Join our adventure in The Kingdom of Tonga

It isn’t always easy…

I hope this post doesn’t come off as me venting up a storm…  But an integral part of the Peace Corps goals include sharing one’s experience with Americans back home.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that Scot and I were transferred back to the main island of Tongatapu.  I went from teaching at a sleepy little Primary school on a remote island, to a large, urban high school.  Because my actual teaching certification is at the Secondary level, I welcomed this change!

The school is very blessed to be under the leadership of a fantastic  Principal.  ‘Ungatea is Tongan, yet studied abroad in New Zealand and Australia and received her PH.D in Applied Linguistics.  Listening to her perspectives and experiences has been highly helpful to me.

I cannot stereotype all of my students, because (like any school) there is diversity in goals, backgrounds, achievement levels, etc.  Yet I have to say, this school is the sixth school in which I have worked as a full-time teacher.  The number increases if I include substitute teaching and short-term volunteering.  I have never seen such poor attendance and student apathy as I currently am in Tonga.  My grade book and attendance sheet are full of zeros.  It is not uncommon for a student to saunter into a class that is almost finished, after missing the last two weeks.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any sort of attendance policy because these students pay school fees.  Which is really quite sad, to consider that someone is supporting their educations– and a huge number of my students could honestly care less.  Quite frankly, they have no idea how lucky they are.  Tongan students can easily have their ENTIRE college education paid for by the Fijian, Australian, or New Zealand governments.  China is now also offering full scholarships to Tongan students.

The lack of respect really becomes challenging to deal with on a daily basis.  Of course I do have some students that are hardworking and respectful, but it is truly the most challenging teaching environment I have ever experienced.  And those of you who know me, remember that I taught pregnant and parenting high school drop-outs in the States!  What really set off this blog post today has to do with my World Geography class.  Previously I blogged about the fact that there were no world maps available to help instruct the class.  A friend of mine who works for the Lands and Survey office generously printed up two gorgeous maps for me to use.  One was of the world, and the other was of the Asia/Pacific region.  I was so excited to bring them to class, and lectured the students to please respect the property.  One day after hanging them up, they were written on and stolen.  I managed to get them back (now incredibly crinkled), yet no one would admit to who stole them.  It is just such a shame when there is such little regard for personal property or educational materials.

On a lighter note,  I can’t say everything about the past week or so has been a struggle.  It was a beautiful weekend, and we headed out to the island of Pangai Motu for a little rest and relaxation.  This past week was also the “Miss Galaxy” pageant.  It was one of the finest drag shows I’ve seen in a while.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this culture’s views towards sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation.  Despite being such a Christian conservative nation, Tonga is wildly accepting of transgendered males who live/present as women.  For example, if a family has all boy children and wants a daughter– they may chose to raise a boy as a girl.  I am fascinated by the subject, and still have a lot to learn!  Pictures of Tongan drag queens will follow, I promise:)


1 Comment»

  lolatonitonga wrote @

Karen, I really want to say something about beating the crap out of them and maybe they will do better, but I know how you feel about that. I have the same problems in my classroom and I just threaten to fail them and sometimes they listen. Another option for you would be to take more days off and head over to Pangaimotu? Everyone needs a personal day here and there.

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