Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women's Day 2010

International Women’s Day: Cameroonians don’t believe this day isn’t celebrated in the United States. “But it’s international… and you are American women. How can you not celebrate it?” Good question. So what is it about women that we celebrate here? We celebrate the equality of women. Our subdivisional officer stressed that it isn’t the government who gives equality to women. It’s each individual woman who claims it. And though a third world country is hardly an easy place for women to claim equality, there are plenty who impress me with their independence and open minds. Just the other day I met a woman in a taxi who told me she’s too young to get married. She’s 28! Most Cameroonians would consider that well beyond the marrying age. She commented, “My house is only big enough for me. Where will I keep a husband? The first bedroom is where I sleep. The second is my office and the third is my dressing room.” I had to ask her, “Don’t people pester you about living alone?” I know I’m asked all the time why I would want to live alone. “Yes, of course,” she replied, “but you simply have to explain to people that you have the right to live exactly as you want. And this is what I want.”

Some argue that women’s day has become all about the women’s day clothing material. They call it a fashion show. You see, every year, a new women’s day material is sold (usually in 3 different colors) and women are expected to buy some and have a dress made. And usually, there is actually a fashion show. I noticed only the women who were wearing this year’s material were asked to march in the parade. It’s unfortunate since the material isn’t cheap and I know many women who would have wanted to buy the material but simply couldn’t afford it. I was happy when the subdivisional officer made a comment about this also. His speech began with, “Women’s Day is not about the tissue.” He reminded us 3 times. I don’t blame him at all.

The Community Health Agents of my village (which was started by my former postmate) gave a demonstration to women on how to use women’s condoms. The demonstration received much snickering and looks of disapproval from the crowd--yet the agents were very serious about their message and offered free condoms to the crowd. I didn’t see anyone refuse a free sample.

I mostly stood in the sun taking photos. The sun was fierce and I noticed a sunburn once I was home. My dress was a simple, traditional “kabbah,” which is similar to a moo-moo or nightgown in the states. It’s comfortable but not my idea of fashionable. However, Cameroonians get a kick out of seeing me in kabbahs. My post mate, Kim, sported a kabbah as well. Hers was a lovely shade of yellow.
That’s it for today!

Monday, March 1, 2010

the value of a colorful sticker

My students take their stickers seriously. All exams are on a 20 point scale so anyone who has 15 or above is rewarded a sticker. This sequence, the stickers feature dinosaurs. I’m amazed at how excited my students get over stickers. I’m almost sure I’m the only teacher who has rewarded them a sticker in their lives. But it’s more than just a sticker… it also means they have a good shot at being a group leader this upcoming sequence.

I might have mentioned how in my classes of younger students, they’re divided into 6 groups and compete for points every sequence. The group with the most points gets rewarded at the end of the sequence. Last year, I changed up the groups myself every sequence and just called them “Group 1, 2,…” etc. Students were complaining that I wasn’t being fair in choosing groups but honestly, it was completely at random. This year, I changed things up a bit. I choose the six students who have the highest average in my class that semester to be group leaders and sort of in dodge ball fashion, they choose who is in their group. I realize choosing teams always leaves the same kids picked last but with the size of my class, it just seemed to work better for everyone. The kids are happy with the arrangement. Group leaders don’t actually choose their closest friends as one might think. And they know who might cause disruption problems if they’re sitting next to their certain students, so they’re very strategic about it. Disruptions cause the entire group to lose points and group leaders definitely keep this in mind. This arrangement has transformed my classroom. I hardly feel overwhelmed by the amount of kids per class anymore. In fact, my younger groups of 70 are easier to handle than the 40 terminales (seniors) who cannot be motivated with friendly competition or candy. What motivates the terminale students? I have yet to find out. Many of them are actually my age and aren’t the least bit intimidated by me. I have to ask these students to leave the classroom on a daily basis.

So, what do I give the winning team in the younger classes? There are about 12 students per group and they get a point added to their final group as well as some candy or pencils, ink pens, etc.

This year, they also get to choose their own group names. Some examples have been: Obama, Champions, Hollywood, Purple Flowers, Beyonce, and New York.

I realize I haven’t posted any school pictures on the blog yet. I’ve never felt all that comfortable bringing the camera to school but there’s only 3 months left. I’ll have to post some soon! Wow, is it March already?