Today, while covering a large Form 1 English class for the first time, I was informed most solemnly by the student whom I tutor in English three times/week: "Ma'am, you have to be nice to them, or else they'll hate you forever."
But no pressure, right? It was really interesting to feel the tension between my two roles: 1) being a teacher and needing to help the kids learn (and also to maintain some semblance of order), and 2) wanting to be a friend, which is part of being a Harvard intern. I ended up not working too hard on keeping people silent, partly because I didn't want to be hated, but also because I don't think complete silence is really a thing in school here—there's definitely a different norm for classroom dynamics as compared to the US, and since I wasn't sure what level of noise was considered acceptable I was hesitant to enforce my own. I also enjoyed circulating around the room and asking students if they had any questions about their worksheets, which I think was the most effective thing I could do, and I wish I spent more time walking around. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a tricky day because I was supposed to be tutoring the boy that same period I was covering the English class; so I tried to read a bit with him in the corner and then walk around the room, but it was definitely a juggling act. I left unsure exactly how much they enjoyed me as a substitute, but I loved hanging out with them and was comfortable in front of the group!
Next was Friday fish n' chips for lunch (I just ate the french fries and salad), and then a super interesting talk with two Form 6 girls. They had approached me after our class yesterday and asked if we could meet sometime to talk about the liberal arts, since one is interested in philosophy, anthropology, and subjects viewed here as "softer" and less important than math and science. I asked Harsh if he wanted to join, since he's taken a philosophy class at Harvard, and we ended up sitting down with them for about an hour answering questions one of the girls had prepared in her notebook. From social life at college to how to prepare for SATs, we went over a bit of everything (I was thankful Harsh was there so we could offer two perspectives), while also trying to make it clear that Harvard is a super unique place and our experiences in college there may not be representative of most US schools.
One thing that REALLY stuck out to me was how the girl super tentatively asked us if we felt safe living in the US. She's considering not applying to schools there because she worries it's dangerous, since Trump's discriminatory rhetoric and terrorist attacks don't happen in Botswana or anywhere she's known before. I so appreciated this perspective, since in the US so many people believe that everywhere else in the world is unsafe but don't register the threats to Americans as being likewise dangerous.
Next, I had meant to swing by a cappella auditions held by a music teacher who I really like, but when Harsh (whom I convinced to come with me) and I opened the door to the music wing I panicked and we left. Everyone was standing in a circle and it was clearly a "if-you're-here-you're-participating" kind of thing. And we had a Bundles of Brightness meeting at the same time, so it made sense of us to go to that anyways. (That's what I tell myself but really I just chickened out.)
A funny moment in Bundles of Brightness, which is currently planning a Walk for Water for the beginning of next term, was when the woman in charge half-introduced Harsh and me. She praised him at great length for his work with Refresh Global (a similar water access-focused NGO), and he then spoke very eloquently for ten minutes about the work they do. Then kind of as an afterthought, Meg, a Princeton fellow, turned around and said, "Oh! And also Michelle has a fancy camera!" And I was super quickly like, "My name's Michelle, I study filmmaking and photography and I'm interested in digital marketing" and that was it for me haha. I don't mind at all; it was just a funny contrast in our experience with this type of work.
Also, complete side note, but randomly throughout the meeting we kept hearing sharp, loud booms (possibly gun shots?)! I would jump a mile every time, but the kids laughed and said that it was to scare monkeys away.
After Bundles, I went for a BEAUTIFUL run on the track (with my eyes peeled for monkeys and monkey-chasers). It was super warm and the sun felt so nice on my skin, since I didn't pack enough layers and am usually a bit chilly throughout the day. It was a bit of a slow run, as it was my first time running since Sunday, but I still did about 4 miles in a jogging-walking combo. I also realized I'm definitely not drinking enough water, so need to get on that.
Dinner was rice and a chicken cutlet (with a texture just like a chicken nugget), and then it was time for the MEGA BOWL! After much suspense, Jack and Austin crushed it and the kids all seemed to really enjoy the event. It featured some great trivia, and then hilarious things like rap battles and random dance-offs. My favorite events followed the lightening round, when in one, kids had to separate gummy worms from inside a bowl of custard using just their mouths (it was a mess), and in another, called "Junk in the Trunk," contestants had to strap a tissue box onto their butts with a belt and then shake out M&Ms that were inside the open box. I was photographing so I got a front row seat to the action!
After the success that was the Mega Bowl, I chatted with a new Middle 6 boy who wanted to show me some of his work with graphic design, and then Heba and I swung on over into the girls' boarding house, where the Princeton Fellows had bought baking supplies and board games and held a fun night for the girls. I played Smart Ass for a bit while some girls blasted music and danced together; and then the rest of the Harvard interns came by to pick us up and head to Mr. Taylor's. We were a bit unclear on whether or not we were invited to this, which is probably a very bad thing, but Jack and Austin said it was okay so we tagged along with them. After a few drinks, some delicious chocolate and cheese, and a lot of funny stories from the week, we peaced out around midnight.
A student from my African Philosophy class asked if I could accompany some students on his service trip tomorrow at 8am, so I'll be up bright and early. So looking forward to the weekend!