Monthly Archives: June 2012

South Africa Dance Video

Hey guys, I’m embedding a video my friend made of our time in South Africa. Check it out and see the joy of teaching and being in such an amazing country! Here’s the link!

Please comment and say what you think or if you have any questions about what’s going on in the video.

The kid dancing to headphones at the end was my host family’s son. My friend found it recorded on her iPhone and knew she had to include it in the video!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Old Time Entertainment: “Mister Ed”

I mentioned a while ago that I love “My Favorite Husband,” an old time radio show that became the beloved 50’s TV series, “I Love Lucy.” Well, as much as I love radio, there’s one TV show that aired from 1961-1965 that I really enjoy called “Mister Ed.” Though younger than “I Love Lucy,” “Mister Ed” appears to have been filmed earlier because it’s in black and white.

The show is about a man named Wilbur, played by Alan Young, who owns a horse named Mister Ed. Unlike all horses, Mister Ed can speak. It’s implied that Wilbur keeps his horse’s gift of speech a secret, but Mister Ed doesn’t mind voicing his opinion and telling Wilbur when he’s annoyed. Mister Ed only ever talks to Wilbur. Multiple times, talking to Mister Ed has left Wilbur caught in some embarrassing situations, because it looks weird when you talk to a horse. Also, Wilbur’s neighbors, the Addison’s, often wander over to Wilbur’s house while he’s seemingly talking to himself after Mister Ed walks away. Wilbur’s house is set up so Mister Ed’s barn is connected to the house, making him a part of everything Wilbur and his wife, Carol, do and say.

Also, even if you don’t like the show, you’ll be addicted to the catchy theme song:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk a horse, of course, unless, of course, the horse, of course, is the famous Mister Ed!

Find “Mister Ed” on Hulu, YouTube, or IMBd and see what’s up with the talking horse.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Mystery of Xolelwa

In South Africa, there were two students my teaching partner and I suspected to have a learning disability. One of these was a twelve-year-old girl named Xolelwa Jokana.

Xolelwa’s name is of isiXhosa origin. It’s pronounced beginning with a click for the letter “x.” The click sound is made by placing your tongue against the side of your top teeth and quickly swiping it down the side of your mouth. You complete pronunciation of the name with just a regular -olelwa. Like all students at Ikamvalesizwe, she most likely lived in the township outside the town of Kenton on Sea. These kids live in shacks with no running water, electricity, and probably only eat once a day; at school. I would often stand outside and watch the children play and eat at break, and I can’t say I remember seeing Xolelwa with any of the other children, so she may have been a bit of an outcast. She was built thicker then the other kids, and was quite tall for her age.

So, naturally having some difficulty pronouncing her name, I realized right away that there were days when Xolelwa simply wouldn’t speak in class. She never raised her hand, but I felt bad to call her out because she actually didn’t look like she knew what was going on. Unfortunately, South Africa does not have a special education system, so there is nothing that can be done to help these students. Her handwriting was very good, but she didn’t understand what she was writing. Her typical school day consisted of being talked at and made to copy things off a blackboard. Lecture in fifth grade is just unheard of here, because we have a much different standard for younger grades.

For Xolelwa, I think she has dyslexia, or some other word recognition deficiency. She could also have a processing disorder where she just doesn’t understand written language. To effectively help her, she would need more verbal and one-on-one instruction. A very small class would be good for her, where she can have plenty of attention from her teacher and someone to read her questions and write her responses. The sad part is that I don’t know if her parents are literate or able to speak English, or even part of her life.

Many people argue that teachers shouldn’t be involved in their student’s home lives, which is true to an extent, but knowing what goes on in their home is important to know how to teach them. Home situations contribute to depression, stress, motivation, and many other things that could be beyond a teacher’s control. I can’t judge Xolelwa for her lack of English vocabulary and reading comprehension because I don’t know enough about her. Is she stupid? Absolutely not. Does she have potential? Sure. Will she need help? Yes. Can she get the help? That’s the problem. My teaching partner is a native South African and actually lives in the township. She went to Ikamva and graduated in 2004. After a few years, she was able to go to the US for college. She’s getting a prime-time education in our country, but she will go back to South Africa when she graduates and stay there to be a special educator. That’s when students like Xolelwa will get their help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Back to NYC

You remember when I saw “Seminar” with Alan Rickman on Broadway? Well, this summer I’ll be going back to New York City to see one of my favorite musicals of all time on the big stage: Jesus Christ Superstar!

Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical retelling of the death of Christ and the Easter story. I don’t know who is playing the characters in the version I’ll be seeing yet, and frankly I don’t really care who’s in it because I just love the play. Show stopping numbers like Superstar, Blood Money, What’s the Buzz, and I Don’t Know How to Love Him are going to be difficult for them to pull off by my standards. Unlike Seminar, I know the story, so I know what to expect and how it should be, so this will be interesting because I’ll want to see how well they recreate this classic story.

So that’s one thing I have to look forward to this summer, but also I’m seeing Coldplay in concert on their Mylo Xyloto album tour. Although this album is one of their worst selling albums ever, and the album was the worst selling album of 2011, I like many of the songs they’ve churned out. I hope they include their classic favorites as well, like Speed of Sound, Yellow, and Clocks. But also new favorites like Paradise and Charlie Brown will be something to look forward to.

I kind of love all music, but it would be really awesome if I could get to see Aurelio Voltaire or Bob Seger or Van Halen someday. Yes, I like rock and roll, and yes, I have seen the musical Rock of Ages. The movie version, not the actual show. Someday, someday.

I also wanted to let anyone who’s interested know about a blog called The Sextant Review. It’s a writing blog for young writers, preferrably those who have not yet been published. I’ve submitted two poems to them so far, only because I’m taking a poetry class this coming semester and wanted some practice critique. I could have taken another fiction writing seminar, but I didn’t want to have the same visiting professor a second time. The visitor, Jessica Anya Blau, is a very talented and accomplished writer, but she’s not challenging as a teacher. I’m all about being challenged, especially in creative writing and teaching methods, so I don’t want a teacher who will just give me a grade for being there. My class this coming semester will be with poet Elizabeth Spires, the wife of Madison Smartt Bell, who is a famed Baltimore literary figure and also teaches at my college.

Until next time!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

English Teacher Pet is back!!!

Wooo, it’s been awhile! Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to this blog, but that’s what happens when you live in a foreign country and have limited Internet access and didn’t bring your computer. Well, I got back from South Africa yesterday morning, so it’s time to give a traditional South African isiXhosa greeting: Molweni, ninjani? Hello! How are you? 

Before I forget, the URL for our trip blog is http://www.gouchersouthafrica2012.blogspot.com if you want to check it out and see some pictures. I will probably put some more posts up there in the next few days.

South Africa is an absolutely amazing country. I can’t say I recommend it for tourism, at least not Grahamstown, because if you’re American, you’ll find that the day works much different then ours does. By 5pm everything is closed except the one grocery store in the town. Everything is closed on Saturdays by 1pm, and Sunday nothing is open except the grocery store. But if you just want to go there to see a developing country and immerse yourself in their culture, there is plenty to enjoy. If you want to see something different and…kind of sad, I highly recommend it.

Teaching, however, is another story. Having no prior experience with elementary school children, it was so different to go into the classroom over there. I taught fifth grade, a class of 21 students. The school was called Ikamvalesizwe Combined School, meaning it’s a K-12 school, and it was located in a large township on the border of Kenton on Sea, Eastern Cape. A township is what Americans would call a ghetto. Dirt roads, stray dogs, shacks, little black children, you name it, just to rattle off a few things. The school is considered disadvantaged; they have about 20 teachers for their 400 students, and no library or cafeteria. The kids eat food their parents come in and prepare for them, and they eat outside, as it’s an open air school, meaning only the classrooms and office are indoors. The school always smelled like a petting zoo and the kids wore tattered and ripped uniforms, but they were so happy to be there to learn from us.

Teaching them was difficult, mainly because English isn’t their first language. Some students were much better then others. Thankfully, I had a teaching partner who is a native South African who grew up right in Kenton and even went to the school. She was able to translate a lot for the kids to help them understand me and get out what I wanted.

That’s all I can think of for right now, I’m still jetlagged and behind on sleep. Knocking back alcohol on a plane is NOT a good idea. Especially if it’s red wine and Amarula.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized