Friday, July 10, 2015

Leaning on my Lifeline

The popular TV gameshow, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” had opportunities for contestants to "use a lifeline" to get assistance. I found myself in a similar situation this week.

My Peace Corps journey started one month ago today, when Anna and I traveled to Pittsburgh to spend the night at a hotel close to the airport, because of my early departure in the wee hours of the morning on June 11. In the past month, I left the USA, moved in with a host family on St. Lucia, and bonded with the other 31 Peace Corps members of my class.

Our Pre-Service Training has been intense. In addition to teaching about health, safety, and cultural issues, the primary goal is to convert us into Reading Literacy Co-Teachers in just a few short weeks. I feel like I'm back in college—this time majoring in elementary education. This past week has been especially stressful, as we were expected to come up with a curriculum and lesson plans (amidst all of our other training activities) for next week's “Model School.” Actual students from the area are coming to spend the week with us to give us experience teaching. I've already decided that teaching elementary children is harder than teaching college students.

We were divided into small groups of four and given a “master teacher” to lead us. We analyzed the test results from the dozen students who were assigned to our classroom, and decided what our emphasis will be. I will be teaching the main lesson on Wednesday, and my topic will be the letter “L.” I also had decided to incorporate poetry into my lesson (each of us had to pick a different theme).

As I worried about what I would do as the lone teacher that morning, I pulled out my phone during our lunch break and typed “teaching the letter L” into Google. A huge number of results came flooding back into the little window of my phone. It was like trying to drink water from a fire hose.

Already a bit apprehensive of my assignment, I panicked a bit—“How am I going to sift through all these ideas and arrive at a good plan to turn in?” Then it dawned on me! I have a lot of Facebook friends who are teachers (or are retired teachers)--maybe they could provide some guidance. It was sort of like calling a lifeline on the game show. So I quickly posted this on my Facebook page:

Dear teacher friends (or other interested parties),

The Peace Corps is training me to be an elementary teacher during my first weeks on this island. Next Wednesday, I am responsible for a summer school session with real students, focusing on the letter "L."

I'd be interested in adding a short children's poem to my session (rhyming words is part of my session). It needs to rhyme and it would be great if it had a lot of "L" words. If I have extra time, I might even expose them to a limerick (since it begins with "L"). I realized that many of my friends have more expertise in this area, and some of you have offered to help me, so I thought I'd throw this out and see what comes out of it.

So if you have any easy poems that fit this criteria (or even a limerick--but nothing about that guy from Nantucket), please let me know.


Fortunately for me, quite a few of my friends responded—even those who had not been teachers, but merely parents. Many of them offered some good ideas (including some I bookmarked to use later), either as replies on my postings or through private messages. To each who acknowledged my plea, I say “thank you!”

As a result, I am now better prepared for my lesson on Wednesday morning. More importantly, I know that I can count on my friends if I ever get in a pinch down here—if not with good ideas, at least just with supporting words (which are always welcome). I probably could have figured it out on my own, and been just fine, but that momentary uncertainty led to “using a lifeline.” Thankfully, the internet is widely available in the Caribbean—and my friends were “widely available” as well.

It makes me realize just how hard it must have been to serve in the Peace Corps in the days before the internet! A letter would never have arrived in time, but the internet is instantaneous.

I am a lucky guy!

A picture taken by one of my classmates of me reading from a large picture book during a team teaching exercise at a nearby elementary school last week

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