Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Puppies and School

I came back to Guyana to bad news.  Like I mentioned in my last blog post, I was immensely looking forward to seeing my grandpuppies when I got back.  It was a little off-putting to see one of them sitting on the steps as my taxi pulled up to the house, because she was pretty scrawny looking.  No matter,  I thought, and greeted Wendy, my host mom, who had come to the car to give me a hug.  I couldn’t help but ask if they were all alive, and I got a worse answer than I could have imagined—“All but the mother.”
My Lady girl, born right around when I got to Guyana, my sole companion for my first tearful weeks as a volunteer, my running buddy, given up and reclaimed again because she just couldn’t stay away, was hit by a car on Christmas Eve.  She died a few hours later.  Her motherless puppies didn’t fare well after her death—they may have all been alive when I first returned, but the three scrawny ones all got sick and died within the week.  The final two, the handsome Lazarus and Harry, both have new homes and loving 10-year-old students for their new mothers.  For the first time in many months, I never return home to a wagging tail and never hear barking in my backyard at night.  Maybe one day I’ll have a dog again, but not in St. Cuthbert’s Mission.  Keeping a dog healthy and safe in the bush is not an easy task, and I have enough responsibility as it is as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Speaking of which, onto happier things: teaching!  Our school was extremely short-staffed at the beginning of the term, so I was assigned my own class full-time, the fourth graders.  I love ‘em.  They’re well-behaved, bright, and best of all, so enthusiastic about learning and eager to work.  Aside from the fact that I have to cater to reading levels that range between first-grade level and sixth-grade level, they’re easier to handle than any class I’ve ever worked with in the U.S.  They are constantly brightening my day by trying their best, doing extra work that I don’t tell them to do, working together in the groups I’ve placed them in even though groupwork is a foreign concept to them, and laughing at my dumb jokes.  During a writing exercise I told them to write for a minute about teachers and one girl wrote “I like Miss Kelly and she like me too.”  And, on Friday, we talked about what we had done during the week and two kids independently told me, “Miss, you teach we good!” (Heh…maybe not so much with the grammar…)
Despite that, teaching was rough for my first week or so, because of the aformenetioned staffing problems.  There were several days when our school only had 3 teachers for about 180 kids (and I was one of the three).  Behavioral issues are bound to pop up when the teacher-student ratio is that bad, and pop up they did…but life at St. Cuthbert’s Primary has gotten easier.  Our headmistress, Ms. Bev, deferred her leave because we’re short teachers, so she’s back.  She also talked to a woman who applied to teach a good six months ago whose paperwork still has not been processed by the ministry, and she agreed to start teaching even though she probably won’t get paid for a while.  And finally, a set of volunteers from Canada, four of them, will be living in the mission for the next ten weeks!  They just arrived a few days ago, so I haven’t gotten to know them too well yet, but they’re planning on helping out in the school.  Looks like 2012 is going to be a good year for St. Cuthbert’s Primary School.