Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shaking my thang for my students...

Two posts in a week! It's insanity!

I realized I never posted about the rest of Spirit Week or the Halloween Showdown, so allow me to write briefly (for me) on that. I left you on Tuesday of Spirit Week, so let us pick up with Wednesday, which was Prom Day. Which meant that the guys and girls got all gussied up and came to school in prom-like attire. And some of the girls went all out. Case in point:

And some of the boys:

The boy all in black is actually not one of my students...he is just Abby, Quinn and I's biggest fan, for reasons unbeknownst to any of us. He get really SUPER excited to see us, and always in our rooms. I enjoy him immensely.

I should also mention that it was pouring down rain, which made it all a hot mess.
Thursday was Jersey Day, which was great fun. In my first period class, every single on the kids wore a jersey, so I took a picture. If you’ll recall from previous blogs, first period is the devil class, full of misbehaving students that have somehow wormed their way into my hearts regardless.

Friday was multicolor/rainbow day, aka in the States as Gay Pride day. Although the Samoans do not automatically make the association between rainbows and Pride, so it was pretty much just me that was amused by the whole thing. I went all out, as did a bunch of my students.

Friday was also supposed to be the MTV Showdown, featuring “music videos” and skits from each class, but it was moved to Monday because there was a family funeral in the house next to the gym. Because Samoa is awesome, they postponed the MTV Showdown out of respect for the funeral.

Then. It was Monday. Halloween, and the day of the MTV Showdown. Did I mention that the faculty advisors for each class also had to perform? Oh, yes. And guess who was one of the teachers selected to represent the sophomore class? Yours truly. So, after the kids got done shaking it to Beyonce and doing their skits that had to feature Michael Myers, Jacob Black and Nicki Minaj (that was insane), the teacher had to get up on stage and shake their groove thang to…the Pussycat Dolls.

So, picture the scene. A gym full of teenagers, and me, strutting my stuff with two other advisors to the dulcet tones of a mash up of “Dontcha” and “Buttons”. My solo dance was to Dontcha, so there I am, dancing completely inappropriately in front of my students, to lyrics that include, “ Dontcha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me” and “Loosen up my buttons, baby.”

The thing is, despite their somewhat conservative nature, Samoans are pretty much the most sexually outrageous people ever. So, teachers doing a sexy dance for their students? The students freaking love it. My big moment was when I had to literally loosen up my buttons, take of my (outer) shirt, and throw into the audience, stripper style. The kids went wild. It was so hilarious. And so inappropriate. And since we all know I pretty much have the dirtiest mind ever, I fit right in here. I am not even going to lie to you. I thought the whole thing was great fun.

And I would just like to mention: which advisors got first place? My group! Apparently, we were a big hit. And I wasn’t even the most outrageous one in my group. One of the fa’afafines (google it) I was dancing with literally stripped down to this crazy negligee, and the other one freaking dislocated her shoulder, she was dancing so hard. It was chaos.

Here are some pics from Showdown day. And no, none of them are of me doing my thang. Those are classified.

The thing about Samoan assemblies/pep rallies, is that they are absolutely impossible to describe unless you’ve actually experienced one first hand. Because when you try to describe what happens at these things to people in the States, where every school event is so prim and proper, it doesn’t seem like what happens here could actually be real. Seriously, if a teacher in the United States ever said half the things the teachers here say to the student, that teacher would be fired so fast. And the things the students say are just as outrageous. For instance, the days following my triumph with the Pussycat Dolls, multitudes of teenage Samoan boys were high fiving me and saying things like, “Miss AMBER! I didn’t know you could shake it like that,” and “Miss Amber, I could watch you dance like that all day long.” I was kind of like a Rock Star for a few days.

Pretty much what I’ve decided is that after teaching at Leone, I’ll never been able to teach in the United States. I’d forget I wasn’t in Samoa, say something inappropriate to someone, and be fired and charged with sexual harassment.

As one of my coworkers told me the first week I was here: “There’s no such thing as sexual harassment in American Samoa.”

Which: if it were really serious, they would do something about it. But in general, that is totally true.

This is probably why I fit in here so well.

Disclaimer: If you are not my friend or family, and are just some random person who stumbled upon this blog, you probably think I am some sort of pervert or sexual deviant. I swear, that’s not really true. Or maybe just a little bit true.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Obviously, my children have been replaced with pod people.

It’s been a crazy couple of days.

Have you noticed that most of my blogs start out like that? Obviously, my life/Samoa is just insane in general.

Yesterday was amazing; I took my kids on a field trip to the National Park of American Samoa in Vatia. (Of course. Once a Park Ranger, always a Park Ranger.)

This sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it absolutely was not. The principal at Leone made me jump through all sorts of hoops to get this thing approved. So for weeks, I have been in contact with Park Rangers here in American Samoa, and they have come to the school and everything, trying to get this field trip approved. It’s been a hellacious process.

There were a couple of issues. First and foremost, I was told I needed three teachers as chaperones. I enlisted Abby, and we also got one of the truancy officers, Louis (who is cute, but that is neither here nor there.) So: teacher chaperones, done.

Then I was told that three teachers weren’t enough, because my kids are all Mainstream (read: the “bad” kids.) In all actuality, while I do have many, many of the kids that are suspended kind of regularly, I also have a lot of kids who aren’t considered smart just because they can’t speak English that well. And Mainstream kids are often overlooked, and never get to go on things like field trips. Which I find colossally unfair. Just because they aren’t super geniuses doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get to have a quality education. Sorry, ranting. Moving on…so, since my kids are Mainstream, I was told I needed to get four parental chaperones in addition to the teachers. So: I got four parents to come.

THEN, I was told that we needed a special bus to go to Vatia, because the village of Vatia is on the back end of the island, and you have to go over this thrilling/scary as hell mountain pass to get there. Apparently, the Vatia school bus has, like, superpowers or something, and it can make it over the mountain without blowing up on the way up or losing control on the way down. So, this was a bit of an issue, because they don’t really have any spare school buses in American Samoa, so you have to get the bus when it’s not busy dropping off elementary kids. That was a crazy challenge, and as of Monday at 3pm, I STILL didn’t know if we got the bus or not, so I had to tell all my kids to come prepared for both school and the field trip. FINALLY, I got our school secretary, Rita, to call the school bus people. Rita is super aggressive and kind of scary and totally awesome, and if you want something done at Leone, she is the one to talk to. She gets on the phone and ten minutes later I have my bus. Yay!

So, fast forward to Tuesday morning, Field Trip Day.

First thing is, the principal apparently forgot that Abby was coming, and there for a second, it looked like maybe she wasn’t going to be able to. But that crisis passes, and the bus got to the school. That’s when things went to Hell in a hand basket.

As it turns out, the Principal was super paranoid about this whole thing, because the last time Leone took a major field trip, some kids went swimming and two kids drowned. That was seven years ago, and mine was the first major field trip since. The other major problem was that the principal basically doesn’t trust me to be capable enough to handle my kids out in the world. I don’t know if it’s because I am young, or because I am not Samoan (Samoans kids do tend to listen to other Samoans better than they listen to palagis.) But it is super irritating and totally unjustified. I literally have class rosters that make seasoned Samoan teachers flinch when they read them, and I have been handling those kids just fine. So, there should be enough faith that I can handle these kids on a field trip. But no. In front of a school bus full of kids waiting to leave for the field trip, and right in front of the office full of my coworkers, the principal starts telling me that I shouldn’t be able to go, that I wasn’t going to be able to handle my kids, and that these were bad kids and I didn’t “know them.”

That’s went I kind of lost my temper.

I kind of let loose about how he didn’t trust me and he didn’t think I was a competent teacher, and that yes, I DO know these kids, because unlike him, I see them every single day, and I totally trust them. And then it turned into this whole “I’ll go back to the States” if anything happens on the field trip. And all of this stupid, stupid argument happened in front of all my kids. It’s was so awful. BUT, eventually, we were allowed to go, and let me just say: my little devil children? SO. WELL. BEHAVED. Like, it wasn't even them, but some sort of pod people that looked like them. I’m feeling pretty good as a teacher, because I’m pretty sure that my kids heard my argument on their behalf, and it would appear they really don’t want me to get fired because they were so good. It was amazing.

We left the school and headed across the island. We had to switch to two smaller buses in Tafuna, I guess so that we could make it up the mountain. Then we picked up the Park Rangers in Utulei, and headed over the mountain to Vatia. Going over that mountain was pretty intimidating, because the bus had to completely floor it to get up it, and I was pretty sure the engine was going to explode. And then coming down the other side, there are all these hairpin, switchback turns, and we were kind of flying around them at an alarming speed. My kids, of course, thought it was great gun, and accompanied the turns with exaggerated leans and “WOOOO” noises, like they were on a roller-coaster. A roller coaster that clings to the side of a volcanic peak that shoots 4000 feet up from the ocean.

Anyway. There’s a point on the road called Afono Pass. It’s at the top of the mountain, and from this point, you get a birds eye view of pretty much the entire island. It’s amazing. We stopped the bus at the pass, and the kids got out to take a look. Most of them had never been up there before.

Let me just say: Every headache, every argument, every minute of stress was completely worth it at that moment. Because the look in their eyes as they took in the beauty of their island from 3000 feet up? I’d fight with every school administrator in American Samoa to see that look.

Here’s what they saw:

While in the National Park, we did a small hike to Pola Island, and the Park Rangers led us. It was great, and the kids had the best time. Afterwards, there was a lot of them saying, “Seki a” (which means awesome). And today in class, a lot of them told me I was the only teacher to ever care enough to take them somewhere like that and that I was the best teacher they ever had. I’m sure that’s not true, but it sure did make me feel all warm and gooey inside.

Some pics from the trip: