Tuesday, June 22, 2010

test week

I had been thinking about giving the kids a grade for my class, when one day Marcela told me that she needed one. I'm not sure where that comes from--I think the Ministry contract says I don't have to give tests, it or at least releases me from grading (which is a good idea, since we can't grok the educational culture here). But they've worked pretty hard, and I wanted both them and me to know what they've really learned. I decided to spend last week reviewing what each class has done, and then this week would be oral tests.

They've been doing great! On a 10-scale, so far the class averages are between 8.2 and 9.3, with just a fewkids really crashing and burning. For some of those, I think they're convinced they can't learn, so they didn't study; others speak a very tangled Spanish dialect, what Chileans associate with low levels of education and call los rotos ("the broken ones"), and that seems to really hinder their ability to remember and produce English sounds.

In general, though, I gave them a week's warning, told them exactly what material they were responsible for, reviewed it with them, and they studied and retained most to all of it. Some things I've noticed:

  • A few of them have come in and said "Eh, yo no sé nada" ("I don't know anything"), and then proceeded to get excellent scores.
  • It's really disconcerting to sit down one-on-one and not really recognize a student. Most of them I do recognize, but I have about 270 students and I see them once a week or less, for an hour. In particular, they're almost all girls, and a lot of them are very quiet.
  • The way I relate to each student when we're sitting across from each other confirms that I've kept the discipline stuff from feeling personal to them. Any time I write their names on the board to get them to shut up, 60 seconds later I'm helping them pronounce something as though nothing had happened, and they notice that.
  • This is exhausting. Sitting down for 90 minutes of one-on-one meetings, where I have to smile and help them relax while simultaneously judging their performance in a way that affects their lives, is actually much more tiring than moving around the classroom for 60 minutes teaching.
I'm also pretty sure I hate giving tests, but it really focused their attention and effort, and now I and we both know what they know. I'm not sure how else to really assess them, without talking to them alone individually, and with that little extra pressure that gives them a reason to care besides the joy of the intellectual endeavor. Which I wouldn't buy into either, if I were them and I had nine other subjects where I did have to keep my grades up.

After this week, all the grades have to be in, so I think there's just a lame-duck few weeks before winter vacation. It's probably time for lessons involving dancing.

1 comment:

  1. and singing!

    Yay for you and your kids. How wonderful for them to succeed on an English test, since the written test was such a disaster. Good work :-)