The Dark Side Of The Blackboard

‘Have a nice day’ in Samoan..

Last night a moon the size of a car headlamp shone between the clouds. Full beam and satin smooth. A perfect heavenly body. If Jim had been with us, he’d probably have explained how we always see the same face of the moon, the expansive seas of Tranquility and Serenity – never the mountainous, more notorious dark side.

Well Jim doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know that the blackboards at Kate’s school are on the dark side.

They’re black – obviously. White chalk wouldn’t work on a white board.

They’re a long way away – at least to the kids in the back row.

We only see one face of the moon.

And like the dark side of the moon, they’re mountainous too. Full of bumps, crevices, and holes. So many holes in fact that Kate finds it impossible to draw a straight line from A to B without the chalk disappearing into a crater. She’s given up teaching trigonometry, rectangular geometry and matrices – anything of a linear nature. Instead she sticks to Poisson distributions, sine curves and Venn diagrams where she has a fighting chance of circumventing the holes in a semi-logical fashion.

In other ways though, the school’s lack of resources is empowering. With no Smart boards, no Chromebooks, no textbooks, and only one pay-on-demand photocopier for the entire establishment, the kids have to pay attention. They can’t bury their heads in a computer, make some excuse about consulting their graphics calculator, or expect to receive hand-outs after. The emphasis is on the there and then, not some ethereal resource on the internet, nor some printed safety-net they can read at home.

The fact that parents can’t email every whimper and wheeze is liberating as well. Kate can focus on teaching – and only that. She doesn’t have to spend half the day emailing concerned parent A with the gruelling details of how Johnny Do-no-work failed his Algebra exam, or justify to parent B why Tommy Tantram-Thump-Tatoo has to be kept behind after class.

But those blackboards remain a hazard. Like the roads on this island, she’ll have to drive easy with the chalk.


One thought on “The Dark Side Of The Blackboard”

  1. This brings back memories of teaching in Zimbabwe. We can’t wait to hear more about your experiences when you come back to NZ. It sounds as though the students are very lucky to have you use their chalkboards. Hugs to you both. Ruth and Ian


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