How do you push your top students without leaving the slower learners behind in the dust? And how do you cultivate the learning of the slower learners without boring the top students completely to death? This of course is the challenge of every teacher, but I think the problem is magnified over here where there is no such thing as “accelerated courses” or anything or the sort, and where the class size ranges from 80 to 100+ students (remember, my quaint 45 student classes are the envy of every PCV), so the difference between the top and the bottom is bound to be greater. When we do exercises, some kids will have completed the exercise before other kids have even finished writing down all the questions.
My guess is that very little school-related thinking is done outside of school here. It seems that my students do homework on a more regular basis than some of my colleagues.’ But despite the fact that I always ask my students “is it work for the classroom (homework is trabalha para casa, literally work for home)? No it’s work for the house, not to be done in the classroom,” and they all giggle and agree with me, I have the feeling very few are studying at home. There is very little retained from one class to the next. We will really nail a concept one day—I am quite good at picking out the kids who are completely lost or off in space, and I will get them on the same page as everyone. And then the next class we are back at square one. It’s quite frustrating because in math you are constantly building on what you already know, so if my students can’t add two numbers, how will they be able to add a series of 6 numbers?
I have become the information technology person for the mission now, whether it’s helping add or delete columns from the salary spreadsheet in the school office, to showing them how to have their computer files listed in alphabetical order so it’s easier to search for the one they want, to making excel spreadsheets for the sisters. I was asked last week to take a picture of one of the girls with gifts from her sponsor to send to her sponsor. I am still unclear as to why it had to be me specifically who took the picture, because I am pretty sure they all know how to operate the camera. My hunch is that there is a misconception that I will take a better picture because I am so “technologically-savvy.”
A student in the 11th grade asked me today where in the U.S. I am from. I said (like I always do here) Chicago. He asked if Chicago was close to Miami and said that Miami is very beautiful. I asked if he had been to Miami and he said “no, but I have seen it in all of the rap videos.”