Before I left for the Peace Corps, I would tell people about my assignment in Jordan and they would say “That’s so nice!…so what’ll you be doing?” And I never, ever knew how to answer. Peace Corps provided me with the basic information- that I’d be working in a center or at a university, maybe as a teacher, maybe not?- and very little else. I had no idea what specifically I’d be doing at my center until I got to Jordan, and even after that it wasn’t always clear. As it turns out (like most things in the Peace Corps) my role at my workplace is something I’ve had to define on my own. But now that I’ve had a couple months to figure it out, I guess it’s about time I explained what I do everyday. So here’s a breakdown of a day in the life of a special education volunteer in Jordan:
7am: Wake up, eat breakfast, go for a run in the fields around my house. Try to avoid wild dogs, construction crews, and the shepherds and their herds.
9am: Roll in to my center, say good morning to my mudier, teachers, tea ladies, and bus driver.
9:15am: Go around to all of the classrooms and say hi all of the kids individually to help them practice shaking hands and greetings.
9:30am: Check my schedule and go around to remind teachers whose classrooms I’ll be in that day, make copies and set up whatever I need for that day’s activities. Here’s the schedule I made with my teachers:
I like to follow the schedule when I can, but at least 75% of the time it doesn’t work out that way. The work environment here is a lot more spontaneous and a lot less schedule-driven than my American mind ever assumes, and that’s something that I’ve had to get used to. Today I walked in to my center and everyone was outside sitting on a rug spread out under the trees while the bus driver shook berries out from the branches on to the kids’ heads. So instead of doing worksheets we sat in the shade and ate berries all morning. Not a bad trade-off. I leave Thursdays open for the activities that got post-poned during the week and things tend to work out alright.
Berry picking day is the best.
10am: Snack time! Help pass out falafel sandwiches to the kids and drink tea with the teachers while the kids eat. Try to follow the teachers’ conversations while also trying to keep the kids from taking each others’ sandwiches. Two things usually happen during snack that I love:
1. The kids will all unfailingly drop whatever they’re doing, get out of their seats, shout my name, and wave to me when I come into the snack room. Sometimes they all chant my name in unison and it never fails to make me feel like a complete rockstar.
2. My teachers, bus-driver, and tea ladies are all on a united front to make sure I eat as much as possible every day. Sometimes I get a handful of berries, dates, or even ice cream, but there’s always falafel. There is. always. falafel.
10:30am: Work on materials and worksheets for the teachers, like this:
11:00am: Go to whoever’s class I’m scheduled for and bring worksheets I’ve made to help with the kids’ IEPs or an activity of some kind. So far I’ve done water-bottle bowling, a couple art projects, play-dough, and simple games like charades, Simon Says and I-spy.
11:30am: Go to the second room I have scheduled that day and bring a worksheet or activity. Here are a couple we’ve done so far:
12:00pm: Go around to each classroom and take the kids who’ve had good behavior that day outside to help feed and play with the rabbits. (We have rabbits now! More on that later.) I’ve been working a lot with the teachers on behavior modification this semester, so I made these charts for their classrooms to help them keep track of the kids’ progress throughout the day:
We go out to the rabbit/pigeon/chicken coop outside, usually all holding hands because my life is adorable. Then the kids help me bring grass in to the rabbits and we spend a couple minutes petting them and talking about how soft they are.
(There are four rabbits, and their names are Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Falafel, and Hummus. The teachers named them.)
12:30-1pm: The bus rolls up and everybody gets ready to leave. The kids love riding on the bus- partly because they are all obsessed with buses and cars in general (obsessed.), and partly because our bus driver is the best. He routinely brings them rabbits, frogs, snakes, baby pigeons, and iguanas.
And that’s pretty much the way things go around here. Here are some other pictures of the other stuff I’ve been making for the center this semester:
As with most things in Jordan, my work at the center is crazy, largely unpredictable, and really, really fun. I mean, how many people get to go to work and pick berries, have dance parties, and pet baby rabbits? As my fellow SPED volunteer Megan said the other day, “I get on the school bus and I just can’t stop smiling. I guess I’m really happy here.”