Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Over the holiday I assigned homework and told the kids that I would be collecting it. During classes I could get a little idea of what the kids were struggling with, but I wanted to really know what they did and didn’t understand. Doing homework is not something a lot of Mozambican students do, but I had made it clear that I would be collecting it and expected them to complete it, and almost all of them handed homework in. I have five classes of 45 students, so I have 225 students total. I have been told that this over-zealous attitude will wear off with time, but I sat down corrected all (almost 225) homeworks, not only marking the wrong answers, but also writing in the correct answers. By the time I finished all of them, I was incredibly frustrated, disappointed, and borderline furious. I wanted to know what my students were learning and retaining from my lessons, and my answer was: not much. I had expected that many, even most, of the students would do pretty badly on the assignment, but I had expected and hoped that at least like three students out of the 225 would have done well on the assignment, but not a single person did. There was only one person who had no wrong answers, but they had failed to write all of the questions down. About half of the homeworks given to me were incomplete, either missing half the questions, or having only the questions written down and not any answers. I was disappointed that they seemed to have learned very little of what I had taught them in the past week. I was also quite furious because I wanted to help them learn and I was willing to sit down and correct 225 assignments, but those students who hadn’t even bother to write any answers were just wasting my time. We will have a talk on Monday.
8th grade math meets five times per week, but each class has one double class per week, so each class doesn’t meet every day during the week. Thus, because of the holiday on Wednesday, two of my classes only met three times this week, two met four times, and one met five times. At this point I don’t feel I could mentally handle it if one of the five classes was a lesson ahead of the others—I would get too mixed up. So for three of my classes we did an exercise during the fourth meeting this week. I am director of one homeroom, and it just happened that the class I am director of was the one that met five times this week. In my school the director of a homeroom meets with their class four times per week, once for a class meeting, and three times for “Life Group.” I asked the director, and “Life Group” is a time for the kids to watch movies and learn about life skills and it is something that I (in theory) never have to prepare for, but the school director and pedagogical director will prepare for. But I say in theory because there was nothing planned for the double “Life Group” on Friday and when I asked what I should do, I was told, “just go talk to them. About behavior and stuff.” For 90 minutes. So instead I taught them the games “Heads Up, Seven Up” and “Hangman.” Both games were huge hits and the kids got really into them. Tons of kids were cheating, so I got two erasers very very chalky and from that point on when I caught someone looking I would (gently) beat their heads with the erasers. This was very effective on stopping the cheating because Mozambicans hate to be dirty, and I would say after each round “class, look at your classmate who looks like an old man with his white hair, now we can all see who the cheaters are!”

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