Last year I began a Homework Center after school. Every day from 3-6 I would sit at my house and help students with their homework. At first I had what I felt to be a ton of students coming: 5-10 per day spread over the course of two hours. The students quickly learned that I was not offering to do their homework for them and the number trickled down to 2 or 3 every few days. By the end of term two, the homework center had seen it’s end, and only a few students would stop by per month. I felt defeated in my effort but somewhat relieved to have those after school hours back to myself, giving me time to take a rest, then wake up and go for a run before settling down for the evening.
This year the Homework Center started again, and it is flying! I spent the majority of the last school year with the Year 7 students, and now these year 7 students are in year 8 preparing for their college (high school) entrance exam. This class has 28 students, 15 of which have come to my house every day for assistance with their work over the past week. While I am so glad that they see me as a resource, it is exhausting having 15 kids show up immediately following school and staying until the bell rings signaling “sa,” the time they must be in their houses.
I have made it my mission for the year to see this class get accepted into the top schools and so I cannot turn the kids away, it just feels selfish. While on the phone with my parents the other day 4 girls showed up and I apologized to my parents saying I had to go tutor. My mom put it well: “Don’t apologize,” she said, “go do what you went there to do!” That statement has become my motto. When the kids are cheeky, when it seems like my little house cannot possibly fit another student, I find a way to get to them, to help them understand and to learn. We cover English, Math, Social Science, Basic Science, Economics, and even giving speeches.
However, I am not superwoman, and although the motto worked Monday through Wednesday, by Thursday I was spent. I walked home from school at 2:30, made myself a snack, and by 3pm, 15 students were knocking at my door: ALL AT ONCE!!!!! I took a deep breath, smiled, and opened the door. The assignment was easy and I was able to give each student individual attention, but by 5:30 my head was pounding, my eyes were closing, and I just could not focus any longer. I told the students that I was much too tired to do anymore with them for the day, and they respectfully left. I went into my room, lay down, and not 5 minutes later, there was a knock at my door. One girl who had already spent an hour at homework center was back, with two girls who had not come. I opened the door and apologized to the newcomers, assuring them that I wouldn’t mind looking over their work in the morning before school started. They seemed disappointed but they understood. I lay back down, and then the one girl who had already been at home work center started getting cheeky. She sat down next to my window and began talking loudly in Samoan and broken English, saying that I am the worst Peace Corps and that she wishes I were nicer, like the other volunteers she has met. At that point, I lost it. I went outside and once I started yelling at her, I felt like I couldn’t stop. This girl has been continuously rude to me over the past year and it was like I was finally letting it all come out. She walked away, head hanging low, and I went back inside to finally get some sleep.
I awoke an hour later feeling much better, made some dinner, and then heard a faint knocking at my door. When I opened it, there she was with a bouquet of flowers picked from her garden. “Rachel,” she said, “I did not mean to make you sad. I am respectfully and lovely for you and only tell joke before. I no mean what I said before.” And with that she handed me flowers and held out her left hand for me to shake. I smiled and invited her in to talk. She left a few minutes later and I felt relieved that we had been able to talk it out. So many times at school I witness the students not being able to resolve their problems with one another through talking and instead, they just resort to smacking each other. Although she has been a pain, to see this student come and apologize, in English, was pretty great. Maybe I should start yelling at my students more! But then, I would not be me. I do not appreciated being disrespected, but I hate yelling, I hate holding a grudge, and I hate to be angry. So I need to be firmer with my rules and be honest with myself. If I cannot do a homework session, I won’t. I will continue to remind myself of why I came here, chant my motto, and remember, patience is the key to success in this job. And for my respectfully and lovely students, I will teach another lesson on how to use adverbs.