My First Day, again...
Both Margaret Field Primary School and Tamana Junior-Senior Secondary schools were in the central village of Bakaka. All older students walked to school; younger students rode to school on the Tauro's truck. Stopping by Biita's (his son) house for tea and biscuits before picking up students in the villages, he caught me cleaning my yard.
"Mike, are you ready?" He shouted from the bwia.
"A bit nervous, but yes!" I yelled back.
Finishing his morning tea and placing the empty cup on the post, it was time for him to collect the children. I wished him well and continued my cleaning. Within ten minutes, however, he was back with a truck full of children shouting, "Hello Miss" and waving at me as they passed by. Thankful not to hear, hello I-matang, I was confused by the label Miss. Regardless, I smiled, waving back at them as they entered the compound and jumped off the truck. They scattered, running into several rooms of the long classroom building. It was loud, just like all other elementary schools before instruction begins.
An old rusty 5-foot tall oxygen tank leaned against a tall breadfruit tree by the schoolhouse. A small stone or hardened stick struck the tank to signal the start of the day. One strike marked a ten-minute warning, two strikes, a five-minute warning, and three strikes signaled the beginning of the day.
Before too long, I heard three bells, calling all to morning assembly. I was introduced to nearly two-hundred students. Each class sat in organized rows with head girls and boys in the front. Dressed in a white polo shirt and black shorts, my legs attracted much more attention than I thought they would. I blamed my Mexican and walked down the aisle as little Kiribati hands reach out to pet me.
As soon as I was introduced, frantically waving hands shot up one by one.
Miss! Miss! Miss!
Looking towards me, every teacher quietly laughed. My headteacher, Uriane, took control of the situation.
Children, children, children! He is not a Miss; he is a Sir!
"Forgive them, Mike. Most have never had a male teacher before." Instantly, I could tell this was going to be a fun experience for everyone!