The Multilingual Mozambican: Remembering my U.S. English Language Fellowship

The English Language Programs of the U.S. Department of State is celebrating their 50th anniversary of the Fellow Program. As a former English Fellow to Mozambique, I want to share my teaching English experience as part of the celebration. I wrote about my fellowship in a newsletter while working elsewhere. Sections of the article are provided below. Please note that this information is outdated. It’s a snapshot of the early 1990s in Maputo, Mozambique from the perspective of a foreign worker.


Sandra is standing between her students and her supervisor is beside her in the living room.
Sandra hosted a house party for her students. Her supervisor, Public Affairs Officer David Ballard, is standing behind her. Student Aboobakar Patel is standing at her other side.

The Multilingual Mozambican (Rogers, 1995)

I miss Africa. It was as great a pleasure as a hardship to teach in Mozambique. From September 1992 to December of 1993, I was employed by the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, the capital city. After interviewing at TESOL Vancouver, the (USIS) United States Information Services provided me with an English Teaching Fellowship (ETF) contract for one year. Having always wanted to visit Africa, the stability of a US government contract made my adventure-in-the-wait a job reality with roundtrip airfare, medical insurance, and a generous stipend. In addition, UEM provided me with housing.

…My (US) salary as a visiting teacher was better than that of the host nationals. Monthly, I received $600 and the equivalent of $200 in their currency (Metical), which suffered from superinflation: one dollar equaled 5K meticais. My first check was for a million meticais.

Mozambican money in $10,000 bills

When I first arrived in Maputo, the country was still at war. There were numerous war orphans and amputees on the streets. During my stay, I witnessed the uneasy steps towards peace that eventually led to a peace accord and democratic elections. I saw the UN tanks replace their army’s. I experienced the rebel leader leaving the bush and taking up residence in the city (my neighborhood). I talked to teachers who after being restricted from traveling outside the city for 15 years, finally got to go visit their hometowns. It was an amazing time in Mozambican history, one that I’m glad I can share. The UN Mission (UNOMOZ) was a success and the troops pulled out. The country was a tropical paradise in ruins that needed to be rebuilt. The major obstacle to rebuilding the infrastructure and a normal lifestyle was the litter of hundreds of landmines. Mozambique had the largest landmine problem in the world.

…Portuguese, as well as many African Bantu languages,  are spoken in Mozambique. Spanish is understood by the Portuguese speakers and vice versa. It’s very close. I think it’s important to mentions this because, like most Americans, I was completely unaware of this fact. However, in my humble opinion, Portuguese is a more structurally complicated language.

Being fluent in Spanish helped me meet the language requirement to get the job. Also, my volunteer work with the Peace Corps (PC) in Honduras (1985-87) and an internship in Guatemala (1991) showed my ability to adapt to harsh conditions. Due to severe droughts and a sixteen-year-old civil conflict, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.

Teaching conditions at the university were definitely third world: no window panes to keep the dust out, sometimes no running water to wash hands or flush toilets, and frequent power outages. Most importantly, transit was limited for the students. Public transit was nonexistent in Maputo. Given these hardships, one must wonder why anyone would want to work there. Well, I knew from my PC experience that no matter how much I put into a job like this, I would gain more from it; and I strongly believe I have.

As a light-skinned, American female raised in a democratic society, I underwent a complete minority immersion. Placed in the Engineering faculty to teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to beginners, I encountered a majority of black males as well as a host of visiting professors from Communist countries. Mozambique was a Socialist/Communist country undergoing political change. In the past, they received assistance from Russia and Cuba, as well as other former East bloc countries. Some of my students had received military training in these countries and thus spoke Russian, German, and Spanish. Additionally, many Mozambican professionals had studied abroad…Not many Mozambicans spoke English, but a good number of them were multilingual. One charming example of this was the night I went out with some German backpackers to a simple open-air bar and had half the locals buying drinks for us and speaking German.

Another factor adding to the multilingualism in Mozambique is that many educational materials had been donated to the university in languages other than Portuguese… So learning how to read in English (the language of the largest selection of books) is necessary for third and fourth-year students at UEM. Hence, ESP programs focused on reading proficiency.

To add to the multilingualism, many visiting professors didn’t speak Portuguese and thus lecture in their native language. For example, my students were used to receiving math classes in Spanish because of the numerous Cuban professors employed at the Engineering faculty. Visiting professors make up about 50% of the staff due to the  ‘brain drain’ caused by the civil conflict and previous war of independence. In such a case, the majority of management and PhDs are very young and abroad obtaining their credentials.

As for the communication in my classroom, students received instructions only in English at first, but they were informed of my Spanish fluency and consequent comprehension of Portuguese. We exchanged English for Portuguese during free periods. The only formal instruction for non-native (adult) speakers at that time was the Brazilian Cultural Center downtown. I attended classes for one month, but the accent was so different that I decided it wasn’t a good idea. Mozambican Portugues is truer to Portugal given the colloquial insertions and accent. This is because Mozambique was Portugal colony until 1975.

Eventually, I learned to communicate in Portuguese. My students were at ease after my acquisition. It led me to question the ‘English only’ rule: If I’m to be the facilitator, how can I help them if I can’t speak their language? That year (1993) an article appeared in the TESOL Journal questioning the validity and general acceptance of such rule with no empirical basis. In my opinion, this rule creates a high affective filter. I was made aware of this by reading hundreds of my students’ journals each week.

To further expand on my minority immersion, I was the only American teaching English in the city, probably the entire country. British English dominated Africa. This is due to…their colonization…and their continued outpouring of funds for English programs throughout the continent. For example, the British Council had a wonderful library and resource center in … Maputo.

I taught these students English for Specific Purposes (ESP), which included vocabulary on the subject of civil engineering.

…Teaching Mozambicans was a great pleasure. They were very receptive and gracious. I miss my students and the Mozambican teachers. Together they showed me how to relax and have a good time despite the harsh conditions. Thanks to them, I too have become multilingual. Initially, Mozambique was at the end of the world for me, as it appears to many based on their global location, but now it seems somehow closer with the education I carry of the land and its people.

Mozambican student's note on back of class photo

#ELPalumni #Mozambique #TESOL #fellowimpact

Dr. Sandra Annette Rogers

Reference

Rogers, S. (1995). The multilingual Mozambican. The Teacher, 1(2). Recife: Brasil: Association Brasil America.

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My K-5 Elementary School Literature Products on Sale at TPT

I’m a teacher-author on TeachersPayTeachers.com (aka #TPT). I’m having a 20% off sale for the holidays from 12/18/18 to 12/21/18. Here are the descriptions of a few of my seasonal elementary products aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says, "Catch me if you can, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

K-2 Story Illustration: The Gingerbread Man

This is an 18-page document with text from story retold by Sandra Rogers in which students are provided space to illustrate the story to match the meaning described in the text. Twelve vocabulary words are boldface typed within the story with definitions provided on a glossary page. It includes a vocabulary pretest.  The end purpose is to have students read it to their parents or other students in the school.  Students will be eager to learn new words such as plump, almonds, and hay so that they can accurately illustrate their self-made booklet.  This activity correlates to the following Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on Speaking and Listening (SL): Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Kinder: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.
Grade 1: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Grade 2: #5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (Note: The text and drawings can serve as the storyboard for recordings.)

Other similar products include the following:

Image of Santa on sleigh pulled by reindeer

K-3 Poetry Illustration: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5

K-3 Holiday Literacy Pack Bundled product includes those mentioned in this blog post plus 2 literacy center posters (Reading and Writing), a literacy activity checklist, and a generic strategy usage form for self-evaluation. #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5


Pine Wreath with burlap flowers from Colonial Williamsburg

Wintertime in Colonial Williamsburg 5th Grade PowerPoint Presentation

The 15 images in the presentation are photos taken of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia in the winter. The purpose of the presentation is to give students a glimpse of colonial life. The photos include children’s toys, holiday wreaths, a bedroom, chamber pot, a kitchen, a dining room, a coal-burning furnace, a cellar, a garden maze, the Governor’s Palace (The Wythe House), the Royal Capitol, a home, wallpaper, a horse-drawn carriage, and a soldier’s drum. The PowerPoint slides include brief lecture notes.


*These literature activities are also available for sale individually. Other products include Spanish language editions.

Thank you for shopping Teacherrogers store!

Happy holidays,

Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.
Instructional Designer

My TeachersPayTeachers Best Selling Products

Green katydid eating pollen off of a pink zinnia
TPT Freebie Photo in Teacherrogers Store

TeachersPayTeachers (TPT) has its back-to-school sale this week with up to 25% off with the #BTSFRESH code.  I thought it would be good to share a list of my 6 best selling TPT products with you. They are as follows: (Some are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.)



TPT is an open marketplace for teachers to sell their self-produced (teacher-authored) material.  To learn more about TPT, see my blog page

Sandra Annette Rogers

Teacherrogers’ store is on #TPT

Call for Comprehensive Commonsense Gun Reform

American Flag

Let me begin by stating that I don’t have the answer for gun violence in America, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to understand the situation nor advocating on behalf of those who have lost their lives to it.  This blog serves as a summary of the current gaps in legislation, school safety, consumer protection, and research.  The purpose is to consider all factors causing the problem and then develop problem statements.  Only by understanding the current situation fully, can we move forward with our objectives and (non)training solutions.

These ideas will, hopefully, help us to form a solid argument for gun control. Through revision from your feedback, and as I learn more details, I seek a plan of action based on commonsense gun laws. In my opinion, the current situation is riddled with inadequacies in regards to public safety due to lax and inconsistent laws.  Today, in honor of the #MarchForOurLives,  I advocate change for good and applaud those involved in making informed decisions about gun laws that aren’t based on political or financial gains.

School Safety- Here are some of the ideas being promoted that require proof of efficacy:

(A) Restrict entry to a single-point and require visitors to sign-in to limit access to nonstudents and nonpersonnel.

(B) Provide a sufficient number of resource officers and counselors in accordance with school size to address student and staff needs.

(C) Provide active shooter training and drills to prepare students and staff for such situations.

(D) Use metal detectors at the entryway to deter crime.

Gun Restrictions- There is a critical need to reform gun laws. Here’s a list of proposed measures to reduce gun violence: 

(A) Raise the age restriction to 21 to purchase a rifle or shotgun in accordance with the existing federal laws regarding handgun purchases from a licensed dealer.  Additionally, handguns and rifles purchased from unlicensed dealers (e.g., neighbor, gun show seller, or online store) should have the same age restrictions.

(B) Require comprehensive background checks on nonlicensed buyers and enforce a centralized database to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, suspected terrorists on the no-fly list, the mentally ill, and other federally prohibited persons. A panel of gun violence experts cited these as effective means to curb gun violence (The New York Times)

(C) Reinstate the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. This is supported by the American Public Health Association (APHA).  Gun violence experts also cited these as effective measures (The New York Times).

(D) Ban the sale of bump stocks that modify regular guns to perform as rapid-fire assault weapons.  This should already be strictly enforced by the government as it bucks existing federal laws for machine guns (18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(23); 27 C.F.R. § 479.11). See also 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b).

(E) Ban online sales of ‘ghost guns’ sold as maker kits that bear no serial identification.

Consumer Protection-The consumer is left unprotected in almost all aspects of gun sales. Congress should ensure unsafe guns are recalled through an oversight agency such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Our Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have jurisdiction over firearms and ammunition. Currently, unsafe guns are only recalled by the manufacturers. Governmental oversight of unsafe guns was blocked by Rep. Dingell in 1972 and 1975 and has not been brought up for legislation since though many have tried (Bloomberg).

Gun manufacturers should be required to test guns to ensure they work properly. For example, according to the Bloomberg report, nine different Taurus guns may fire when bumped or dropped even with the safety on.

Gun sellers, as defined by the ATF,  should obtain a federal firearms license. Moreover, the ATF needs to provide sufficient oversight, as the US DOJ Report #1-2004-005 found negligence in their inspections of licensure.

Congress should allow the use of smart gun technology such as devices that scan the owner’s fingerprint before it can fire.  See President Obama’s memorandum based on the Department of Justice review (Federal Register), which reported its potential for reduction of accidental deaths by guns and use of stolen guns in criminal activities. Gun lobbyists kept Smith & Wesson from developing smart gun technologies through slander and a boycott of their products after President Clinton pushed the Gun Safety Agreement in 2000 with them. The APHA supports innovative technology to reduce gun violence and accidental shootings.

Research– Gun laws should be based on research and safe practices for society. Congress should lift current restrictions on federal funding for research into gun violence. For example, the CDC National Violent Death Reporting System needs support from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and D.C.

What other recommendations do you have?

Note: I’ve written 170 blogs on this WordPress site. This is the only political one.

Mini-lecture and Photos of Colonial Williamsburg for 5th Graders

Pine Wreath with burlap flowers from Colonial Williamsburg

The 15 images in this presentation are photos I took of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia a few winters ago.  I was amazed by the beauty of the old fashioned traditions like the image above with burlap and cotton bolls as ornamentation for the Christmas wreath.  This is one of my products on TeachersPayTeachers.

The purpose of the presentation is to give students a glimpse of colonial life. Photos include children’s toys, holiday wreaths, a bedroom, chamber pot, a kitchen, a dining room, a coal-burning furnace, a cellar, a garden maze, the Governor’s Palace (The Wythe House), the Royal Capitol, a home, wallpaper, a horse-drawn carriage, and a soldier’s drum. The PowerPoint slides include brief lecture notes.

Most school curriculum teach about the 13 colonies and the American Revolutionary  in the 5th grade, as part of history class.  Check out my store on TPT if you are interested in purchasing it.

Thanks to all of my TPT supporters for another great year!

Sandra Rogers

aka Teacherrogers

It’s important to keep retelling the history of 9-11

Ground Zero Make-shift Memorial with flags, photos, and notes.
9-11 Make-shift Memorial in New York City at Ground Zero.

Note: This anecdote was written several years ago when I was teaching school in California.

I’d just pulled up to school in East Los Angeles when I heard the radio announcement about the attack on the World Trade Center. Within seconds, I realized my nephew who worked there might have lost his life. I went to sign in and ended up crying in the office. The assistant principal pulled me into her office and explained that her daughter was at the Pentagon and that it’d been hit as well. She appeared calm and professional as always. She told me to make a decision on whether to go home or stay and teach. I don’t have a family of my own, so I decided to stay and teach my first grade students.

There was a rumor around school that more planes were headed to Los Angeles. The planes that hit the World Trade Center were outbound flights for Los Angeles International Airport. Our large inner city school was located directly below the heavy incoming flight plans for LAX. In fact, when the government cleared the skies of all planes, walking across the schoolyard became surreal.  In times of natural disasters or emergencies, teachers become the wards for the students until their parents can pick them up. I went to teach class and defend my students and school from harm.

The rumor was so strong that our principal went missing and was later reported to have locked herself in a closet. School functioned without her. A few parents came to pick up their children. I remember starting the day off by showing a map of the United States to my class. I wanted them to understand how far away the attacks were to help them feel less anxious. They had many misconceptions of what was going on fueled by the fact that they were limited English speakers. For example, they thought the continuous instant replay on television that morning of the second plane going into the tower was actually many planes not just one. Being fluent in Spanish, I was able to translate the basic information on the attacks.

Students were allowed outside for recess, and I headed to the teacher break room to make a few calls to learn about my nephew’s whereabouts. Someone had pulled a TV into the break room, and teachers were watching the latest news about the attacks. I learned that my nephew was alive because he went to work late. He was just getting out of a cab when the first plane hit.  He fled Manhattan on foot along with the mass exodus. My nephew escaped physical harm, but he bears the burden of witnessing a heinous crime against humanity.

In the classroom, we discussed what was going on in New York. Unfortunately, some of my students had seen graphic images of people jumping to their deaths on the Spanish news channel that morning. It was very hard not to cry in front of them. I had to be strong, so they could feel safe. I didn’t tell the students about the rumors nor explain what an attack of this magnitude would mean to our country and the world. East Los Angeles is a tough neighborhood. Its teachers are prepared for earthquakes, lock downs, and multiple casualties. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I have more survival skills than the average person. However, I didn’t know how to prepare for war. Fortunately, no harm came to us.

The day after 9-11, the Los Angeles Times printed images of people jumping out of the twin towers of World Trade Center. The images on television news coverage kept me in tears for weeks, as more information was given on the attacks. It sent me into a depression for several months. The summer after 9-11, I visited my nephew in Manhattan and saw Ground Zero. The makeshift memorial wall was still up with faded images of the missing. Fresh notes were messages to those who were missed on their birthdays and anniversaries. I photographed the memorial to share with future students in the classroom.

Ground Zero Makeshift Memorial
In memory of those who lost their lives on 9-11.