I will 100% admit that I was pretty apprehensive about how my first day at school would go. Last week, we had orientation, part of which entailed visiting and speaking with different members of the participating schools. The experience had left me ... worried.
When we visited Nathalie's school (Alfred Nobel - semi private - average class ~30 students) and Debbie's school (Lycée Moderne de Cocody Angré - public - average class ~ 60 students), we were greeted by enthusiastic and warm teachers, had a meeting with the English departments to discuss what the English Teaching Assistant positions would entail, took tours of the schools, and left with positive feelings all around. In fact, at Nathalie's school, the students even greeted us with a performance of the national anthem, the Canadian anthem - there's a Canadian teacher joining the school this year as well - and the American anthem!
And then we visited my school, Collège Moderne de Cocody - public - average class ~90 STUDENTS!
Only some of the teachers were able to meet with us, none of them spoke much during the meeting, some of them didn't seem to know that I was coming to teach there, one teacher made a point of saying that working at the school is very challenging, and within 20 minutes of arriving we were leaving again. It didn't seem like the school had considered what my job would entail, it didn't seem like all the teachers were particularly glad to be at the school, and it definitely didn't seem like the teachers were particularly glad that I would be joining them. AND 90 STUDENTS PER CLASS? After the meeting, I turned to Mama Gnako and said, "You're sure they asked for an ETA?"
Fast forward to this morning ...
I arrive at the school at 7:00am for the weekly all-school flag raising ceremony. A student comes up to the front to sing the national anthem. She messes up. They start over. She messes up again. Said student gets heckled away. (Consider that a lesson in Ivoirian sense of humor!). Another student is selected. Said student also messes up. (This was a far cry from the chorus of students at Alfred Nobel). Finally a teacher takes the microphone and does the song himself. At the end of the song, the student responsible for raising the flag sneezes, and instead of rising to the top of the pole with the last note of the anthem, the flag goes plummeting to the ground.
"And so," I thought to myself, "the day begins."
Well I'm happy to report that the worst part of my day was leaving the school :) It was AMAZING!
What had initially come off as coldness and hostility from the teachers turned out to be lack of comprehension - no one had understood my American accent! With some slower speech, a lot of smiling, gesticulations, and occasional French, we all started to get along very nicely.
The students - though certainly numerous - were incredibly enthusiastic and eager to learn! They all wanted to answer my questions, know about me, show off their skills, and after each class I left with a renewed sense of energy and purpose.
There really is nothing like the antidote of smiling, singing, talking, and hysterically laughing with bright, enthusiastic, and ambitious young leaders to make you feel joyful about life! First day of classes are over, and I feel so incredibly blessed to be on this journey of cultural exchange with such wonderful human beings, and so, so excited to learn from and with these students.
Collège Moderne Cocody, class with "Miss. Cathryn" is officially in session!
Until Next Time,