Monday, May 3, 2010

Excuse me but... school is still in session!

One thing I have learned in my first months of Peace Corps service is that success isn't about numbers, it's about individuals. That hit home last trimester when it seemed everyone had given up on school. For some reason trimester exams were given three weeks before school ended. Many students and professors considered the following two weeks to be an "extended vacation." Attendance dwindled. I was frustrated at putting hours of effort into planning lessons then showing up to nearly empty classrooms. Still, I was determined to set a good example and arrive on time and prepared for the few students who cared enough to keep coming. Below is an excerpt from my journal:

I walked the fifty minutes to school today, hoping to get some exercise and clear my head after another night of bad sleep. I arrived to a group of boys hanging out under the flag pole. I asked why they weren't in first period and they explained that the teacher hadn't shown up (not surprising). I told them I was off to class and one boy said, "but teacher, no one is here." I said that wasn't true, a few students were around. Even if I had one out of 50 students, I explained, I would stay and teach him or her. "Do you know why?" I asked them. They shook their heads. “Because each student is important. Each one of you is important to me." They liked that idea and I got a few thumbs up.

Sure enough, I arrived at my first period class to find one lone student. A few more trickled in when they saw me there. At the end of the period there were six students. In 45 minutes, those students got the individual attention they lacked in their normally over-packed classroom. We discovered and corrected several learning gaps and I saw things beginning to click for a few of them that had really struggled. Second period was better, with nearly half the class showing up once they saw I was prepared to teach, but last period was disappointing. I arrived to a classroom completely empty save a teacher calculating averages at a desk.
"Where's A01?" I asked.
"Oh, they all left," she said.
I was deflated, but then I saw one student from that class walking in the courtyard. I asked him if he wanted to have English class and he looked at me funny then said "yes." We went to the library and worked with some reading cards. His pronunciation was good and I had assumed he understood the material well, but then I discovered he was still having trouble conjugating the verb "to be" in the simple past and present. I was stunned, but then I found out that though he couldn't fill out a verb table, he could use the verb tenses in conversation. It was a great insight into his learning style that I may not have gotten in a normal classroom setting.

That day I only taught a handful of my students, but those students learned and so did I. I really believe each student is important. As long as at least one shows up I will stay and teach. I don’t just want to teach them English, I want to teach them that they are valuable as individuals. They cared enough to come to school today and I want them to know that at least one of their teachers cared enough to stay and teach them.

1 comment:

  1. Clancy you are such an inspiration! Keep up all your hard work, we are all so proud of what you are doing over there!