Oh, those darn exams.
So it turns out that both my learners and I were unaware of how grading works in Namibia. Apparently all of the assessments I took throughout the term are meaningless, because 100% of their term grade is based on the exam. I’m pretty unhappy about this new development, because there are many learners who worked really hard all term that just messed up on the exam. There are also a few learners that scored really high marks and I know it isn’t because they knew the information, but rather because they were sitting close to someone who did (I guess I can’t conclusively prove they were cheating, but there were a few learners who failed everything all term that scored Bs on the exam). It infuriates me that I have to give cheaters higher marks than genuinely hard-working learners that just botched the exam for one reason or another.
One example of a slip-up is Martha, who I wrote about just a few posts ago. Martha had the highest marks nearly all term, but she scored 6th on the exam with a B, so now I have to give her a B for the term when she completely deserves an A. I also feel like I failed 6B (I teach both sections of Grade 6: 6A and 6B) because it just so happened that I was able to review more thoroughly with 6A. And, even though 6B generally had higher averages than 6A all term, on the exam 6B’s average was 10 points lower than 6A’s. Argh! I’m sure this isn’t the most exciting blog to read, but I just feel like a lot of my learners are being cheated out of the marks that they deserve and I think putting 100% weight on the exam is absolutely ridiculous.
It’s also quite annoying how my school has structured exams. The learners must come to school every day at 7:45 am, even though they don’t write an exam until 11:00 am. Classes are expected to stop so that the learners have time to “study,” which basically boils down to 35 kids sitting in a classroom thinking of all sorts of ways to cause mischief. I should also mention that this testing period lasts for TWO WEEKS. This has been the longest week thus far, mostly because I feel completely unproductive and frustrated. I’ve attempted teaching classes, but my learners already wrote their final exam so they’re not exactly taking class time seriously.
It’s hard to believe that the first term is coming to a close, albeit very slowly. I have one more week of enduring this circus that they term “exam time,” and then Daniel and I are off to Victoria Falls! We are headed to Victoria Falls to spend time with a few of the other WorldTeach volunteers, and then we’re headed down to Botswana for a couple of days to visit Chobe National Park. After that it’s back to the village to meet Dan’s parents, and we have literally been counting down the days. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Taos, not to mention the collection of incredibly cute Rachel/Brennan videos, which I’m sure are going to break my heart with homesickness!
As the first term comes to a close, I am trying to brainstorm ways I can make a real difference in the lives of these kids. Over the past several weeks many learners have been writing about how they really want their parents to pay their school tour fund, but that many of them can’t. It turns out that the “school tour” is a week long trip that the school takes to give the learners a broader perspective, but the learners who can afford to go are only the most affluent ones at the school. I don’t think it’s realistic to fundraise enough money for the entire school, but I am hoping that some people at home might be interested in sponsoring one of my Grade 6 learners so that they can see other parts of Namibia. One of my co-workers, Brian, was telling me that many of the learners have never even been to Oshakati (the town that Daniel and I go to each week for our shopping) because it is too expensive. I will keep everyone updated as I put together an actual proposal, but I would be interested in your feedback as to whether you would be interested in sponsoring/fundraising for the learners. All donations can be channelled through WorldTeach (which means that it’s tax-deductible!), so I’m hoping there are a few Good Samaritans out there who are interested in this project!
ALSO, if anyone is friends with a teacher or principal in the States, I am interested in starting a pen pal program between my learners and some students in the States. I wrote to my elementary school principal months ago and never heard back, so I figured it’s time to explore other options. If you could put me in contact with someone who is teaching a Grade 4-Grade 6 class/classes of around 70 kids, it would be WONDERFUL. I have 67 learners and when I mentioned the idea of American pen pals they were absolutely beside themselves with excitement. I was also hoping that speaking to schools in the States might make it possible to do some sort of old sports uniforms/clothes/books drive, because the saying “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” is definitely applicable here. The kids here generally have a school uniform and one outfit… and that’s it (some can’t even afford the school uniform). Anything is better than nothing, and I’m really trying to help these kids in whatever way I can.
I wanted to end my blog with a cute story from this week. Each Monday morning, the school gathers for an “assembly.” This generally consists of the principal lecturing and saying things in the most long-winded way possible, but that is besides the point. Every assembly (and each morning and each entrance of a teacher into a classroom, for that matter) begins like this:
Teacher: Good morning.
Class: Good morning, Madam (or Sir, as the class may be).
Teacher: How are you?
Class: We are fine, thank you, and how are you, Madam/Sir?
I should mention that the learners sound like a bunch of unenthusiastic robots during this exchange, and I definitely am not a fan of it. So I make a point to begin every morning like this:
Me: Good morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Class: Good morning, Miss Kathryn!!!!!
Me: How are you?
Class: We are WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!
I enjoy the high energy exchange much more and I’ve been teaching them synonyms for wonderful such as fantastic, awesome, etc., to make it a bit more exciting.
Anyway, when the principal greeted the school on Monday, a few of my learners responded with more enthusiasm and with words like wonderful, fantastic, magnificent, etc. My principal couldn’t believe his ears and asked them again. They answered again, of course with enthusiasm and a variety of adjectives. My principal couldn’t stop laughing and asked them who their teacher was. They responded, “Miss Kathryn!!!!” I felt so proud of them and it was obvious that the principal was really impressed with their broad vocabulary, so I was quite proud of myself as well.
It make my time here feel so important and valuable when I see my learners retaining information. Even some of the “slower” learners, that could barely construct sentences at the beginning of the term, are beginning to write simple sentences and many of them are retaining and using vocabulary words that I teach. I absolutely love all of my learners and I’m so proud of what a wonderful job they’re all doing.
I’ll end with a picture of one of my classes, 6B (I will upload a picture of 6A as well, but that will have to wait until later this weekend):