Today was my easy day – only one class – and I expected to enjoy it. Well. It started off with running around during register period (homeroom period) because we got here 20 minutes late. I had to talk to several classes, print something off, put up some signs, prepare the board for my first period class…and in all the running around of course I forgot a few things. Then, my class started 10 minutes late (as usual, I must say) and we ran out of time in the end to finish the lesson. In addition, half the class didn’t do their homework, and the half that did do their homework didn’t do it very well (with a few exceptions, which pretty much saved me from utter despair). I’m really at a loss. How do you make people understand where exactly they need to use full stops? Or even what exactly they need to write about? I thought I explained really well (several times at that); the class said they understood, and yet I had one learner write about building a boat (the essay was supposed to be about life in the future).
Shortly after marking many unsatisfactory compositions, I realized that people also hadn’t understood the sign that I posted. Once again, I thought it seemed really clear, didn’t even occur to me that people wouldn’t understand. It asked people to submit an application if they want to join the reading club. Instead, people came into my room and said, “Miss, I want to join the reading club.” I replied, “Did you see the new signs I put up today?” “Yes miss.” “So you know you need to submit an application.” “An application?” “Yes (proceed to quote what is on the sign).” “Oh…okay miss.” I went from having over 70 kids sign up to having no one understand the sign enough to submit an application. Where is the middle ground here? I think the problem is that I didn’t make an application FORM. I asked them to use a piece of paper. Heaven forbid…
That brings me to how people here are super focused on being neat. Drawing lines with rulers (even for underlining a single word in a homework assignment), writing things with pencil, then going over it in pen, always needing a title or heading, even for a correct-the-mistakes warm-up activity. People ask me the strangest questions, like, “Miss, do I need to draw a line after the assignment?” “Miss must I write the instructions or answer the question?” “Miss, must I underline my answers?” At first, I would just reply, “What?” because it didn’t seem to make sense what they were asking. Now I can usually jump in there and give an opinion. (“You may draw a line if you want to. You must answer the questions. You do not need to underline your answers.”)
Fortunately, one thing that went right today is that I managed to get the computers functioning again! Something happened yesterday, and the main server computer lost all power. None of the other computers work if that computer doesn’t work, so it was truly disastrous. I had no idea what it was, but I knew it had happened after the learners disobeyed me and played games on the computer after I told them to sign off. I was inclined to blame them, but as it turned out, there was some kind of power box on the floor (maybe a really old transformer?) that had been turned off, probably by somebody accidentally kicking it. I turned it back on, and voila, everything was fine. So at least I don’t have to cancel ICT classes yet!
Another surprise was how difficult it was for my learners to follow written directions for the computer class. I got tired of trying to talk to everyone over the noise and tell them what to do, so I printed instructions instead, gave a copy to each person, and just told them to follow the paper. Amazing how many people were constantly raising their hand and saying, “Miss, I’m done. What do I do next?” “What does your paper say,” I would ask. They’d read the next step and do it. Next thing I know, the same person says, “Miss, miss, I’m done. What do I do next?” Some people eventually got the hang of it, others seemed like they never followed step by step instructions in their life. That actually made me decide to use printed instructions more often, because people really need to know how to use them!
I’m meeting with a few learners during afternoon study today to go over the last reading comprehension task we did. Yet another thing where I just want to be able to say, “Understand!” and kids will magically get what I’m talking about. Part of the problem is that these learners can’t read well. Maybe that’s most of the problem. But they also don’t know how to make inferences or connections that aren’t explicitly stated in the text. If a question asks about traffic jams, the learner will find the paragraph where they mention traffic jams, and copy the whole paragraph down. Actually, that’s better than the learners who will copy down a paragraph that had nothing to do with traffic jams instead.
Okay, one of my 8th grade learners just came into my class to show me the form he had made himself for a reading club application. It’s very nice and clearly he put a lot of effort into it. It made me smile. Once again I’m on the upswing on the roller coaster that is Peace Corps. =)