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SURINAME VISITING TEACHERS
INTERVIEWS - 2007
Interviews of visiting missionary teachers at
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Greta Visscher from Surrey, B.C., Canada taught High School English & Math
Courtney Withington from Raleigh, North Carolina USA taught Junior High English & English as Second Language courses.
The following is an interview was completed while they were working at CLA (Christian Liberty Academy) for a bit less than one semester at the time of the interview. This is the full, unedited interview. Rev. Rudy Poettcker is doing the interview.
Now that you have been living and working in Suriname for a while…
1. What is the most surprising things to you about living and working in Suriname?
Courtney: One of the first big surprises was that I'd be teaching math as well as English, but that soon became not such a big issue once I looked over the curriculum and taught a few classes. Also, I was surprised that no one was sitting in on the first day of classes that I taught. I think I was expecting a more standardized or formal introduction to teaching when I first started. As for living here, I give God thanks that the most surprising thing is how quickly I have adjusted to feeling at home.
Greta: -dealing with students was not as hard as I thought it might be. I knew from hearing about other new teachers at home, that the first year has the potential to be a disaster, but so far, by God's grace alone, mine has been going well.
-I was able to get used to the climate. I think I even like the mugginess…
-I'm rarely very homesick
-how much I like green mangoes and pepper.
2. What have you liked the most about living and working in Suriname?
Courtney: I like interacting with the students and working alongside the other teachers here. I've been very pleased with the working environment at CLA. I like the convenience of being able to live on campus, and I appreciate the accountability I have with those living around me.
Greta: -Being able to talk about God during Literature classes – hoping and praying that all of this will mean something to some of them someday.
-Getting to know my students, especially through tutoring and class discussions
-Exploring the country – Tonka Island and Brownsberg especially, but also going to the interior church with Hassan and Debbie, going swimming, things like that…
-Getting to know Courtney, Hannah, Fareza, Grant and Vonessa, Alney… they have all made a difference in my life and their friendship has been a huge blessing
3. What have you disliked the most about living and working in Suriname?
Courtney: I've had a challenging time fulfilling my role as disciplinarian in the classroom, but I think that goes along with being a first-year teacher regardless of location.
Greta: -the lack of light in the apartment and the feeling of being closed in on the compound. It took a long time for this to be a problem for me and if I get a chance to go running, it's usually OK, but I do miss windows and sitting outside.
4. What do you wish you had known in advance before coming to Suriname?
Courtney: Even if they were only tentative, I wish I'd had a copy of the school year schedule, lists of student names for each grade, as well as the quarter plans from the previous year sent to me ahead of time. I don't know that I would have done more than looked over it, but it may have lent some sense of familiarity to all information I'd be responsible for when starting the first few days of school.
Greta: -it would have been nice to see last year's lesson plans before coming. I had no idea what I would be teaching beyond the course name. If Vonessa had not been there…
5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering coming to Suriname?
Courtney: I would encourage them to ask all the questions they can think of, plus ask others for more questions to ask. There's no reason to stay in the dark, so ask! I would also recommend volunteering at a school before coming, if possible, and talking with more experienced teachers one-on-one about how to prepare for teaching. It would be especially beneficial if they are able to talk with someone who has taught abroad before.
Greta: -it's fine if you've never taught before – that is something that can definitely be learned if you are willing BUT personal maturity is huge. Wes [Bredenhof] first mentioned Suriname to me when I was 18 and I was interested then already, but I am thankful for every year of life experience I've had since then to prepare me for this.
-know something about education – ask questions from former teachers, read books, volunteer in local classrooms a little bit…you don't need an education degree, but you do need to know what education entails
-have your faith figured out ahead of time – know the answers to the 'hard questions' because students will ask eventually.
6. Do you feel that you were well-prepared for coming to Suriname (explain)?
(If not, please explain in some detail how you could have been better prepared)
Courtney: I was pretty well prepared--many people were praying for and with me. I know they still are. Although it was a big change coming here to live for a year, God has been answering those prayers not only through the people here that are helping me adjust to life in Suriname, but even ways in which He has been shaping me all along to meet the challenges that I am presented with here and learn from them.
On a strictly practical note, two things I brought that I haven't found a use for yet--VHS tapes (hardly anyone owns VCR players here) and a pair of heavy boots. Two things I wish I had--more pictures from home (to show people here as well as for the memories) and my big Oxford English Dictionary.
Greta: -I think I was as prepared as I could have been. Doing something like this will always be a leap of faith, but my years at university, my time away from home before, and my tutoring experience have all greatly helped me to do the work.
7. If the Administration were to invite you to, would you consider returning for another year? (Please explain reasons why/why not)
Courtney: I still feel that it is too early to say whether I would be coming back to teach then.
Greta: -I have considered and prayed about it, largely because my experience has been so positive so far, but I feel that I need to finish my degree back home before I can commit to anything like this again. So, I would consider returning, but not next year. I have applied to the final year of the Education program back home, and I hope to hear back from them in early May.
8. Do you sense the support and care of Administration? (give details if you wish)
Courtney: Yes! Everyone here is very eager to help me as soon as they are able and answer any questions I have. Although I have been thrown a few curve balls already this past quarter, I know that I can talk through anything that comes along with Mr. Hamid or anyone else concerned, for that matter.
Greta: -Yes. Mr. Hamid has been extremely helpful when I have needed advice or feedback on lesson ideas. He has never given the impression that he doubted that I could do the work, even though I doubt myself often enough.
-It would be nice to get a review though, to highlight areas that are not pressing but could still be improved upon in my teaching.
9. Do you sense the support and care of co-workers?
Courtney: Definitely--I sense the same attitude of care in the other teachers as I do in the administration. They are very patient with me in learning the ropes, and even do what they can to help me along.
Greta: -Yes. This is particularly true of Vonessa. She was the most amazing help when I first started and I feel blessed that I got a chance to get to know her and work with her. Everyone else is very kind, and has treated me as a colleague, rather than the resident 'know-nothing' J.
10. Any general comments about your life and work in Suriname?
(Including experiences in class and in the church)
Courtney: I've enjoyed my experience of living in Suriname and working at CLA this first quarter because I have been able to do more than just work here. I've been able to experience being a part of the community of believers here, which has been the best part for me of it all!
Greta: -I greatly enjoy the church community and the fellowship at FPC. I feel that I am growing in my faith as a result of my being here.
Headmaster at Christian Liberty Academy
Rev. Rudy Poettcker
c/o Reformation Christian Ministries
13950 - 122nd Street
Fellsmere, FL 32948-6411 U.S.A.
Email: rep @ reformation . edu