A day in the life of... Mandy Whyman
It's around 4.30am when I wake up. It's just getting light and I can hear the sparrows over the hum of the air conditioner. For a while, I lie back and look up at the folds of the mosquito net, thinking of the day to come. I try to fit in a moment of quiet before my four-year-old, Em, wakes up. We leave for school at 7am.
The American International School of Mozambique is just around the corner, a two-minute drive down a pitted dirt road. We could walk but drivers in Maputo are more concerned about watching for potholes than pedestrians.
Inside the campus, I drop Em at the early learning centre before walking to my classroom. Students and parents greet me by name and we exchange small talk.
The secondary school day comprises four blocks of 90 minutes, broken up with two 15-minute breaks and a 40-minute lunchtime. An hour and a half of English sounds like a long time, but somehow it is never quite enough. The joy of small classes is the chance to discuss and explore.
Lessons begin at 7.30am and the Grade 11 students arrive full of mock-reluctance at their pending presentations. Some are in costume to elaborate on characters from William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. In this small, confident group, it is easy to work through the assessment criteria and comment on each performance. There is a sense of progress.
During the break, the student leader of my service learning group, iKubasa, comes by to discuss plans for the future. Summer is very hot, so our beach clean-up needs to be scheduled for as early as possible. We talk about establishing recycling at school and in the community, which is not easy in Mozambique, where post-war infrastructure is still being built.
After a lesson with the five bright and articulate students of Grade 12 language and literature, the Grade 9 students burst in, sweaty and loud, begging for the air conditioning. We debate "democratic rights" and why Romeo and Juliet need to consummate their marriage. For a moment, I worry about the outcome, then a revelation hits me: a school is doing something right if students feel confident and safe enough to have an open discussion. These international students, with their diverse backgrounds, explore a world of social conventions before being steered back to Verona.
I spend the afternoon marking and planning, leaving school at around 4pm. Mozambique is a work in progress, but there is a vibrant sense of life and possibility in our multinational school. It is a good place to be a teacher.
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