Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships
The largest NGO hospital ship in the world providing free medical care to the forgotten poor

Friday, October 30, 2015

The HOPE Center

Sometimes I forget that I live on a hospital ship.  Working in the Academy means I don't naturally interact with our patients in the course of the day.  It's easy for me to get preoccupied with lesson plans and classes on the ship and forget that I live in Madagascar.  So I've started visiting the HOPE center. 

The HOPE center is an off-site building where patients, who travel from out of town, can stay before and after their surgery. The HOPE center, which can house over 200 people, frees up beds in the hospital, so more people can get surgery. Patients at the HOPE center visit the ship for outpatient follow-up appointments until they are ready to travel home. 

Hanging out at the HOPE center gives me an opportunity to spend time with our patients in a more relaxed setting. The Malagasy people are especially friendly and I enjoy spending time with them even if we don't share the same language.  Whether it's origami, games, or music, I'm figuring out fun ways to interact with the people I meet there. Going to the HOPE center is also a good way for me to get off the ship (it's about a 10 minute bike ride away) and I always feel so happy after an afternoon spent there. 

I think I'll make this a part of my normal weekly routine. 

Teaching kids to play Quirkle. No words needed!

Dancing to the music of a tin whistle is sure to put a smile on everyone's face. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

All About the Academy

There are about 40 children who call the ship home ranging in age from 5 months to 18 years old.  They attend school on ship in the Mercy Ship Academy which is where I teach math to all students in grades 6-12 (ages 11-18).

This is my classroom! I love it (except that there's no windows).

My classroom also doubles as textbook storage.

This year I teach the following classes:
  • 6th grade math
  • Algebra 1 (7th & 8th grade)
  • Geometry (9th & 10th grade)
  • Pre-Calculus (12th grade)
  • Bible (7th & 8th grade)

Things I love about teaching in the Academy:
  • The people I work with
  • Challenging my students
  • Doing fun projects (not so much pressure to prepare for some big test)
  • Knowing all the students in the school, including the elementary kids
  • Teaching in a Christian school (I've only every worked in a public school)
  • Regular Field Trips
  • Interacting with my students outside of school (like at the weekly ship ultimate frisbee game)
  • How close-knit the staff and students are; we are like a big family
  • Seeing students of all ages interact with each other regularly
This is the "Big Room." It serves as the library, computer lab, science classroom, and teacher meeting area.

Sometimes it can be stressful planning for 5 different classes every day, but I also enjoy the variety of teaching each class only once.  And I like teaching every junior high & high school student. 

The Academy is located on decks 6 & 7 and is fairly isolated from rest of the ship. To preserve the integrity of the school, the Academy is off limits for other crew members.  However, every year, we have an Open House, where not just the parents and families are invited, but the entire crew comes to visit the Academy.  Every teacher has a small activity  a game, a science experiment, etc. for people to do in their classroom.  In my classroom, I created stations. Each station had a representative math problem from the different math classes I teach.  Some of my students were on hand to help any of the adults who might get stuck and need help!  I wasn't sure if the crew would want to participate or not, but everyone got really in to it! My class was so crowded with people having fun doing math that it was hard to get in the room!

Math is Fun! You can tell I live on a hospital ship - look at all those scrubs!

I was so happy seeing people collaborate on problem solving.

The Academy is definitely an international school where U.S. children are in the minority.  The grading system is quite different; most students are expected to be average and earn C's, while only the very best students should earn A's. It has been a difficult adjustment for me coming from a "high expectations" culture in the U.S. where the goal is for all students to earn A's and B's. Here, if all your students earn A's, it means your class is too easy. One positive outcome of this system is that it takes the pressure off the teacher. A variety of student aptitude levels are expected and the focus is on the student rather than on the teacher. Our students do take a standardized test in the spring, but it's just for the purpose of comparing our students to a wider population.  There are no "high stakes" tests. For me this is a welcome break from the United States where, as a teacher, I am most valued for the test scores I can get out of my students.