Thursday, February 18, 2010


I am still getting to know my students and trying to understand how they think. If I ask them “what is -6 times -8?” They will stare at me like deer in headlights. But if I say “will the answer be positive or negative?” They will say “positive” right away, and then I can ask “what is 6 times 8?” and they will say “48” right away.
Today was truly miserable. It was hot, as always, but the humidity must have been about 106%. The chalk was even writing funnily because everything was completely saturated. It started pouring in the middle of one of my classes so I had to write everything I would have liked to say aloud on the board because it nobody could hear a thing.
I just found out today that one of the sisters, the one who is one of my colleagues at school, is leaving our mission to live way up north in the province of Cabo Del Gado. I’m really sad to hear this because she is probably my closest colleague (we can relate a lot, she shares my desire for punctuality) and was always really helpful with Portuguese or teaching related questions.
The Mozambican grading scale is from 0-20, and 10-20 is passing. So the initial reaction is that it must be really easy to pass here, but it’s not. A combination of the students studying very little and the tests being made insanely hard means that very few people pass. Unlike in America where anything below an 80-85 (so like 16-17 on their scale) is really bad, here a good mark is 13 or 14. Anything above is really unheard of. One of my colleagues told me today that the average grade on a test is probably a 7. One of my colleagues was grading her midterms during our break and I didn’t see a single grade above 9 and a number of the students had 0.5s. Knowing that I am giving my first test next week, one of my colleagues lectured me about my grading. “Mary (the American volunteer before me) was always giving her students 17s! You can’t give them points they don’t deserve. It’s a little strange when the kids have 7s in all of their subjects except 17 in one.” Other colleagues came to her defense saying that sometimes people are stronger in one subject than another. But the reality is that the concept of what is a “good” grade is very different here than in America, and above that is really unheard of and impossible.

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