Teaching in Lomé

August 8

Things are slow right now. The next 3 weeks will be the same. I will teach about 3 and a half days per week. We are staying at College Protestant, a Catholic secondary school.

August 9

I gave a quiz to my students today. Only one or two out of the twenty-five did well. Some did quite poorly. It was a surprise quiz, though it wasn't giving with malice. Today was my last day with this group and I just wanted to see what they had learned. If they had studied a little, they would all have done well. It seemed like an easy quiz. They are getting paid to be taught by us. All they have to do is show up to get paid, so I don't think they are working very hard.

As for my level of French, there are as many trainees who are better as there are who are worse. I can get around town. Teaching, I think will be frustrating for about 2 years, then I will be comfortable with it...

August 10

For a demonstration in my class on Monday, I used one grapefruit and four small oranges to make a model of methane. The grapefruit was a carbon atom and the oranges were hydrogen atoms. The students had trouble seeing the molecule in three dimensions, so I made the model. The "bonds" were sticks that I sharpened with my trusty pen-knife. They especially liked it when juice came out of the carbon atom. I like teaching. If it doesn't take an unreasonable amount of work,  the job will keep me happy here.

At he end of August we will all leave Lomé. The people who are very good in French will go to their sites. The weaker ones will go to another training session for three weeks. This would be more intensive French. If I have the choice, I will take the extra training. I'd like all the French I can get. If I score a 3 on the FSI test then I won't be allowed to go to the extra sessions. Right now I'm between 2 and 2+. The scale is from 0 to 5. I was in a 0 to 1 class when I started. Even the French teachers here are "only" 4, which says something about the test. I think you have to have studied French literature, etc. to get a 5. Anyway, the extra sessions are held somewhere else. I'll let you know where, when and if I go.

August 19

I've been up late every night preparing my lesson for the following day. Today went very well. I presented a lesson on converging lenses. The students seemed interested and even asked about myopia, but my French was giving me trouble so I'll study a little more vocabulary and discuss near and farsightedness on Monday. The French is becoming less of a problem in class. A big problem was not being able to understand the students. I think understanding someone is the ability to predict most of what the person is going to say before s/he says it. There are usually only a very few possibilities to any given question. And each word of the response further limits the possibilities of the response. I learn more words everyday and comprehension improves all the time. Sometimes in big jumps. For example, today in French class, the teacher talked about weddings in the region. She talked for more than half an hour and I only had to stop her once to repeat something she said. A lot of it is learning the filler words like "like," "well," "OK," "you know."

August 22

With French there are still difficult moments. Comprehension is better but there is a subjunctive mood that we have barely studied and it is important. But I can get ideas across in class and that is the most important thing. The students may smile a little (or laugh out loud) when I use the wrong form of a verb, but at least they understand the meaning of the sentence.

August 26

I had another FSI test today. It is supposed to tell us what level of French we have attained. Frankly, I don't see how they could tell how good my French was. These two fellows ask me a bunch of questions like "how many are in your family?" "What do they do? Why are you here? Do you like Togo?" But I never had to use the subjunctive mood, etc. This test tells the higher-ups if we need more French. I need a 2+ or 3 to be able to skip the next phase. I guess I'll find out tomorrow. The last time I took the test, I got a 2.


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