I started this blog a couple of days ago. I promise! Then Jorge came home and wanted to see a map. I was scooting around Google Maps and my pc froze. Ok, I'll admit, I had far too many things open. I lost what I had written. Sad, isn't it? It was only a few lines anyway. My apologies in advance. This is going to be a long and possibly very confusing blog.
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Written on Monday while watching kids write their exam:
Let me tell you about my boys, my 'Monday Monsters', as Jorge dubbed them. For once, they are quiet, each one bent over his test papers. Names have been changed to protect the teacher ; )
Robert isn't here today. He never misses a class. I wonder what kept him away (I later learned that he was home studying for another test). Very confident, the self-proclaimed leader of the class, he sits in his chair grinning, looking from one to the other, the eternal "I did good, right?" He firmly believes he is ready to be an English teacher himself. Sadly, his English is more confidence than knowledge. He barely speaks any at all.
His buddy and reinforcer, Randolf, is sitting gazing at the ceiling or wall or somewhere in between. Thanks to his hay fever, this class will at least come away knowing how to say, "Bless you!" A good looking boy who trades on his charm. He has a way of looking at me and saying, "Sorry teacher" after admonishing the rest to behave that defies me to be annoyed in any way. An onlooker would find it hard to believe that he is usually the cause of the insurrection, "... but he is so quiet!" I think I will probably remember him most for the fact that all the work in his book is a word for word copy of Robert's work. A strange thing, to be sure, as his English is far better than Robert's.
Luke. I sit in silence pondering how to describe my most verbose student. I fact, he is arguably the most verbose person I know. This boy lives his life in exclamation marks. Whatever he says or does, he does with unbridled passion. If asked,"How would you say...?" he will answer the question and launch into a rhetoric on the subject. If the example was about Johnny's trip to the Bahamas, he will spend the next 10 minutes telling us the pros and cons of travelling to the Bahamas, when he last went there and why he plans to go to Hawaii next time. How do you cut such enthusiasm short so that the rest can get a word in edgeways? Heck, I could never get a word in edgeways!
Michael, who reminds me of a mischievous cherub with his round, rosy cheeks, is one of those kids who drives teachers insane. His teacher from school also teaches here. She was the one who told me how unteachable he is because he has a problem, you know. He has dyslexia (whispered in a dramatic tone as though to imply that he has some scandalous disease that only she knows of). The child is incredibly bright and creative. I always look forward to his thoughtful answers. He has the attention span of a flea though and is way ahead of his peers in this class, so I often find him drawing the most fascinating designs in his exercise book. When he wants something, he adopts a cute puppy dog look that most would find hard to resist. I tell him it doesn't work for my dog, so it is unlikely to work for him. This expressive and very misunderstood child will be the one I miss the most.
Ah, my Monday Monsters. This class has been handed from teacher to teacher, each teacher in turn giving up on them. I refused to do that. They were a huge challenge in the beginning, virtually impossible to control in any way, but we made it. I have even suggested that I take them for the next semester too, even though the students usually change teachers.
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Back to the present....
Marking test papers has been a nightmare. To quote my note from earlier in the week:
"The kids did an oral test, which I was under the impression was the first part of the final test. The total points come to 10. Each part of the test is a mark out of something like 0.25. In other words, the child will get something like 0.1 for a question. Add them all up and they come to 8 points. The oral part is a total of 2 points. I was told to list all the points separately and give the children an average out of 10. How on earth can (for example) 1.75 / 2.0 be part of an average with 6.95 / 10? I have to take their half-semester marks, their oral marks, their written test marks, and add them together and divide by 3. When one lot of marks is out of 2.0 and the other two out of 10... it can't be done. The marks out of 2.0 will drag their average down to way below failure. Maths was never my strong point."I spent hours trying to find a way around the points system. The test papers came with the oral test included and I marked it as such. I was told afterward that the oral test is separate. How to fix that without making a mess of the papers? I eventually set up a meeting with the principal of the school. The score system I used initially was correct according to the school itself. As owner of this particular franchise, she didn't understand their points system, so she created her own system; thus the total confusion. She was trying to merge the two systems. Their system was 2 points for the oral, 8 for the written, totalling to 10. Logical enough. The principal decided that the oral had to be separate, so I had to get an average when one lot of points was 1.7 out of 2 and then 7.2 out of 8. The final score still had to be out of 10. Boggles the mind! Luckily my Maths abilities are unsurpassed. Yeah right!
A side note... I am sitting in yet another exam room. The question is about pronunciation, in particular the 'i' sound of 'bicycle'. From the student, "Teacher! Speaking 'bicicleta' please?" I said no... I would be giving him the answer then. This, by the way, is an 'advanced' class!! Note the quality of the English. They only have one more short book to do before being released on the world as being 'fluent'.
The other problem I needed to have out with the principal was with my little cherub. The four of them all failed the last tests dismally, which count towards the finals. Michael got 0.35 less than the pass mark. Because he was so close, she told me to push him through if I thought he was good enough. I didn't know those marks were to be taken into account for the finals, or I would have insisted that he rewrite. I let it ride. Big mistake. She has a no-fail policy of her own (the schools here do fail students), her motive being to keep the parents happy. So the other three got to rewrite - with help. I know she helps because the one student who has absolutely no English and usually gives all his answers, both verbally and in tests, in Portuguese got a word perfect high score. If you're going to do something like that, at least keep it realistic! No wonder these kids are in a fairly advanced class with no basic grammar. Anyhow, in this test, Michael did well. I was very proud of him, knowing that the test with its reams of writing wasn't easy for him. That last test mark was threatening to drag his average close to a fail though.
In our meeting with the principal (Tat was with me), she had an issue with Tat marking one student as 'Regular', the lowest grade, a fail. Tat explained that the student virtually slept through classes and had a no-care attitude... "but we can't put 'Regular'. The parents will be upset!" and she had Tat change it to at least a 'Good'. Tat was seething. With Tat's student, justice and truth were tossed out the window. With mine, fairness went. Michael never had the chance to redo his test the last time, giving him the lowest score in the class in spite of being the best English speaker and the most hard working student. The principal was not interested in him. She can't stand his mother and often spoke of what a problem the family was, so her 'rule' of keeping the parents happy didn't apply here. But... because she just pushed Tat's student through, I pushed the case for Michael and got to mark him on his overall abilities and progress.
In short, I came away disillusioned and feeling a little like a fraud. Honesty is important to me, but honesty is a word used very lightly at this school.
On hindsight, perhaps I should have done this blog in chapters. It's Long!
The photo? The 'kaput'? Kaput is a word I grew up with, usually used for appliances, cars, and such that finally give up the ghost. We also used it when totally exhausted, as in finished. That is how I was feeling this week when I started this blog.