October 29, 2009
Today, I am sitting in the teachers lounge at school with time to update my blog, and study for the GRE. This week was exam week and so the students have a different schedule, they arrive at the same time but they get out of school at eleven-thirty. I gave all of my exams on Tuesday and Wednesday so today, and tomorrow I have to come to school but I have nothing to do. I already finished all my grading, but I am going to wait to hand it in until Friday because I told my students they could do so.
I filled out little half sheets of paper for everyone of my students, that’s about seventy, about what they are missing in my classes. Some students aren’t missing anything while others, particularly one student in my 2nd grade class is missing “un monton!” a huge amount. Arleth has missed over three weeks of school and has made no attempt to catch up. Her mother has asked the principal to not grade her at all for this bimester and then have next bimester count for two. The way the people think of school around here is a little crazy. Anyway, all week I have had to speak with mothers of my students explaining why they were probably missing the assignment. Of course, I can’t say well your daughter is always out of her seat and usually not paying attention, so she probably just didn’t get her paper to me when it was due. Instead I try to explain that she probably lost the paper and that we can make another copy for her to do. Now though, as it has reached Thursday, I have learned that I will never do this sort of thing again. For a couple of reasons, first and foremost it feels like they should’ve done the assignment when I asked. Every time I accept late work I feel like my deadlines mean less. I also knew it would require more work from me to send out the missing homework sheet but I don’t think I really knew how much more work! It’s too much! Most of my colleagues were saying I was crazy to write what they were missing, and I just thought, well I care about my students and that they get good grades. But the truth is that their grades are not going to change much by handing in one or two worksheets.
It’s been a double whammy of culture shock to be teaching and to live in a foreign country. The way they do things here in the school is so unusual to me, and even when I try really hard to understand it I often just say, well I guess its how it is, and move on, because I don’t think I ever will actually understand. For instance, (you knew this was coming with a follow up story didn’t you?) about two weeks ago we were told we had to write exams for the end of the first quarter. I felt stumped by the idea that I had to create an exam for first through third graders. I stopped into the office to see if Miss Evelyn could help me understand what I should do. She said oh you can do it, (insert nodding head here) no problem, just include pictures and ask them to draw pictures, to see if they understood all the stories. So, after that conversation with her I realized I just have to do my best. So I spent a whole Sunday, as did Emily and Brenda, writing exams that covered the whole first quarter. They were due on Monday to Miss Evelyn so that she could check them before making all the copies. The week before our exams were due our reviews for the exams were due and I included everything we have covered at all in my classes. Anyway, once the parents saw how much was going to be covered in my exams they were nervous and thought it was too much for their children.
The homeroom teachers were actually mad at me for making my exam too long, and all the while I thought it was what was expected of me. On this day I felt very frustrated. The homeroom teachers, the people I usually count on to be my allies were mad at me. And I mean mad, Erika, who was my friend at the beginning was literally yelling at me telling me I had done it wrong. As I think back to it I realize how lost I really was. I asked to meet with Miss Evelyn to know for sure what the deal was and to ask if I needed to change my exam. She told me that she thinks the exams should cover the whole period of time and not just the last unit. I think she was just telling me this though, and I feel like she probably explains that I don’t understand how it works in Honduras because I’m the American volunteer. I don’t know this for sure, so I have to let it go but she did tell me that next time we will write our exams over just the last chapters. So in the end, I will change my exams, but the thing that really upset me is that apparently the administration had a meeting about my exams. It would be fine to have a meeting about my exams if they invited me to explain what I knew. So I felt like I was being reprimanded for something I did wrong, but all I’m trying to do is what is right. So anyway all my students did well on the exams and my third graders, the class with the crabbiest parents, had an average of 88 %. I think that is a great result and I’m proud of the fact that I pushed them and believed in them when their parents didn’t.