Monday, February 27, 2012

Triumph and Sadness

There’s a teachers’ meeting for Years 7 & 8 so those kids stayed home today.  That meant I had much of my day free.  Hurray!  I worked on the office décor – typing signs and materials and posting them, per the request of my principal.  I also spent 30 minutes with a Year 8 student.

No, he wasn’t supposed to be at school.  Last year he had the dubious distinction of being the last in his class.  I told him this year would be different.  He lives next door to me and is related to my family in some way.  He’s a sweet, gentle, funny boy.  But he’s been left behind, academically.

This morning he came to drop off food for his younger sister.  He stopped by the office because he knew I was there.  I think he’s in the midst of a 13 year old teacher crush and was less interested in learning than just hanging out with someone he likes, who pays attention to him.  But he was willing to work.

We worked on phonics with flash cards.  I read him a story in English and helped him read it back.  That wasn’t working so well so I got a book in Samoan.  First go around, not so good.  Second time, much better.  I saw the light in his eyes when he started to connect that letters and sounds and words were all connected.  And could form a story.

This is why I became a teacher in 1972.  It’s why I agreed to be a teacher in Peace Corps in 2010.  To see a child learn.  The third time, he got it.  Not perfect, but he was starting to sound out words.

We were interrupted when his older brother came to the door looking for him.  Minutes later as I was walking downstairs, I heard the unmistakable sound of wood on flesh.  A sound I hear all too often.  I looked over toward his house and saw that he was being beaten.  I assume it was because he wasn’t doing his chores.  Because he was learning to read.


  1. Oh! You wrote that so well that I was feeling all good and happy until I felt a strong shot of anguish when I got to the last part. I so hope that your presence and manner will continue to keep him motivated. You are making a difference in this world out there on that speck in the middle of the Pacific.

  2. Thats a harsh last paragraph . Who knows what he was ment to be doing all Samoan kids have family responsibilities , as you stated he was not ment to be at school more likely at the family plantation getting that nights food .Education would be first in a Ideal world . The hitting we gave them that .

  3. Nancy,
    That is the last post I used as source for my student's English improvement. As we say, you saved my ass. Thank you.
    She has the feeling to be well prepared for her exam and your blog was a big support.
    I enjoyed reading your posts too and I learnt a lot about the life at the other end of this world.
    BTW: Did the second postcard arrive?

  4. Hi Nancy,

    Fairly new to your blog site but a very avid follower. I find myself wanting to leave a comment with every blog entry as, as a Samoan myself, it's always interesting to see how others perceive a culture that has been ingrained into my brain since the moment I could speak.

    Due to an unhealthy dose of OCD, I have been vigilantly following your entries right from the start of your PCV journey to your most recent entry. However I decided to comment on this particular entry because it really hit a spot and brought a tear to my eye several in fact).

    As a Samoan, I've had my fair share of 'hidings' and even came to a point in my life that I accepted it as a part of life. Now that I'm an adult with a mind of my own, I strongly and vehemently against physical punishment when children are involved. I don't resent my parents for the hits that I received as a child, with that said I don't condone hitting children but I understand. A lot of my palagi friends think I'm crazy when I say this but it's hard to explain.

    I know it's wrong but I understand that my parents did it because it's the 'fa'asamoa' way of life and I accepted it because as they say 'old habits die hard'. Nevertheless, my heart goes out to that young boy in your blog entry. I only hope that by having PCV like yourself, that Samoans can take note that there are other ways of raising a child than by raising your hand.

    I will continue with my vigilant reading our blog entries and just to let you know I enjoy hearing about your thoughts on a country (though despite it's flaws) I hold dear.

    Happy writing,
    Dee from Brisbane.