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Monday, November 14, 2011

Chew and Pour: It's Testing Time

Next week, out training college will have their first supervised test. Something like midterms. Students are tested on the material they have covered for the first 9 nine weeks... I'm kind of worried. It's hard enough to present material with out a reference book but at times, I wonder if these kids really get a chance to study and digest the material fed to them. This is their typical day:

wake up at 4:30 am (I'm for real ya'll)
bathe at 5:00-5:45 am
prayer service at 6:30 (mandatory but I like it)
classes begin at 7:00 am
breakfast at 9:00 am
classes commence for lunch at 2:00 pm.

If a teacher fails to meet with them during the morning classes, they have to meet in the afternoon after lunch. So let's put in there a possible 3:00-5:00 class. If there is not midday class, they have a one hour break and do their daily chores. There are chores to do everyday. You will see student weeding away, washing clothes, scrubbing, gardening, and more. Then at 7:00-9:00 pm there are mandatory preps-- basically, an evening study hall. Again, this is the opportunity for teachers to make up classes they were absent for or to move along with the syllabus. I've perused preps to do reinforcement lessons but only for an hour. I feel that they are too tired for an intense 2 hour lesson; I am too, but I've done nothing in comparison to their labor.

In spite of this jam packed daily schedule, they are expected to perform up to par now that testing season is here. The teachers are all good about it; from what I can see, no stress on their part. No administrator down their throat; no obsessive group meetings on test prep (though I think teachers should collaborate more here). It's the students who are biting their nails. Funny how I thought I was getting away from a testing-crazed culture in the States but it's a whole 'notha ballpark over here. Students live and die by the test. They cheat and cheat by the test. They sweat and slave for the test. They chew and chew and chew so that they can pour out their best responses at rapid speed... for the test. (Ask a Ghanaian what I mean by "chew and pour". Shoot, ask an African...) Teachers kind of just write out the exam questions at random and don't think twice about whether they covered the material or not. If the student passes or fails, it doesn't seem to reflect on the teacher much. The teacher doesn't give a darn. In fact, they just see it as, "ah, we've done our part ooooo.." It's the student's fault. They were lazy and didn't study enough. Never mind the fact that they sit in classes for hours everyday and are subjected to strenuous labor (which even cuts into their class periods at times!) Never mind the fact that the teachers speed through the curriculum to "cover everything in the timetable", not providing enough time for students to comprehend the material. Never mind that the teachers-in-training are taking all sorts of classes (like high school), not focusing on one subject which at times gets distressing and confusing....

So the students really stress out about examinations because whether the material was covered in class or not, they are expected to know the answers and get it right. Majority of the questions are not multiple choice and free response is still expected to be practically verbatim to get the points.

I don't care about the examinations much (I'm becoming a Ghanaian teacher!!! Argghhh. Not.) I just want them to make sure they understand the content (Told you I was not.). English is the hardest subject for these students for obvious reasons explained in previous posts. Instead of spitting out a doctored answer, I want my kids to be aware of their answer choice and provide a personal explanation. I want them to apply it in life: when they read and when they write. So that's why I'm behind in the syllabus.... I've been spending a little too much time on grammar. It seems like they never really understood it before. I don't blame them, I didn't really get it until I took a grammar course in undergrad. I don't mind being behind but I don't want them to freak out when they see a question on the test about conjunctions and they don't remember what it is because we didn't cover it yet. I've been too busy making sure they know how verbs function and how to spot indirect and direct objects... Really, you should be in my class. This is fun stuff. It's amazing how multicolored Expo markers make learning and teaching fun.... I digress.

Just help me keep my students in prayer. I didn't think I would be put on the schedule to teach English but if that be the case, I want them to get the most out of English language and literature that any of my students will get back home. It's hard when you really want to encourage an appreciation and understanding for your content area and you somehow can't because there isn't enough "time". Not enough time to break down this amazingly written short story because you have to know how to break down a multiple choice question instead? I was hired to teach you how to test and not teach you how to understand what you just read? Cmon now...

This is a shoutout to all my colleagues at my old middle school. Keep your head up; I'm on the other side of the ocean and it's hard out here for a teacher too.


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