Thursday, March 18, 2010

two new birds, grading papers, and, um, some awfulness....

I was hoping to write a cool blog, but now I'm at the library and my notes are back in my dorm room.  No unified, thematic story today--sorry!

I have two new birds to hang out with, and the photo credits are below.  The guy on the left is a Pin-tailed Whydah, or Vidua macroura.  Isn't he amazing?  Of course, he didn't look this dramatic this morning when I spotted him.

We're down to two remaining months of summer and the grass in the soccer field (outside my window) is chest high.  The tough, reedy grass is attracting a variety of new birds to watch:  they like to perch on the long stems and sway back and forth in the breeze.  They are so much fun to watch.

The other guy is a Kalahari Scrub-robin (Erythropygia paena) and he doesn't like to hang out in the long grass, but I spotted him under a large tree looking for stuff to eat (much in the same way our American robins do, but there are no earthworms here for them to eat.)  I love him for his white eye-brow and his rusty bottom! 

After another round of grading six grade English papers, I thought I'd again share some comments from student writing:

The assignment was to list 3 causes and solutions to illiteracy:  "HIV is not good to drink."  (I'll say!) 

The assignment was to write a paragraph about their family:  "When my Grandmother and Grandfather reproduce..."  (okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay)

My Grandfather is black.  My Grandmother is black.  My mother is white...  :-)

And my favorite: "I wonder what that says?"  (In regards to the question asked.)  :-)

My grading standards have changed somewhat.  Before, when I'm evaluating punctuation and the correct use of it in student writing, I look for how punctuation is used.

Now, when evaluating student writing for punctuation, I ask myself, "Is there any?"  :-)

I wasn't going to say anything but I guess I will.  I saw some shocking child abuse, oops, I mean corporal punishment this morning in a school.  Someone with more authority than the educators carried a 7th grader in by the shirt collar, threw him on a table and forced him to balance himself on the table edge by his front thighs while his punisher went to look for a switch.  (I could never imagine this as a kind of punishment; it seemed much more in line with torture than punishment.)

I did my regular, ineffective cowardly thing of freezing, popping into denial, "Is this really happening?" and then, "If it is happening, what should I do?"

The person issuing the punishment sensed my alarm and took the student into his office to administer the whipping.  I heard 8 whacks, smacks, or whatever you call the sound of a sturdy, thin, pliant branch hitting someone's flesh.

When I witness something like this, it is beyond horrible.  If I saw an adult treating an adult that way, it would be horrible.  But this is a child.

I definitely have a very violent, physical reaction when I witness these kinds of incidents (this is my second of the more alarming whippings): I feel as though I will vomit.

I am going to become very prayerful about what my role with this is: should I stay, say nothing, and model non-violent classroom teaching techniques?

Should I confront the abuser?  (If I confront the abuser, it will have enormous consequences for me, the school, the educators, the community, and the learners...)

Should I ask to be removed from the school?

Peace Corps cautions us to choose our battles carefully...

I don't know what the answer is, but will pray for guidance...  I think I've felt kind of stunned for most of the day...

I'm sorry to share this awfulness with you...

Soon, Karen

picture credits:


  1. I think I would be tempted to be a silent witness at the very least. I would not allow this adult's actions to go unwitnessed. My presence and visible disapproval would offer something to the tortured child. Do not put words into what you do, just witness and support the child. Yes, I would follow the abuser and not leave until I could have physical presence with the child or children after the event. Again, no words should accompany my actions. I am a safe harbor for the child to see and I offer my support to the child should they need me after. It seems like the fewer words you say, the safer this conduct would be. Drain the emotion and drama down to a safe level again without endangering yourself in any way with PC authorities or school authorities. Does this make sense? Let God go before you always and let God stand there with you in that Hellish place.

  2. That Hellish place being the scene, not SA. It is obviously a practice no one has disapproved of in any official way so no reason to question it. Seems like your disapproving presence and witness would provide some sort of sanction for the adult and solace for the child. Silence is important, I think, because you have no official weight behind you and could suffer consequences if you say the wrong thing or verbally pass judgment.