Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Huge Thank You

 The picture above is taken from one of the classrooms that I teach in here at LEAP. Can you imagine being able to teach and look out of your window and see this view of Table Mountain everyday.

Above is a picture of some of the TWA fellows that I have worked and lived with for the last two months. These are some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. Everyday I have learned something new and grown from them. I will truly miss them when it is time for us to separate. (I don't want to think about that... :-(

I just realized as I was going through and reading my blogs that I have not had a chance to say Thank You. Sometimes thank you is such an over-used word but I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart.

First of all I would like to thank my family and friends who gave me support physically, emotionally, and financially. So many people wished me luck and supported me in my effort to achiveve my goal and dream of travelling to Africa and teaching in South Africa. Without you, I wouldn't have had the courage and the strength to fully pursue this opportunity to achieve this dream.

Thank you to everyone who supported me financially with donating any amount that they could. I esepcially appreciated this given that there are so many charities and opportunities for people to donate to in today's society, that people felt my compassion and my emotional attachment to this journey with Teach with Africa that they would donate.

Thank you to the donors who donated anonymously. I am so appreciative of your donations that helped make this trip for me possible. I hope you can see how much I have grown from this trip through readin my blogs and pictures. I have learn just as much from the learners and teachers here, just as I have taught them in my science class. I cannot fully describe what this experience has mean to me. Everyday I am going to think about this incredible two month journey that I have experienced. Thank you so very much for your contribution.

Thank you to my school who allowed me to go on this journey, knowing that I would miss the last few days of the school year, and miss the first week or two of professional development. Even though I have been working since I left in mid-June and will fly straight back into profesional development meetings, the rejuvenation factor that I have gotten while being here as been immense.  I am bringing so much back with me that will be implemented at school and in my classroom that I know this trip has been worthwhile and I have benefited so much from it.

Thank you to the entire TWA team and family for the uplifting support and love that we have had over these two months. It is sad to think as I sit here and write this that we have just over two weeks left with each other. The bonds that we have made and the friendships that have formed can never be broken or taken away. To be with and live with so many people who are as passionate about education and breaking down barries has been phenomenal. This organization has done some truly inspiring work and I can't wait to see what becomes of the connection of TWA and LEAP.

Thank you LEAP for opening your doors to me and allowing me to come in with the TWA team and just make us feel at home. From the very first day you told us that we were not visitors, and from that day I have felt like a teacher here. I feel like this is my school, my home, my learners, and my friends and family. Every day that I walk in and stand in front of my Grade 10's I get this feeling that I cannot explain. I look forward to teaching them and hearing their  questions and listening to their logic on why they think an answer is correct or incorrect. The LEAP staff has been so compassionate and trusting to allow me to come into a science department and teach and have a space that I can bounce my ideas and get input and feedback. In addition, I have been allowed to get their ideas and pick their brain to help me grow and become a better teacher.

Thank you to my wife really pursed me to follow my dreams and goals no matter what the cost maybe. Thank you so much for that push and constantly supporting me and having my back. I know  2 months away from each other can be a long thing, but knowing that I am loved and supported was such a huge part of this journey. Thank you so much for that and I love you.

If there is anyone I am leaving out I truly apologize. I am writing this   as I am reflecting that I only have two weeks left here and I am on a break before I begin teaching my next class. Thank you all very much! I love you all!

With Love From South Africa

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflection weekend update

Malo- I have been practicing my Xhosa... :-)

Its Monday! I had to ask my students what today's date was because I had no idea what day of the month it was. When they told me that it was the 26th, I couldn't believe it. It truly was not possible that this was the last week of July and that August would be beginning soon. I guess the saying is true that time flies when you are having fun... :-)

This weekend was an amazing experience. I am entering into my second week of my homestay in Langa which unfortunately is coming to an end soon. I cannot think TWA enough for giving us the opportunity to be able to experience living in the township and connecting with our students on a deeper level.

On Friday, one of my host took myself and several other TWA members out to Khayelitsha which is another township. We went to several places and had one of the best times I have had here in South Africa. It was so nice that every place we went to we felt so welcomed and people didn't mind having us there. They knew we were obviously visitors, but they wanted us to enjoy and feel like a part of the community. I had the time of my life there and was so greatful that our host gave us the opportunity to experience this.

On Saturday, we headed out to a farm to have a day away which was an exciting day. It was so nice to be away to just sit outside and relax and have time to think and reflect. Probably the highlight of the day/night was the braii and the great food as well as going ATV'ing in the dark on this trail. It was so much fun. I definitely felt like a kid again as i was laughing to myself while driving.

Well today marks a new day in the work week. I just finished marking the test that my students took on Friday and I was so excited  that over 90% of them got a 90 or higher. I don't hink I have ever graded tests so quickly as I did on Sunday. I was just so excited to see how my students perform on the test. I had a great opportunity today in class to reteach a topic that a lot of my learners struggled with on the exam. I am learning so much about teaching and developing skills and practices that are helping me become a better teacher. I absolutely am loving my time here in LEAP and South Africa. I don't want to think about there only being 2 and a half weeks left before my return to the US.

Hopefully I will have some time this week to update more about what life is like teaching and co-teaching here at LEAP.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teaching update and Living in Langa update

It is Wednesday! Half way through the work week. That is a great thing and also a bad thing. It means that I only have a few days left of lesson planning and teaching to do this week, but it also means as each day passes by it is getting closer and closer to the end of my time here in South Africa that I do not want to think about.

In the last few days I realized how much I have taken lesson planning for granted. I have been used to teaching the same content and curriculum over the last few years and just revamping and adding things or deleting things from the curriculum. While I am here in South Africa I have been lesson planning and doing work every night. Back home I feel like I probably would have complained about the amount of time I was putting into planning my lessons but I have enjoyed it. It has been refreshing to teach new content and curriculum. There have been some great lessons that I have taught and then there have been some lessons after there were done that I wish I could have had the chance to reteach and make them more interactive and hands-on.

I am trying to integrate hands on activities, group learning, and student centered teaching into my lessons here at LEAP. Somedays I do that better than other days.

Today marks Day 4 of Living in Langa. I will try and give you a sense of what my days are mostly like. I apologize for the Day in the life format that I will be writing this in... :-)

Each morning I wake up at 6:00 AM and get ready for the day. My host family consists of a grandmother, her two daughters, and then the two grand-daughers. The family is incredible. They are extremely nice and generous and a pleasure to talk to. It feels as if I am home with my family. It is easy to see that the family values education with the two youngest grand-daughters who are striving to get an exceptional education. I leave the house around 7:00 AM and walk to where the LEAP bus picks up the learners in the morning.

The bus ride is about 15-20 minutes depending on traffic in the mornings. The first class begins at 8:15 but I only have that for two days during the week. I am teaching in a grade 9,10,11 class and observing my mentor teacher in her Grade 12 class. The two weeks of teaching has been a great experience. I have learned different classroom management styles, experiemented with different ways to teach lessons and conduct labs.

The last class finishes at 5:15 and then we go straight to the bus to take it to Langa. The ride home sometimes is longer due to traffic. I get dropped off at the same bus stop and then go home. I haven't had a chance to explore Langa but I did get a great opportunity last night to talk to two LEAPSA's about Langa and the different struggles and hardships that different people face in the tonwship. I don't want to come off as comparing a tonwship to some living conditions back hom but it was very interesting to hear how people in both places have the same mindsets and ways of thinking about things. I will go into this in more details in a follow-up post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

South Africa update

When I first started this incredible journey I thought I would be able to blog on a daily basis and constantly writing in my journal. I definitely realize now how unreal that expectation was. There are some nights that after dinner I am so exhausted, but exhausted in a great way. I love that every day I am challenging myself both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. The students that I have the privilege to teach keep me mentally sharp everyday with their outstanding questions and insight into the topics we are teaching.

I will give a quick update on how things have been going.

The Teach With Africa program has been incredible. The teaching fellows that I have had the chance to work with so far this summer are some of the most amazing, intelligent, and hard working individuals that I have had the chance to work with. In addition to living in a house together with over 15 people it has created some great times to develop bonds with each other.

In the last couple of weeks I have had the chance to do some extraordinary things and to soak up South Africa.

The picture you see above was taken by my roomate as we were leaving Langa where we had the chance to watch one of the LEAPSA's have a soccer practice. My roommate and I conditioned with the team, which including running drills and other exercises. After I finished the workout, I truly realized how out of shape I am. South Africa loves meat, just as much as I do. I don't think I can count the number of all meat meals that I have eaten without any vegetables.

I had the chance to hike up the historic Table Mountain. Everyday when I am walking to and from school, there is Table mountain in the background. It is an amazing sight to behold everyday while I am here. I was able to hike up there with one of the other TWA fellows. It took us right at 2 hours for the hike. Being that I am a hiking amateur, I was very proud of myself for completing it. We thought about hiking down, but we took the table car down which was a great journey.

2 weekends ago I went kayaking out in the Atlantic Ocean to see the penguins. This was only my second time kayaking but I am definitely hooked after I did it the first time with my students in Puerto Rico. Kayaking was definitely a big arm workout. Since it is winter time here in South Africa, the water was definitely cold and of course I would forget to bring a change of clothes, but I was able to dry out standing in the sun. I am so glad that I decided to go kayaking. It was truly an incredible experience.

The picture above is the next incredible step in my journey of being here in South Africa.  In about an hour I will be headed to Langa. Langa is a township outside of CapeTown that a majority of the students that I am teaching come from. Langa is one of the townships that was set up during the apartheid era in South Africa, and a place of residence for Black South Africans. I have been to Langa several times now, but not for any extensive amount of time. I will be living with a host family there for two weeks. I am extremely at the opportunity to live in a community that has experience so much hardship and struggles. I definitely encourage you to look up or simply "Google" Langa to see pictures and the history behind this township. I will try to update as much as possible when I have time and can get to a computer at school.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Getting Caught up on Blogging: Children's Day Care and Learning Center

As you can see I have definitely fallen behind with my blogging. Luckily I have been trying to journal when I have a chance, but I am definitely taking pictures as much as possible as well. I am categorizing my pictures so I can remember everything that I have done and what I would like to make a blog about. 

It is so hard to believe that 3 weeks ago today I was arrive in South Africa. I am sitting in the same place outside where I wrote my first blog here in Africa. It is another beautiful day here. It is chilly but its a great day to sit outside. Unfortunately the Cape Town winter is going to set it in tonight and tomorrow and it is going to be very cold and rainy .

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog.... but I feel like it is a very important topic to write about. As most people know South Africa, but Africa in general has a huge HIV/Aids epidemic. For me I have always known this fact and known that it is a huge problem in the US as well. However, being a person that has never had anyone that I know of impacted from this huge medical crisis, it never has hit home from me.

Look at the picture of the kids above. This picture was taken by a grade 10 student that I gave my camera to for the day and I said go around and have fun and take pictures. The faces of those 3 kids gets to my heart every time.

About two weeks ago with visited the Etafani Day Care center. This day care center  primarily tends to young kids who are infected with either the HIV virus or Aids. When I was here at the center I don't know what I was doing, but somehow I missed that information that was being said. As soon as I saw the little kids in the preschool I was so overjoyed. It is something about little kids that just brightens up my day. I am always joking and saying that I want to have a baby or a little kid because they are so cute and adorable... until they grow up and become the teenagers that I teach on a daily basis... :-)

However, I had the best time sitting down and playing with these two little kids with legos. This one little boy was having so much fun building lego blocks. Then he would take them apart and give me the legos and I would build something, show him, and then take it apart and he would build something different. I could have spent a whole day there and would have been the happiest person ever.

Then as we were walking around the daycare center and seeing the other parts of the center that were there for not only little kids but resources that are their for adults I heard more about the center. As I left the daycare I was informed that all of the kids that had been in the daycare center that I had just played with where infected with HIV or Aids. My mouth dropped and my heart sunk. Wow! Words could not express what I was feeling at the time.

Typing this I become emotional because I wish you could see the joy that was on these kids faces. I mean just look at the picture that is above. Those kids were so amazing. Those three kids who look so happy are dealing with a life long infection. These children did not asked to be born with this infection. It just really brought into my perspective the widespread issue of HIV and Aids. I am just glad to know that agencies like these exist to help children enjoy the years that they have. It truly makes me appreciate my life and health and value others who are giving so much of their time and effort to help people live a quality life for the years that they have here on earth.