Teaching in the Marshall Islands
A Picture Essay
Written in 1993

Teaching in the Marshall Islands (in Ine, Arno) was a great adventure. It was also a big challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed. Three student missionaries were assigned to our island, myself, and two other girls. We were the only foreigners in that part of the island, starting a school for the first time on this island.

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This is my classroom when I first arrived. I wasn't surprised because of my previous travels, but I wondered how we could teach in a classroom like that!. I taught 4th and 5th grade. The students knew very little English. Some of them had taken summer school, and learned some English. The rest didn't know any spoken English. They had received minimal English education in the public school.

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This is a picture of our first Parent-Teacher Association Meeting at the Iroij's house. The Iroij is similar to a king or tribal leader. I am playing the guitar, and all of our students, about 50, are singing. The picture is dark because it is dusk. This PTA meeting was led by our principal, Mr. Bruce Lane and the Iroij. The following PTA meetings we were in charge.

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This depicts a typical setting at school at the beginning of the year. The school was in the developing stage, so as the year progressed, we had better facilities. The students in the front are sitting on coral rock, and the boys in the back are sitting on a coconut-tree trunk. At this time, we didn't have a chalkboard or desks or walls. We did have Mother Nature's sophisticated air-conditioning. That was a plus until the windy season after Christmas. Then the students' papers would blow everywhere. They used the coral rock on the floor to hold their papers down.

Notice how happy the students are. They were very eager learners, excited with mostly everything that went on in the classroom. Our minimal supplies were still much better than the public school, and the students were proud of that fact.

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This is a picture of the students of grades 1-5 inside our one-room house. Some days it would rain and since our classrooms had no walls, that posed a big problem. At first the wind would blow up the thatch and the rain would fall through the roof. Then the thatch was replaced with tin, but the rain would still blow into the classroom. On days like that, the 1st-3rd grade teacher and I would take our students inside the house and put out the mats on the floor. There wasn't a lot of room, but the students loved to sing. They would try to drown the sound of the rain on the tin roof.

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This last picture is of two of my girls standing in front of our chalkboard. It was taken in December, as you can see on the board. By this time, we had chalkboards and some desks. Grades 6-8 had enough coconut tree halves for desks and chairs. My classroom had 3 desks, and a new classroom with walls had been started for grades 1- 3. By the end of the year, my classroom was full of desks, and the classroom for grades 1-3 had been completed.

On the chalkboard are also assignments for the students in math. That subject was my biggest struggle. Not that I find the subject hard, but my students were on so many different levels in every subject area. Mom sent me ideas, but during the course of the year, I don't think I ever came up with a satisfactory plan. I made some progress with some of the students (slow and fast) in marked ways, but others were left behind.

Looking back on my year as a student missionary, I feel I did the best teaching that I knew then. Already in my education, I have learned better ideas which would have helped me a lot. But that year was most profitable because it gave me a taste of the joy of teaching, and I decided that I do want to teach!


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Last Updated September 20, 2011

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