Thursday, January 20, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 14

This isn't going to be very exciting, so get your hopes down before you even start.

I wasn't planning to write but am killing time to see if the rain stops so I can go swimming - which is funny, because to look at the plant life around me, it's definitely the dry season. Everything's limp and suffering. So how can it be raining so much? What is going on? Apparently the weather's mucked up in Toronto and California and all the rest as well, so Gwada's in on the deal.

And why am I writing on a Thursday, you might be wondering, since I have school all day? (Let's be frank, you couldn't care less about my personal schedule and it didn't even cross your mind. But let's just say you were wondering, so I can explain.)
It turns out there's a strike today. As I've mentioned before, there are more than a dozen unions to which teachers can belong, so a strike never means that school shuts down or anything like that, but just that select teachers make a statement and everybody's schedule is disrupted. As it happens, three of the unions are on strike today and they include five of my six Thursday teachers; the sixth is on maternity leave and her replacement is a teacher-in-training, so he has to be there but I don't.

Which brings me to my new Guadeloupe anger: I am the only primary-level English assistant in Basse-Terre. Not just the city of Basse-Terre, but the actual region, province if you will, half of the island. (Like Quebec and Quebec City, yes?) There are two other English speakers and they do high school here and in another town, and that's it. So there are only three schools, you follow me, in the entire bottom half of Guadeloupe, with an actual, home-grown, native English speaker in them.

So now tell me. Why, but why, are the teachers-in-training who (as part of a new and experimental program) must do their own English/Spanish/whatever language they sort of mangle-speak, put in my classes? Seriously, why?

There are two young people doing three weeks in my teachers' classes - where the teacher doesn't have to be anywhere in the room, or even in the school, so I don't see how it's really training, is it? - and one of them asked me how you say "sit down." Okay. Maybe you're not going to know words like "disillusionment" and "incorrigeable." But "sit down"? Can you actually teach English to nine-year-olds without being able to say "sit down"? And that means that I don't have them for three weeks (one of my least favourite classes, so I guess that's good, but also one of my all-time angel classes) plus the week and a half of Carnaval, so by the time I get them back, all our routines, our songs and games and morning greetings: out the window. Out the window! Like I was never there!

And at first I told myself, you're overreacting, you should enjoy the fact that you get extra time off. But I don't really, because I still have to get to the school for the other classes, so then I have to kill time during their mangled new English class until it's my turn again. And also I just found out that the Inspectrice had the fantastic idea of just sharing me around to make up the hours. We're so lucky to have a native speaker, she says, that everyone should have a class with her and learn all about Canada. We hear she brought pictures. But it's not like I can slot the new classes into my old schedule, because I'm still at the school waiting. So now I have to go in on a Saturday or a Wednesday afternoon or whatever, haul ass to one class somewhere in Basse-Terre to show them the Rocky bloody Mountains. I'm not happy about it. And the snooty new teachers, with their teacher's college methods and their "well I would do it THIS way," and the kids are complaining to me at recess that their new teacher's a jerk and they keep having to write lines.

This place sucks! Get your act together!

What a jerky e-mail, but I'm out of time and I'm sending it.


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