Bryan Williams on his last month as a WorldTeach volunteer in American Samoa:
Things are starting to feel a bit different here in Manu’a. The anticipation of graduation for my seniors is a coming to a head. They can sense that they are about to be freed from the confines of compulsory education. For some of them this means a desperate attempt to raise their grades so they can walk with their classmates at graduation. For others this means time to put it in cruise control. The ones on cruise control are very different in their post-graduation plans. Some students are planning on heading to Tutuila and get a job, some go to American Samoa Community College, and many of them will be staying here in Manu’a to help their families with the plantations or picking up odd jobs for the government.
I wish that my students had more opportunities, but that is just not the case in Manu’a at this time. The good news is that they are graduating, most of them anyway. The senior class in particular is not the strongest class in the school when it comes to the ambitions of furthering their education. Sadly I believe that part of that is an institutional failure. Our test scores are not where they should be and much of that has to do with our school’s inconsistency and the struggle to get good teachers who work consistently from year to year.
On the volunteer front things are a bit different. As volunteers many of us our calm and relaxed at school and in the community. We feel more at peace than we have ever been when it comes to our relations in our villages, at least in my Village of Falesao it feels that way. One of the volunteers, Janneta, has already been accepted into graduate school in Russia. Colin, Erika, Peter and I do not know exactly where we will be next year. There are jobs or graduate school looming ahead, but none of us know exactly where we will end up.
The stress of not knowing the next step is wrecking my nerves. I like to have these things planned out in advance so I can settle in. I am definitely considering coming back out to Manu’a on a DOE contract, Colin is also thinking about doing the same. This is an interesting proposition. The money out here with the DOE contract is good, especially compared to cost of living. There are real struggles though for someone coming back as a single on a DOE contract. As far as I know no former WorldTeach volunteer has come back to Manu’a by themselves. The previous volunteers who stayed were married, the Queens (Wes and Cat) and the Harts (Jason and Diana). Even though there will be more WorldTeachers here next year, they will not be my group, and I will not be part of their group. I will be more like a one man wolf pack, which suits me great, but I think others may not like that aspect. The internet could be better next year, or it could take 2 more years for them to finish the job of getting fiber to the island. The lack of internet can make life out here much lonelier as you become so disconnected from friends, family, and the news. It also makes the proposition of getting an online Masters degree a serious hassle.
For now I am trying to enjoy the days that I know I have left at Manu’a High School. My students can be a real struggle, but there have bee some very enjoyable times over the past couple weeks. Coming back on contract would hopefully mean a better experience in the classroom next year as students already know me, my teaching style, and what I expect from them. This tiny bit of consistency could make my classroom a very fun place to be next year.
This week is the 2nd week that the entire island has been doing volleyball. Each village has two male teams and two female teams. They all meet at the high school on Saturday morning in the village uniforms and play a tournament. Here is a nice picture. About 1/3 of the entire island is probably here right now.
-WorldTeach volunteer Bryan Williams
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