Okay. Grade 7.

Friday afternoon.  Second time with Grade 7 that day. Their other teacher was absent and I explained to them that her mother was seriously ill and she needed to take her mom to the doctor.  They wondered why they had to have English twice.  I was filling in and catching up, I thought.

I lost control.
They lost self-control.
They acted like adolescents.  The age range is 12-17.
I acted like a tired, fed-up, almost-seventy-year-old.
I was SO tired of saying “Please sit down and be quiet.  Please make a line and be quiet.”
30 times (perhaps).
I was SO tired of being a cop rather than a teacher.
I was trying to read and mark their papers in class, give immediate feedback.
I should have stopped the on-going activity and gotten the class under control.
I wanted to complete the week’s curriculum.
I forgot that you can’t teach if no one is listening (or cares).
I forgot about mob mentality.
I asked them if they wanted me to call in the principal.
A gasp.
No. They didn’t want that.
Okay. One more chance.
They immediately blew it.  Couldn’t shut up or sit down or make a line or correct their mistakes.
I sent a calm student to get the principal.
She arrived soon enough and got them to sit down, be quiet and tell her what was going on.
They all admitted they were misbehaving.
She told them to come to school on Monday with a parent.  They were told they would be sent home to get a parent if one didn’t come.  Meeting at 9 a.m.

I was upset, shaking, practically in tears as the school day ended.  I left the classroom and went to the office and apologized for losing control and resorting to calling her in.  It was my responsibility as the teacher to maintain control.  The FP (fabulous principal) talked to me, telling me not to blame myself, that I was new to South Africa (eight months on the job), new to that grade level (true)(but what about the 21 years of teaching experience?), and that it was their responsibility to behave while I was teaching.  True.   But…..

Tough weekend.
Thinking about teaching.
Thinking about teaching in South Africa.
Thinking about teaching seventh graders–they are tough everywhere.  I have always thought that successful seventh-grade teachers should be given Medals of Honor.
What was I doing here anyway? Maybe I should go home.
They win!

Monday morning.
I taught both my Grade 5 and Grade 7 classes.
Grade 7 behaved themselves.
Meeting started at 10:30 a.m.  Only 10 parents attended.  Three were teachers at our school.
No one was sent home to get a parent.
51 learners. 1 principal.  10 parents.  4 Grade 7 teachers.
Everyone got an opportunity to speak.  Only one person spoke in English and that person had an IsiZulu translator.
The children were told by parents, teachers and principal that their class performance, homework and behavior were not good and they better get serious about their schoolwork. I told them, with the principal translating, that I hoped that at sometime in their growing up that would learn to behave properly because it was the right thing to do and not just because someone was yelling at them or hitting them.   I realized that would take time to learn.  Parents told them to behave in school and listen to their teacher and take advantage of the opportunity of having an American coming to teach them English.  And, it doesn’t matter whose period it is, just be ready to learn!

They acted beautifully on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  By Friday, they were once again chatty and doing crappy work.

Passive culture.

I don’t want to.
I won’t do it.
It’s not important.
I will just put down any old answer.
I forgot my homework at home.
I forgot to do my homework.
He stole my homework.
I will do it while she is walking around collecting the papers.

Do they think we have never heard this crap before?

I am not leaving.
14 more months.

Should I teach Grade 7 next year?


An error in the last blog, now corrected.  There is hardly any water pressure at the tap at school.


Guess who came to Africa!?!  Guess who wowed the welcoming Kenyans!?!  Here he is, on my TV that only gets yellow, blue, gray and black colors.

My garden is doing a little better.  I have kale and two almost red tomatoes and cosmos and alyssum, and wildflower seeds coming along.  Kale and cosmos and allysum are unknown in these parts.  Will the tomatoes taste soapy because they are only watered with dish water and laundry water and bath water?

Luyanda came home from boarding school for a while in June/July.  Before she returned, she came over to my house and we made vanilla muffins together for her to take with her when she returned to school.


These two beautiful young women came to visit me for one night.  Mikayla on the left (a PC volunteer teaching near Nqutu) and Kim on the right (a PC volunteer teaching near Manguzi) were delightful company.

Mikayla and Kim

Nombulelo is 12 and lives near me with her extended family.  She is in my Grade 6 Social Science class.  She is curious and kind and helpful, always willing to bring me water, carrying it on her head.  She sometimes takes her little nephew around on her back, tied with a towel, as women do here everywhere.  She is not shy about practicing English and communicating with me!


6 thoughts on “Okay. Grade 7.

  1. Dear Karen, Everyone has days like that, as you know. And I totally agree that every 7th grade teacher should get a medal so allow yourself one.

    Love your garden and your sweet friends, of all ages.

  2. Dear Karen,,
    How I empathize with you.
    I know you won’t give up and that you will be a great help to those young people.
    Thank you for sharing with all your friends.

    You know we love you and wish you a good day every day.

    Much love, Carolyn N.

  3. We teach for the Nombulelos!!!!!! I dream many nights about my lack of success with certain students. 7th grade is the worst. Why can’t these principals follow up on what they say they will do?? You are my “Medal of Honor” person!!!!

  4. Dear Karen: I love the picture of Nombulelo and her little nephew. Such beautiful faces. I guess her efforts at learning English make up in large part for the difficult 7th graders. I am so proud of you for sticking with your commitment and now looking at it as a heading-down-the-home-stretch period by doing the best you can under difficult circumstances. Keep at it. Love, Eileen

  5. You are just amazing. There’s nothing more to say. Where your almost endless patience comes from God only knows. I’m in awe of your staying power. I would have given up long ago. Hugs every day for the next 14 months! Tempe

  6. I’m finding it difficult to tutor one 7th grade boy who passively sits without trying to write an essay without being fed the sentences. I can’t imagine teaching a whole class of them. I applaud you for trying and not giving up. I hope the rest of the year goes more smoothly. Diane

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