Wednesday, March 3, 2010

last of birds, tourists, English, and disciplining children

Well, the last of the birds for awhile...until I find a new friend to share.

The photo on the left is of a yellow canary, or Crithagra flaviventris.  I'm not sure but I believe these are of the same species that you can buy in stores and have as pets.  And yes, their song is lovely.

(As with all the birds, the photos are not mine, but borrowed off the internet.  Web addresses are listed below.)

The next guy over is the long-tailed paradise whydah, or Vidua paradisaea.  You should see this guy try to fly--he's like a cargo container or a tank trying to fly.  He is very awkward.  But, he's beautiful.

The next guy over is the fiscal flycatcher or  Sigelus silens.  I love this one for his coloring: the dark "cap" of his head sits smartly on the brilliant white he retains in his belly.  I guess the fiscals win the prize for staying the whitest.

And the last is of a cape sparrow, or Passer melanurus.  I love these guys.  When I first looked him up for identification, I looked for a bird with a black face.  My field guide informed "the C-shaped marking on his face the clear marking distinction."  I hadn't even noticed the C-shape.  :-)

So, when I spent the afternoon at the Pretoria Botanical Garden, I met a couple from the UK who were vacationing in South Africa for six weeks.  When I met them, they were leaving for home on the next day. 

They were an elderly couple, white, and could easily pass as tourists.  They had come for a series of games (soccer or rugby, I think).  Our chat revealed this couple had been robbed 4 times.  FOUR TIMES.  As they continued the conversation, I did the math: four robberies in six weeks?

I couldn't leave it alone so I inquired further.  What kinds of robberies were these?  One was a slashed purse/camera bag strap and run; one was a pickpocket; one was a theft from the hotel room; and I forget the other (sorry!).

I kept thinking to myself, "If I were vacationing, and had been robbed FOUR times, at what point would be enough and I would decide to go home?"

So I asked, "Do you think you'll return to South Africa? The lady's answer floored me, because she said she would certainly consider it. Her husband shook his head, and said, "No, I think I've seen enough."

I met a gentleman in the garden last night and we had a bit of a chat.  (I learned, unfortunately, that this was the guy poisoning my birds!)

In our chat I mentioned that I was in South African teaching.  He seemed surprised and said, "Oh, I thought you were a student here!"  (Well, that was a nice compliment, considering how old I've been feeling.)

He asked what I taught and when I told him he was alarmed: "But madam, your English is so DIFFICULT!" 

So, my Setswana is difficult, my English is difficult...

On a good note, my primary school counterpart seems thrilled with my Grade Six English classes. She said the students are doing very well and "even picking up your accent."  Which is not such a good thing, probably...  Southern sounding South Africans?  :-)

So, my battle with corporate punishment continues.  My approach has everything to do about why it happens and about how we can stop it.

I learned in my teaching career that you can initially "set the climate" for the class at the beginning of the year.  I decided I would "frame" my class on the model of democracy (we all work together, deciding the class rules, participating in classroom management, etc.)  I tell them why South African children were initially beaten in schools (history) and how we can stop it (it is their responsibility to cease the abuse, their responsibility in that they can grow up to not beat their children).

I add Nelson Mandela into the mix and it seems to work really well.  (I hope it isn't some type of emotional blackmail.)  I haven't had to beat a child, haven't really had to raise my voice (even with 70 of them!) and they seem to understand what I am trying to do and are willing to cooperate.

I tell them over and over again, that they are the future of South Africa and that Nelson Mandela (and President Zuma) would be proud of them.

However, their current teachers still "whack" them.  I'm told I should "whack them, just don't abuse them."


I tell them I don't know how to do that: to whack without abusing.

So, what is happening, is the children in my class, while I'm teaching, are not beaten, but the children in my class, while with other teachers, are beaten or "whacked."

Today as I was entering my class, the former teacher was leaving.  But he was "rapping knuckles" before he left.  He held the children's hands and wacked their knuckles with the sharp edge of a ruler: OUCH!

The children, in their distress, pointed the whacking out to me, and surely hoped that I would stop him.

I could not.  I didn't and don't feel up to the battle of confrontation with my South African colleagues as my fellow PC volunteers often are.

I'm not sure if my approach is helpful or not.

I wish I were more courageous today.

Soon, Karen




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