Friday, October 9, 2009

Good Pigs, Bad Pigs

We are back in the thick of things this week. School has re-opened after being closed for almost a month, thanks to the H1N1 pandemic. For the record, we closed the school on our own accord as a safety precaution. A person from the Ministry of Health in Cairo came to the school and wouldn’t leave until we “volunteered to suspend our operations,” had absolutely no influence on our decision. 

...and get plenty of rest

Cover your mouth

During that non-student contact time we’ve had to turn our campus into a distance learning institution, which meant posting assignments on-line and pray for the best since our students had no prior training or experience doing this. Being that this occurred during Ramadan, the schedule between the teachers and students varied greatly, meaning they were way out of whack. Our day stated and 9 am and ended at 3 pm…about the time most students were getting started with their day. Since this process was new to both teachers and students, there were lots of questions that resulted in filled e-mail in-boxes and tied up phone lines. Ana had it much worse, in that she had 10 classes to plan for, whereas I had 5, including an AP class. We became slaves to our computers well past midnight since the night/evening time was when most students were awake.

Cover your mouth redux

She lives with chickens

In the end, was this format for delivery of instruction effective? The bigger question being, did the students learn? How do you evaluate their performance? Without sounding accusatory or malicious, the student culture here is different. Students have a tendency to “help” each other; they work in groups at school and at home to fulfill their homework obligations. In a western sense this might be regarded as cheating and there are instances of outright copying. But what do you expect if you assign handouts and fill in the blank assignments? Does the act of correctly answering a question equate to learning? This made me think about my teacher preparation program and how I was taught growing up. I would say more so now than ever, there is a lot of pressure to seek the” correct answer,” as if a test is the end product of an educational experience. There are exit exams back home students take to graduate and what do they really mean?

In the culture I grew up in, we place a lot of emphasis on the individual, that is not the case here by a long shot. Individualism and being alone in this culture is viewed as something sad and undesirable, it would be disrespectful to the family to move out of the house unless you are moving abroad for school /work or getting married. Some of the local teachers even told me there is a stigma parents face if their grown children leave home for other reasons than the ones previously mentioned. To bring my point home, one of my students wrote a powerful monologue about the loss of her brother; she reflected how she would go into his room for a pep talk, the smell of his aftershave in the bathroom, his overall presence…it moved me. You know what happened to her brother…he got married and moved a couple of blocks down the street, but to my student that loss had a profound impact on her…who am I to define what loss means?  

Pork haters don't shop here

Getting back to the Swine Flu, there is talk that we might close school again. When we were in Cairo I was reading the paper that the public teacher’s union wants to scrap the year. It is more than likely that there will be school closures perhaps for the entire country. The sad thing is the purpose of closing schools is to keep people from gathering…what a joke. Ana and I went to the mall when the schools were closed and it was packed, as are the streets, no matter where you go, people everywhere. Egyptians just go on with life. I suppose if the government wanted to make a concerted attempt to contain the spread of the virus, they might want to close public gathering places like they did in Mexico City, but I’m willing to wager a kidney this won’t happen. However, there is good news for us, there is pressure to keep the foreign and private schools open, it just goes to show that social class and the dollar has its’ privileges.
While we are on the topic of pigs, our friends at school Seth and Krystal have taken us to the dark side, to Monaco, a Coptic butcher shop who sells the “P” word…PORK. The shop was spotless and sterile, more so than a doctors’ office, I’m not a huge fan of meat much less pork, but when you can’t have something, you get stoked. We bought a half kilo of bacon and it was exciting to see them slice it up in front of us, yes, it is the small things in life. As soon as I post this, I’m gonna go fry it up in the pan!

Let the good times rolls

Full speed ahead!


One last comment about pigs… Last March, President Mubarak ordered all the pigs in Egypt to be killed due to the H1N1 pandemic. His decision has created a new problem since the country relies on pigs clean up the garbage. There is plenty of trash around town, any takers?

1 comment:

  1. Keep up the good writing, and I'll keep reading! Miss ya buds.