Wrapping Up Week Three
Last week everyone rotated classrooms. We were all assigned a new classroom that did not have university students. We wanted all the learners to feel involved. As much as we were just getting to know our first class, we really did not want to make any of the learners feel left out. Our first classes have been sure to tell us every break that we are missed in their classrooms.
For the last three weeks, we have been helping out at the visually impaired school, just one of three schools under the National Institute of Special Education (NISE). At the end of the week we had the privilege of visiting Moreson, the mentally impaired school. A whole different idea from the visually impaired school we are working at. The funny thing is there is such a difference, however the schools are just right next to each other. I understand the learners have different needs, but the difference in quality blows my mind. They have plants around the school. They have colored walls and posters everywhere within the classroom. The school calls what are our grades, levels and the learners don’t necessarily learn academically. Instead, they are learning life skills and how to take care of themselves on their own. The school has its own syllabus it follows, whereas the visually impaired learners are tested on the same thing the general education learners are taught. The learners are put in levels based on the type of skills taught. As I walked into the school, all the teachers’ faces are smiling. It was so great to see!
The school is preparing the learners as best they can for the real world by providing technical and vocational classes. We were shown the arts and craft room. There were about 10 girls sitting around two tables. Some were sewing aprons and some were knitting a blanket. The room was full of projects they had created. The supplies were taken out of a budget but what a neat class for the learners to experience. The girls even had different bookmarks, necklaces and key chains made to sell to us. You could tell they enjoyed every second in that room. The girls really loved the visit and being able to show off all their hard work.
The next day, we toured the hearing impaired school. Again, a whole different setting. The school had even more plants, had carpeted floor, and nice window shades. The room sizes were big and the desk were all neatly placed. The artwork the learners produced hung around the classroom. The teachers celebrated all that the learners did. It was super cute! We learned a few signs after being introduced to so many different classes. However, their signs are quite different from American Sign Language (ASL). Almost every teacher we encountered had the learners sign us a song. It just melted your heart … The learners were jumping up and down in the windows just seeing us! They were leaving class because they were so curious about us and what was going on. In one class, the 6th graders gave us sign names. Every person at the school has a sign name as it is easier to communicate rather than spelling out everyone’s name. They pick out a feature about you and then sign the first letter of your name. They liked my dimple so I put my hand in the sign of a “B” and moved it to my cheek. The learners made a sign name for all 16 of us. It was so intriguing and thoughtful!
Similar to Moreson, the hearing impaired has technical classes, too. The one classroom we went into was hair styling. There were about six hair sinks with many posters of styles hung up around the room. The learners practice on mannequin and then have guests, whether it’s friends or family, come in as well. The teacher made clear that there was not only girl learners in the class.
Visiting the schools was another eye opener for us. Especially just to see the differences between the three of them as a whole. It is unbelievable! To end our tour, we saw the hostels in which the learners stay at; 80% of the learners stay at the hostels all week, while the remaining commute back and forth. There are matrons who play the role of “mother” but without as much love in our opinion. The learners get up at 4:30 a.m. to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make their bed and clean their rooms. All meals are usually the same day in and day out. They are served porridge for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. Dinner there is a meat, vegetable and rice if I remember correctly. The older learners help around the hostels with the little ones when they are not studying. Everyone goes to bed at 8 p.m. in order to start the next day. The hostels included a community eating room, a tiny community bathroom and small rooms crammed with bunk beds. Unfortunately but fortunately in a way too, the learners stay here all weekend. If there is an “out weekend” or long weekend, parents can come and pick up their child. However, for many they do not have another home or parents to come and get them.
To end our fabulous week, we threw a surprise birthday party for Professor Caro! We decorated a banquet hall, catered food from the restaurant, and were supplied a delicious chocolate cake. “Happy Birthday” was sung but there were no candles for Professor Caro to blow out. That was the least of her worries … She deserved a very special day after all that she has provided us with. We are extremely grateful to know such a kindhearted woman! Happy birthday, Professor Caro!! We are all shocked that there are only five more days left on our trip. The time flew by, but the memories are still being built. We truly are all enjoying this amazing time here!
Brittany Busscher, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.