Carol Fisher: Carol Fisher’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Carol Fisher with the choir
Talofa from sunny Samoa as the cyclone season slowly ends. I am a volunteer teacher at St Joan of Arc primary school, Leulumoega on the island of Upolo Samoa.  The village is close to the airport and home of the grand Basilica of Santa Ana.  The Sisters of Mercy administer two schools here – St Joan of Arc for children from pre-school through to year 6 and Paul VI College for students from year 7 to year 13.

I began as English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher to years 5 and 6 and helped to set up a library as well as taking on the role of teacher librarian.  This year I have been able to assist years 3 and 4 teachers with program planning in their English lessons and monitoring these lessons.  I am looking forward to teaching year 5 on a temporary basis, when their teacher has time off to have her first baby.  The children have a remarkable understanding of English and my main areas of teaching, particularly with years 5 + 6 are grammar and extension of vocabulary.  This reminds me very much of teaching ESL to Aboriginal students and we’ve had some laughs along the way, particularly at my mispronunciation of Samoan language.

Upolu was where the renowned author Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last 4 years of his life.  When he died, his wish was to be buried on Mt Vaea, not far from the capital, Apia. I brough a copy of “Treasure Island” with me and read it to years 5 and 6 as part of their English lessons. We planned a field trip to the RLS museum, his former home, Vailima.  It was a first for almost all of the children. They researched and collated and presented RLS’s life and death in Samoa with stories and pictures and song.  A year 5 student, Sione, who has the voice of an angel, sang the words on RLS’s grave in Samoan and English.  This presentation was performed to all classes and parents.

Certainly a highlight of my teaching life to see and listen to them enact their knowledge and talent with such confidence.  I’ve joined the church choir because I love singing and many people tell me that music is the best way to learn the language.  Sounds ok, but I struggle with the comprehension of some songs.  Anotehr highlight for me was to hear the Basilica’s combined villages choir sing “O Holy Night” in Samoan and English at the Christmas mass.  The principal, Sister Paul, and the teaching and ancillary staff are very supportive and great people to work with.

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I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands
to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. - Mohandas Gandhi