The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Ten — Teaching in Chuuk, Micronesia, by James Merle

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Ten — Teaching in Chuuk, Micronesia, by James Merle

Post one

I arrived in Chuuk, one of the four states that make up the South Pacific country of Micronesia, at around 1:00 pm on July 15th, 2013. The island that I will call home for the next ten months goes by the name Weno, but it is pronounced like “wee-tah.” The island is about 10 square miles with three large mountains, one of which I have climbed with a local boy, Junior, who brought a long machete with him to hack away at the jungle that was trying to swallow us.

james 1

My writing will focus on my experiences as a WorldTeach volunteer. I teach 11th grade Sociology at one of the three high schools on the island, and I also co-teach a guitar and ukulele after school course, and I am one of the Student Council facilitators. While the island is small, it is crowded. 1400 students alone attend Chuuk High School. I will paint as best a portrait as I can of what it is like living here with my descriptions and pictures.

james 2

Being a young teacher in a foreign country has been extremely challenging at times. My students have a wide range of academic skills ranging from those who are considering attending college in the US, to those who only speak a handful of English words. Our school currently lacks the resources to provide students with everything they need, but it is in the midst of reform. New qualifications for teachers are helping Chuuk to better uphold certain educational standards, and the United States also provides funding to each of the four states of Micronesia: Yap, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Chuuk, which can be used for education, among other things. Education past the 8th grade level is entirely optional for students, which adds another layer of difficulties in the classroom.

james 3

Since Chuuk is located just north of the equator, it is a very hot place to live. The temperature hangs right around 85 degrees all year round, and there is also a great deal of humidity. Most days it rains at least once, and sometimes it rains for days without stopping. Thus, I haven’t worn anything but sandals and shorts since I have arrived.

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Family situations are very different here than in the United States, where most people live in small groups with only their immediate relatives. In Chuuk, however, families live on large compounds which house twenty or more people who are loosely related by Western standards. Chuukese families are called clans, and they range from 200 to over 1000 people. Most of the volunteers, including myself, live on compounds with families. The compound I live on has three puppies living in an abandoned freezer right outside my kitchen door, several roosters who roam freely, and a full-grown pig stays in a pen at the back of the compound. 5 other households are on the compound as well, including a young boy named Macgenius and girl named Jina.

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For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see

For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world.  We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

4 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Ten — Teaching in Chuuk, Micronesia, by James Merle

  1. Tommy Traaholt

    This was a great article. I imagine it must have been a difficult transition to get used to, especially the heat. I thought it was interesting when you talked about their living quarters. At first i was astonished that so many people can live in such a small confinement, and also live in such a small island. It must have been weird to deal with all the rain but personally i would have loved the rain.

  2. Samantha Roettger

    I have never heard of Chuuk, Micronesia. This makes me feel very ignorant of some of the places on this planet. It is amazing that you got to travel to a place like this. I applaud you for volunteering to teach in a foreign country. What an amazing experience! I cannot imagine the frustration on some days but that must all be forgotten due to the high reward you must have seen when your students achieved.

  3. I’m curious about the larger families Chuunk holds. It seems as though many countries outside of the U.S. embrace. What goes into creating a value system like this?

  4. I’m curious about the larger families Chuuk holds. It seems as though many countries outside of the U.S. embrace. What goes into creating a value system like this?

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