Classroom Impressions

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Tonga Coral Education Program Blog (from October 20, 2015)

After meetings with different ministries and bouncing between schools to set up appointments to meet with the students we previously tutored on coral reef ecology, I finally get to set foot in a Tongan classroom.

We patiently wait outside as the teachers and principal of Government Primary School (GPS) Liviela gather the students for us.  Then we are ushered in and introduced.  My eyes dart around the room, soaking in every detail possible. The adorable students, listening attentively. Walls covered with colorful learning materials. Students’ work hanging from the ceiling.

Tongan school displays students work
Classroom at Government Publics School Liviela

As a former high school teacher, it is engrained in me to soak up the details of other teachers’ classrooms for ideas to use. In my first Tongan classroom, I wonder what teachers from another country would think while looking at some of my old classrooms. What details would they be curious to learn more about?

This question springs to my mind as I start to examine the students’ work from Liviela. Kites made from tapas intrigue me. Is this the material that was available or did they make it specifically for the kites?  In the row behind the kites, I see leis made from aluminum cans, some cut to look like flowers. Do they know about the eco-art movement?  Reduce, REUSE, recycle…

Kites made by Tongan school students Tongan Classroom Impressions
Student art work hanging from the ceiling of GPS Liviela.

There are images of fruits and vegetables to help the children learn their colors. Red for tomatoes, lime green, and instead of bananas for yellow, I see they use pineapple instead.

Cute tree cutouts have pairs of opposite words, like near-far and open-close. Above, hang photocopies of stories, like “My Dog” and “A Clear Day”. A schedule of the day is laid out on bright orange paper. This classroom is warm and inviting, a terrific learning environment.

My favorite sight at the GPS? The smiling faces, of course.

Tongan school students are all smiles during our visit Tongan school students smiling
The students at GPS Liviela were all smiles for the camera.

A few days later, we spent some time at some high schools. Once again, I soaked in the sights, this time with a personal connection as I taught at the high school level.  I chuckle because, even in Tonga, high school classrooms have much less in the way of decorations and informative posters. Primary school lends itself to more pictures. What covers the walls in the science rooms of Tonga is very familiar. There is the required periodic table, which causes me to smile and nod as I see it. Then, my eyes pop out as I realize the mitosis images I see pinned to the wall are ones I have used myself and I realize they are from The Biology Coloring Book, a very useful resource. Even the microscopes that were left out in the other school look exactly the same as the ones I used in all of the schools where I have taught.

Periodic table on the wall at a Tongan school Science lab at a Tongan school
Science classrooms need a periodic table and lab equipment.

It just goes to show that even though the language may change, school is the same on either side of the world. There are flash cards, colorful posters, and student work gracing the classrooms all around the globe. And don’t forget those smiling faces, eager to learn!

Tongan school students ready to learn

Photos by Melinda Campbell

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