Peace Corps Teaching
Buchanan, Liberia is a large coastal city of about 15,000 people. Most of the people were of the Bassa tribe, but many tribes were represented. I lived about 100 yards from the beach in a section of Buchanan known as Via Town because most the inhabitants were of the Via Tribe. Just down the beach was Fanti Town, a tribe orginally from Ghana know for their fishing. There were many bueatiful beaches about three miles from where I lived, but swimming was extremely dangerous due to the severe undertow.
In March of 1996, I began teaching at Bassa High School. I was assigned to teach Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Algebra I. The class size ranged from 75 (Biology) to 18 (Physics). I was also ask to be the Athelic Director. The only typewriter avaliable skipped terribly and the school had one memograph machine that worked and one ditto machine that did not work. I took home the ditto machine and fixed it good enough to make it functional if you fed it one sheet at a time. Even though it was a slow process, it was better than writing the test on the board.
The sophomore Biology class has seating for about 55, so students late for class had to stand at the back of the room. About half of the students had biology text books (American), so giving assignments from the text was nearly impossible. I would fill the chalk-board with notes almost every lesson. And if I could find an example of what was described in the text in the local environment, I would bring it to class (for example, the parts of a flower).
The Chemistry class (about 60 Junior students) was part of a program which included a new text written by a Peace Corps Volunteer the previous year. The text used traditional chemistry lessons, but attempted to use examples and language that the Liberian students could better understand. I used it both years I taught chemistry.
Physics was quite challanging for me. The Senior students were very diverse in their mathematical abilities, and several students should not have been in the Senior class. Unfortunely, there were no labs to demonstrate the topics described in the Americian text. And many times, when solving problems, the students wanted me to show them every step including long division and other tedious math.
I also taught one section of Algebra I to the ninth grade. With a small class of 40, I found it easier than the upper level classes. One reason for this was the students were at a somewhat equal level. Again, only about half had text books, but I gave them time at the end of each class period to copy down the homework problems.
As Athletic Director, I was given the responsibilities of purchasing uniforms and shoes for the soccer team, and equipment for the other sports. We went of several all day trips to schools in Ghanta, Bomi Hills, and Firestone. And we hosted two ourselves. The usual course of events for these all day outings included: a boys basketball game; girls kickball game; boys soccer game; large meal for all; and a dance that lasted late into the night.
Second Year of Teaching At Bassa High School
My second year at Bassa High School proved to be as challenging as my first year. Most Peace Corps Volunteers teach the same subjects their second year making lesson planning, instruction, and preparation of test much easier. You learn from the first year what works and what does not. However, in my case, we unexpectedly lost our Peace Corps math instructor and I was the only teacher that had any background in math to take over the math sourses. We did get another Peace Corps Volunteer who taught English.
I taught the three high school science courses and added Geometry, Algebra II, and Trigonmetry. And due to the success of the previous year, (National Exam Scores were very good), the enrollment increased. To say the least, the work load was much more strenous than I would have preferred.
My student appreciated the extra work I put forth and in the end we graduated one of the largest classes from Bassa High School. In preparation for departure, the school held a special party and presented my with many gifts including a paramount cheif gown.
Even though the school work was enormas, I still had the opportunaty to travel throughout Liberia. I went up to Saclapea in Nimba County to visit Charlie, my best Peace Corps friend, and Cat Kennedy in Tapata. I also went to Cape Mount to Robertsport and Lake Piso. I flew down to Cape Palmas and stayed in the Hotel Elizabeth in Harper. The Peace Corps sponsered a talent show in late November in which many of our talented volunteers preformed at the E. J. Roye Building in Monrovia.
Half way through my second year, I met and fell in love with a Liberian women. We were married one month before my departure from Liberia.