The Idle, Collective Beauty of American Samoa

 

The Idle, Collective Beauty of American Samoa

Posted by WTTech in American Samoa 19 Jan 2016

“One of the prompts was ‘If you were given one million dollars, what would you do with it?’ – almost 95% of the students said they would give it to their family and others. Another one that stands out is “if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be”, and again the majority of the students answered they wouldn’t want to leave the island because this is where their family is and they like their way of life here. My thoughts on this are conflicted.” Sneha, one of our current “AmSam” volunteers weighs these cultural differences, idle time and chairing the math and art committee at her school in this week’s WorldTeach blog post.

The ins and outs of teaching: I don’t think I’ve talked about how teaching actually is, so I’ll touch on that. I will say it’s drastically different from corporate America. For one, it’s extremely rewarding day-to-day. Since it’s been almost a quarter since I’ve started teaching, I’ve noticed a lot of students improving their daily math skills and grades from Day 1. Knowing that you’re the reason for someone else growing intellectually is extremely humbling and rewarding. I’ve been trying hard to not only teach them math skills, but also critical thinking, which is one thing the students here haven’t been taught too much. They are extremely good at simply following step-by-step instructions but struggle when it comes to doing word problems or problems that require a bit more critical thought, so that’s been my main focus for my lessons. I’ve had students tell me I’m their favorite math teacher and ask me if I can come teach at their high school next year, so hearing things like that absolutely make my day and help me realize that even if my impact may not be community or island wide, I still am impacting individual students on a day-to-day basis. So compared to what I was doing before, the daily reward and impact has increased tenfold. On the flip side, I’m not nearly as intellectually challenged as I was, however, I definitely am challenged in other ways and am learning skills such as teaching to different levels of intelligence, maintaining classroom behavior (which is WAY harder than it looks), and teaching in a school with established guidelines, practices and activities that I am still learning day to day. Needless to say, each day is different with a new challenge. I don’t think teaching is a profession I want to stay in, but it’s definitely teaching me a lot of skills. In other news, I’m currently the chairperson of the math and art committee, so that’s been interesting. There’s definitely a cultural barrier in how I would conduct things in America versus Samoa as a lead of something. It’s very status quo here, and waters need to treaded very carefully, so it’s been interesting, but we’re thinking of doing a lot of exciting things over the year, so I’m pretty excited to be a part of it.

Students’ way of life: One thing that I notice here that is different from schools in America is how similar a lot of the kids are in their ideals and beliefs. I have a homeroom class the last period of the day, in which I usually give the students journal prompts to help improve their English and promote their critical thinking. One of the prompts was “If you were given one million dollars, what would you do with it” – almost 95% of the students said they would give it to their family and others. Another one that stands out is “if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be”, and again the majority of the students answered they wouldn’t want to leave the island because this is where their family is and they like their way of life here. My thoughts on this are conflicted. In a way, I think the close ties to family, the generosity in wanting to help others and always thinking collectively instead of individually are traits to be admired. However, there is an utter lack of diversity. True, some of the kids have different hobbies and interests, but at the end of the day, the same morals, the same religion and the same way of life has been embedded into all the habitants here. It’s a very collective community, which definitely has both advantages and disadvantages.

After hours life: Life other than teaching has been routine. It’s been raining non stop for the past few weeks. It’s rainy season basically from now until January, so ways to fill time have gotten interesting. We had one day of sun last weekend so we went all the way to the east end of the island (literally the end of the island, it stopped and there was no more road) which was beautiful, as many of the other places here. We had a extremely nice bus driver who was basically our tour guide for a few hours and let us stop at the end, take pictures, swim and waited for us to come back before dropping us off in a place busses were more accessible (again, people are SO nice and always willing to help, it’s incredible!).

Some venting blues: So as not to paint a completely false, glamorous view of island life, I’ll also touch on a few challenges I’m personally having – by no means are any of these deal breakers in that they’re making me want to leave, but struggles of moving from a big city to a small island. First off, anyone that knows me knows I love food – but the options here are SO limited. Coming from a big foodie city like DC and eating out at Top 100 restaurants every weekend to basically cooking 95% of my meals and having 2-3 sub-par restaurants to eat out at is an adjustment. But, my cooking skills are definitely improving, and it leads to awesome bonding experiences with my other volunteers like making deep fried oreos! Another challenge is the lack of variety in the activities available. There are basically two things to do on the island – go to the beach, or go on a hike. When it rains, neither of these are really an option. I really miss having an expanse of options available when wanting to go out and do something, but it’s teaching me to entertain myself in ways that don’t involve spending a lot of money and watching Netflix 24/7. I am reading a lot more, and I’ve taken up solving a lot of SUDOKU in my freetime. Also, it’s extremely difficult knowing I’m missing out on things back in America, from trips with my friends to bigger events like weddings. But at the end of the day, I remember I’m here for a purpose and every life goal requires a sacrifice or two.

But all in all, the year is progressing very well! I miss home and everyone back there dearly.

Until next time,

Sneha

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