi and I just looked at each other because neither of us really knew what sound a giraffe made! Ma’asi ended up just making some random sound that could only be described as a somewhere in between a “meow” and a “baaaa.” The poor children believed us and were making the giraffe sounds all morning. Note to self; make sure you know the sound of every animal you plan on using for a lesson.
In the end, everything has been moving along quite dandy. I am starting to adapt to the outer-island lifestyle (which is even slower than the rest of Tonga believe it or not). One day this past week I thought I was running really late for school. It was 8:25 and school starts at 8:30, so I did not finish my morning coffee or weet-bix and just left school. It turned out that I was too early! I guess you can say we run on a different time schedule out here in the outer-islands.
These have been all the new developments at GPS Matamaka. I will post some new photos of our library soon after I make it beautiful with decorations and student’s art and crafts! If anyone has any questions regarding GPS Matamaka, Vava’u, Tonga, or me, please do not hesitate on contacting me! Malo ‘aupito.