The night before the first day of the school year, I knew exactly one thing: assembly starts at 7:40 am.
That’s it. I didn’t know what grades I would be teaching or how many students I would have. I didn’t know if I would be expected to teach on the first day. I didn’t know what time the school day ended. Despite attempts to contact my principal for more information, 7:40 am was all I had.
I arrived at school at 7:30 am, hoping to meet my principal before assembly and get some answers. Instead, when I arrived, nobody was in sight. No students, no teachers, nobody.
They all rolled in around 7:39, and we headed to the outdoor area where assembly is held, before discovering a small problem: over the summer, huge weeds had sprung up all over the area. The students started pulling the weeds with difficulty – the plants were taller than some of the first graders, and the stems were a few inches in girth and not easy to pull up. Finally, we began the daily session of prayer, song, and teacher announcements.
After assembly, the students filed into their classrooms and sat down at their desks to learn wait. Teachers, instead of teaching, collected in the teacher’s room to talk. The meeting was in Sesotho, so I didn’t understand everything, but it was mostly an overview of schemes, or yearly plans regarding each grade’s curricula.
About My School
Motto: Education is the root of life, so let’s join hands
Student Body: About 150 students from 9 villages
Staff: 5 classroom teachers, a principal, and me
During this meeting, I finally found out my schedule! I would be teaching English and Life Skills to Grades 6 and 7. I also established that for the first week of school, I’d observe other teachers and plan for my classes, and I’d start to teach on the second week.
Around noon, I followed the Grade 7 teacher into his classroom, excited to finally observe a class. Instead, until the end of the day, I observed the students sitting restlessly at their desks while the teachers silently flipped through their syllabi.
In the end, not a single teacher taught that day, and not a single student was surprised. Apparently, the school year starts slowly in Lesotho! There are a few reasons for this. The teachers don’t live in the village during vacations, so they needed a day to familiarize themselves with their plan for the new year. Also, many students don’t show up until a few days (or weeks) into the term, so starting slowly allows for the class to fill up.
For the rest of my first week, I did observe some great classes. I’m lucky to be part of a young, dynamic, and hardworking staff – definitely not the norm in every school, as many Basotho teachers have the job for the salary, not for a particular love of children or education.
I also had time to rake through the school for various materials that I can use to put together my lessons for the year, including old textbooks, posters, and art supplies. I made a plan detailing which topics I’ll cover during the first quarter, and I made detailed lesson plans for my first few classes. Turns out I needed a few slow days to get into the swing of things myself!
Entering my second week of school, I feel prepared and excited. It might be my first time teaching, but at least now, I know a lot more than 7:40 am.