Friday, May 27, 2011

gd kids

Friday evening has finally rolled around to close what was my first week as a tutor in a Ugandan college. Holy crap. I think I heard more excuses this week than I have in my entire life.

Monday was supposed to be registration. I asked what time things went down and what I needed to do, where I was needed to help out, etc. It was determined that only the tutors on duty would be registering the students, and they'd all show up sometime around "the afternoon." I showed up at 11. Only one TOD was registering, so I went and sat with her and made myself useful. The first years were supposed to bring 10,000/=, a hoe, a brush broom, and a ream of photocopy paper, the second years, 10,000/=, two brooms, a slasher (machete for cutting grass), six rolls of toilet paper, and a ream of lined paper. Most of them only came with one or two items so I couldn't "clear" them. The threat was that they wouldn't get their meal cards, but apparently those meal cards hadn't been printed and filled out yet, so they could eat for now. Tuesday, I was told, there would be a short staff meeting at 9, to discuss the schedule for the week. The students were all supposed to be in lessons and marking exams during that hour, but I was assured, "Oh it's ok, it will be short, 15 minutes at the most." (Can you hear me laughing?) Tuesday morning rolls around, I show up at 7:30 for an assembly and am one of two tutors there. More students come register, meal cards still aren't around so the threat of no food is still an empty one. The staff meeting begins at 11, which is after break tea, and at the start of the the next session of lessons/marking. It goes for an hour and a half. I have my first moment of interjecting my opinion, trying to conceal my frustration with what I see as a less than professional way of doing things. The question is what should be done about all the students who have not shown up yet (more than half) - should those exams be graded? Should the students who did show up for the term be given two or three, in some cases, exams to go through and grade? I give the opinion that students should not be given more than one paper to mark - that a) those who have not shown up shouldn't have their work done for them if they can't show up on time, and 2) it's not the students' responsibility to do OUR jobs and mark the exams in the first place, so why give extra work to the ones who showed up on time? Eventually it's decided that students will mark as many exams as they need to so that they all get done, because TIA and people are poor and probably couldn't afford transport to school. My counterpart spoke up after I did and agreed with me that it's our job, not the students', so that made me feel like I'd been heard, even if the decision taken was opposite what I'd said.

The rest of the day, as well as Wednesday, was spent sitting registering students who showed up late, or who had been too "stubborn" to come turn their materials in. I can't count the number of people who claimed not to have the money until I said they wouldn't eat without being cleared (the meal cards had shown up by then and were filled out by yours truly) and then miraculously produced a wad of bills from a pocket or purse. Thursday I registered in the morning and then at 11 went with the other math teachers to monitor the grading of exams. Students switched around papers and took out their red pens. The purpose of this was to teach them how to grade papers uniformly... The other tutors went through and actually taught how to do each of the 24 questions instead of just giving the answers (it took four hours). I realized, going through the test, how much of what I will be teaching is upper primary math - only one question dealt with methodology. Points were given for method and accuracy. If the method used was wrong or something was left out, no points were awarded at all, even if the answer was correct. There was a question about a number pattern, where each number is increased by the next even number (+2, +4, +6, +8, etc). A student raised her hand and asked what to do if the test-taker hadn't put the + sign next to the 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. Many people said that it should be marked wrong until someone brought up that a number by itself was usually assumed to be a positive number, so they agreed to mark it correct. Uniformity and accuracy was stressed about 5 times. I wanted to cry.

I taught finally this morning. Lecture hall with a dirt floor, no power, and 245 students aged 19-23 staring at me. I talked about myself, why I'm here, and a little about Peace Corps. I gave my expectations for them as students, and then asked for them to work in small groups to discuss their expectations of both me and our classes. They said they wanted passports and American contacts. Oh jeez. Then I introduced pre-math activities, identified by the 30 year old text book as describing, identifying, and sorting. No one had anything to add (though they can all tell you exactly what a learner centered classroom is, and why discussion and participation are good things...) I called a girl up to stand with me and talked about engaging students in discussing similarities and differences when describing things and people. A few hands were raised and noted that one similarity between the girl and I were that we both have breasts. Um, ok? A difference that was noted was that I'm fatter than she is. Thanks, you can sit down now. This is going to be interesting.

PS. OOOOOOHHHHH and my package from Molly finally arrived with the Kindle in it that my mom bought :D Totally made my entire month. I gorged myself on internet that night reloading all my books. LIG.

Fact: none of these things were actually in the package.

Happy girl!

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