Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Laugh or cry!

Random incidents in my class which make me wonder whether to laugh or to cry.

I have taught my class phonics and we have phonics drill almost on a daily basis. When some of the kids are not responding well to these, I take them out seperately and do it individually. On one such occasion, I am trying to make the student read the word 'sit'.
I show her the flash card with 'sit' written on it and ask her to read. She just stares -> read -> silence -> ok, read the sounds -> 's' 'i' 't' (she says the correct sounds) -> great, now put them together and read the word -> she says 'its' -> hm, whats the first sound? -> 's' -> so whats the word? -> she says '...st' -> so what happens to the 'i' -> she says 'set' -> whats the sound of i -> her little finger suddenly goes up and she asks: didi, can I go to the toilet?

I have taught multiplication and I am making them apply that to real life problems. I give them a situation. Your mother is going to the market to buy rice. One kg rice costs Rs.25. She buys 5kg of rice. How much will she have to pay for the rice? Suddenly I got a doubt whether they understand what kg is. So I ask them what is kg. 2-3 hands go up. I ask one, he confidently says 'junior kg, senior kg'

This is when I have made the kids laugh (or cry). I have told the kids to immediately raise their hand if they dont understand any word which I say. Usually I will translate the word in Hindi when they do that. Once I have said the word mattress while teaching the new book on work experience. The lesson was about children helping their parents in keeping their houses clean and that children should fold the mattresses and keep them properly in the morning. Few hands went up to ask what a mattress is. With all my Hindi innocence I replied 'gadha' (गधा). Some started giggling when I also realised what I said actually means donkey. Then I explained what a mattress is used for and then they taught me that it is a 'gadda' (गद्दा).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cruel Life?

The more and more I get into the details of my kids' lives, I realise how protected and pampered a life I am living. Remember my roll no. 12, whose house was a perfectly serene environment and I was still having trouble with his behaviour in class. Even behind that there are stories, which make me wonder whether his behavioural issues are connected to that. When I finished filling in his application for the scholarship exam and was handing it over to my school administrator, she asked what has he told me his father's name is. I read it out from the paper and she passed me the white ink to correct it to the one in the records. Of course I should have noticed that the name he gave me and his second name are different. She not being the gossipy type, just informed me matter of fact that his actual parents are divorced and his mom lives with the father I have met. Now this is not an extremely bad thing to happen, but I just hope that his issues are not springing from his mom's issues with his father which resulted in the divorce and what ever has happened later. He was sent back home this week for not paying the fees till now. I was happy to see the fees receipt in his hand and him back in my class. He is the one only one kid in my class who will sit and finish the math problem he was struggling with, sometimes taking additional help from me, before he opens his tiffin box during recess.

When visiting another student, I was pretty disturbed by what I saw on her foot. The left foot was disfigured with bones climbing on each other and the skin discoloured. Later while her mother was talking to me, she showed me the students snap when she was 4years old. Then the mother told me that the kid has gone under a truck a few days after that snap was taken, The leg was badly mutilated. She is still undergoing, at the age of 9, corrective surgeries and skin grafting. Her mother requested me to stop the school supervisor from harassing the kid for not wearing white shoes on PT day. She cannot wear the slim white shoes as her left foot doesn't fit in into it, or she will have to buy 2 pairs with one size bigger for the left foot.

The mother also showed me her son in the snap who was one year younger to my student, who fell from the staircase and died. I remembered thinking that the stairs were really steep while climbing them. Now she has a younger brother who is 1.5years old.

She attributed my student being behind in her studies to all these tragedies in her life. Then I told her that she should never think that her daughter is behind in her studies in anyway. She is the game master in my class and I have this poster on my wall, in which her name is permanently there. Though at the beginning of the year she could read only 7 words per minute, she is making 4 letter and 5 letter words out of bigger words like a pro in our games. She is one of those who have shown major improvement after getting individual attention. She has a black board painted on the wall of her one room house and 'mederma' written on it. She has told me that she has seen it on TV and that's what she will be using.

After one week in class I realised that a student who is repeating 4th standard is an above average student. During the parent-teacher meeting, I mentioned this to his mother. She told me that her husband passed away last year and she has a lot of trouble with her in-laws and they were shifting around a lot of places last year. This has actually affected the kids' studies. After a few seconds of silence she added that her husband has committed suicide and he has burnt himself in front of the kids.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Starchart, superstars and ADD

Managing the behaviours of 13 kids is not a big deal, so I thought. But it does indeed take a lot of strategies and positive reinforcement to keep them from hitting each other, from shouting out the answers, from slumping on the desk and day dreaming. So it starts with my class rules, which I introduced to my kids in the first week of school.

1. Listen to Didi

2. Speak in English

3. Raise your hand to speak

4. Be nice to all

This 4 covers more or less all my behaviour expectations from my kids.

We have a star chart in our class to track how the kids are fairing. If they follow the rules they get stars. Every day each kid starts with 3 green points. Then for each breaking of rule, they lose a green. If they lose all 3 greens, they start getting red points. They can also gain green points by doing something really nice. By end of the day who ever has 3 green points remaining, will get a silver star the next day morning. Those who have got red points cannot go out for recess the next day, they have to eat food in class and stay put.

Who ever gets the maximum number of stars in a week will become the superstar on next Monday. Superstar is an assistant to teacher and gets to distribute things, rub the board, clean the duster etc. Once anyone reaches 5 silver stars, they are traded for a golden star. Together with the star on their name, they will also get a golden star in their notebook. When they reach 5 golden stars they get a dairy milk. The teacher's assistant job is more alluring to them than the dairy milk ofcourse.

The moment a kid breaks a rule, my hand goes to the chart. It is so instantaneous, I dont need to tell it loud, I just need to look at the kid while doing it, the kid realises that a point is gone and why the point is gone. It has been instrumental in putting structure and order to my class so much. But there are exceptions.

There are 3 kids who never got any silver star till a week back. One kid got one silver star last week and we celebrated that nicely. But these 3 kids have real attention deficient problem and cannot be handled with the star chart. I am in search of how I can handle these 3 kids' behaviour issues and make them sit and listen to me. They are the brightest of the lot, but if only they could sit and listen. Any ideas?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My first house visit - roll no 12

His butterfly!

There are various reasons why I selected his house as my first house visit. He is one of the 3 kids in my class who has ADD. I needed to find ways in which I can harness his energy and divert it towards his studies. Finding his background should give me some clue. His house is the closest to my school. He stays back after class for extra classes and I can walk down to his house with him.

I reached his house with him and waited for half an hour. His parents didnt turn up. I used the time to observe his house and talk to him and his younger sister. I left. Next day he came and told me that his mom was stuck up at the police station (she is a police constable at a shelter) and has told sorry, sorry, sorry and asked me to give my number so that she can call me. After the class was over his sister, who has taken an extra liking for me and is always at my duppatta end when I am taking my extra classes, also came to me and said, "momma thaid thorry, thorry, thorry".

The house is a 2 room house, one bedroom and a kitchen and then a bathroom. After the bed, a table with a TV on top and an almirah, there is just enough space to walk through. Everything is at its place and neat and clean. The kitchen is enough for one person to stand and do things.

The mom sat down with me while the dad went into the kitchen to make tea. I found the parents to be extremely informal and open. They think the kid has been retained in 4th standard since the dad has gone and fought with the administration for sending a note stuck to the kids shirt to remit the fees which was due, though they both told that the kid is weak. I told them that their kid is not weak and is the topper in class for Maths (though he still writes one hundred and one as 1001). He is also the best artist in my class. They beamed hearing this and then told me that dad has even now kept the progress card from his KG in which he has first rank in class. They agreed not to tell that he is weak anymore.

The best thing the mom told me was that, she doesn't have to go behind him every day evening asking him to study like she has done last year. This year he has started studying on his own and she will not have to ask him at all. He keeps telling her what his didi (thats me) has said in class, done in class, what games we have played in class. During the conversation how my being his class teacher is really helping him, dad told mom about me, the best thing is that she is a christian. Ohhh! he has asked me when we have met during the parent teacher meeting whether I am a south Indian and I have replied in the affirmative. So after a moments thought I corrected them and asked them that how does it matter if I am not a christian. Dad told me that it would have been even better if I were a christian. I was amused and I laughed. Now I am sure I am not overdoing it when I keep telling my kids that all people are equal, be it muslim, hindu, christian or parsi. But I do not know what is the impact on the kids when they get completely opposite messages from 2 quarters.

The hospitality was unbearable and embarassing. I wished at times that they were not this open with me. First tea (with a little extra sugar for my taste), then some namkeen (snacks), then baked peanuts in shell, after an hour again tea (sweeeet - in Pune tea is almost always sugar syrup for me). Every sentence they spoke was followed by an instruction for me to eat or drink. They were pretty upset that I refused to eat a meal with them. They have indicated that they will make biriyani (dad makes great biriyani) and call me. But for that they have to wait for her June salary to come (dad doesn't work, he has retired from army). I agreed that I will indeed join them for biriyani one day. The most embarassing moment was when mom forced me to wear her gold necklace which dad has bought for her few weeks back for their wedding anniversary. I wanted to run away.

I came out with the realisation that there is nothing much the parents can do for me. They are pretty free with their children and are supportive. They agreed that they will not tell that their kid is weak. They cannot help him with English. But they will insist that the kids talk to each other in English so that they can improve. They talk to the kids everyday on what has happened in school and thats something which is very important to me. I and the kid had a pact in his house that he will get a star next day (I will talk about my star chart soon). I think if there is one impact of my visit to his house, I saw that next day when he cried in class when I took away the green dot from his name which would have given him a star that day.