Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The homework-sports week connection

Teaching in a school comes with its side effects also. While I am trying to improve the student achievement in class by what ever means, there are a few who are either apathetic to the efforts or just indifferent. When these are major stake holders in my effort, it is rather irritating.
Last week we had the sports week in our school. So the first half of the class we spent outside, students carried lemons which were rolling in spoons kept precariously in their mouths, falling all over the place with skipping ropes tangled around their feet and generally having fun. The students were having fun, I kept looking at my watch thinking when this is going to end so that, I can take them back to practicing writing stories looking random pictures and trying to make their imagination to run wild.
I have always had trouble in getting my students to do their homework. I have to keep inventing new new rewards for them to do it. Sometimes it is half of a Dairy Milk (only Rs.5) and sometimes taking home a jigsaw puzzle with Spider man sitting (or standing) on a wall with his various enemies beside him. The novelty runs out for each reward soon. Looking at the students having so much fun with sports, I decided to follow my fellow fellow who has kept staying out during the sports as a reward. So while giving out home work that day, I gave a dose of my warning also, I told my students to make sure that they finish their homework at home or otherwise they will have to sit inside the class and finish the home work while those who have finished are having fun outside.
Next day, more students than usual have finished all 3 home work. But still there is some left. So after assembly I packed them off to the classroom to finish the homework. I stayed with the students inside. Soon supervisor (our Hindi teacher) entered the class room to protest and protect my students right to be outside the class during sports week. She asked me whats the connection between homework and sports. I told her that it is up to us to make the connection. One by one my kids were finishing their home work and leaving the class. Supervisor went to Roshini ma'am (our main administrator and also Principal's daughter) and complained. Roshini ma'am called me and asked. I explained my stand and told her that there are 4 students left in class still to finish the home work and all the rest of them are on the ground. She sent me back telling it is ok.
Later towards the afternoon principal calls me and I go to her and sees that both supervisors are also there. Since Roshini ma'am verdict was not satisfactory, they have appealed to the High Court. High court verdict is in line with the supervisor's. Principal started shouting at me telling me that I have to follow rules of the school, I didn't bring the students from my home, they are first students of the school and then my students, the sports week is for students to be outside, I think that the students belong to me and that's not true, my fellow fellow also acts and thinks similarly, there is no connection between sports week and home work........ I did a series of "yes ma'am"s and "ok ma'am"s. In between when she said I cannot make any connection between homework and sports week, a "why ma'am" unknowingly came out of my mouth instead of the "yes ma'am" which was answered by a "because I say so" nonchalantly. I hate any one shouting at me (I wonder who doesn't), but this is one person I am gonna tolerate.
The damage was done for my kids. Now they were convinced that I am going to stick to my word and keep them in the class if they didn't do their homework. The facts that their Hindi miss talked to the principal and that principal has shouted at me and all are not known to my kids. So that day also I used the same reward for doing their home work. The next day the effect was seen with all but one finishing their homework at home.
Now that the sports week is over and dairy milks are not seen attractive any more, what will entice my students to do their homework?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The need for experimenting comes when you are unhappy with something. I am totally unhappy with the way in which some of my kids behave. I don't blame them for the same, they know no better. But their behavior reduces the learning which happens in my class, for themselves and also for others, not to mention the evil it brings out in me sometimes.
Let me take the case of Kiran. Kiran is quite intelligent and reads at a speed of 105-115 words per minute, though he doesn't understand much of what he reads. His attention span is about 10 minutes. Sometimes there are things which take more than 10 minutes to teach. What it means to me is that I need to teach him separately for him to understand. It doesn't take much time for him to grasp the concepts when I teach him one to one, so it is ok. But when he is running around in class and pinching and slapping others, they get totally distracted and their learning goes for a toss.
What if Kiran is the one who is making sure that every one sits properly and they listen in class and that they don't come out of their place unnecessarily. The sense of justice and equality in my class is very high, so I cannot just one day make Kiran the class monitor. There needs to be a valid reason why he should be the class monitor and not any of the 12 others. So I take the opportunity of the declared semester results and give all the kids who have got I-III ranks a responsibility. I rank holder is absent, II rank holder becomes the board monitor. His responsibility is to make sure that the contents of the black board is up to date, the objectives in the agenda are ticked off after each period, the board and the duster are clean. Then III rank holder is the class monitor.
Kiran is very excited about being the class monitor. Immediately he starts correcting people in the way in which they are leaning on to the desk and sitting with their legs up and pressing on to the desk. He is listening to my teaching as well as checking on others. Instead of me telling every one to sit straight and listen he takes over the responsibility. Till almost the last period he survives. The major gain is for Kiran himself as he has forgotten to run around and pinch and slap. But by last period he has lost his concentration and starts talking to Umesh. I let him stay at the back of the class and still listen without checking on others.
Next day, he starts again in the morning properly, being a nice monitor. But this day, his concentration is going to go off earlier than yesterday. By end of the day he starts telling me that he doesn't want to be the monitor. The loss is mine, if I let him out of it. So the next day, I let the small little mouse in my class to become the monitor and this makes Kiran very jealous and he wants to be the monitor back.
But in 2 days he is tired and again and doesn't want to be monitor.
The experiment in its actual form has failed. But I can make him monitor every other day and take advantage of the improved calm and lack of pinching and slapping still.
Umesh gets restless and starts talking if he sits next to Kiran. But now I have made him sit next to the small little mouse everyday and he is calm and quiet and listens nicely. The first day he behaved so nice, I called his mother up and told her, how nice he has been in class. The single mother whose dreams are all based on Umesh was so happy that day, Umesh came and gave me a special hug next day morning.
Rahul went for his cousin's wedding for a week and came back with a special problem. Now his hands keep drumming on the desk all the time. For a minute after I tell him to stop drumming, he will stop drumming, but after 1 minute the drumming restarts. Making him stand away from desks, folding his hands etc have not yielded any results. After 2 minutes he goes back to drumming and I can totally see that he is not fully aware of the fact that he is drumming.
Any ideas for an experiment here? My experiments with drumming....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Semester exam results

Its again results time and this time it is much worse than the last unit test. I would believe that the kids have really improved in their comprehension of English, but still not enough to read the questions and understand enough to write the answers on their own. In the last unit test, I read out all the questions and explained it all to them. This time, the students were totally on their own. They had to first decode sounds and read the words. Then understand the meaning of the words and understand the meaning of the sentences out of it. For most who were just reading a few words and were not understanding even a single word of what they were reading this was no mean task.

I have removed the results of those subjects like Work Experience, PT etc which doesn't really matter much, but inflates my results unnecessarily.
Only 4 students have passed in all the subjects and not even a single one has gone beyond 60%. My Nanda almost reached there. My special child has failed in all the subjects. My dyslexic has failed in all but Hindi and Marathi. The results are so pathetic, I feel like crying.

My fellow teacher, after seeing the results told me, that I cannot experiment with the children like this. Meaning I cannot leave them with the questions for them to comprehend, but I need to read them out to them and explain to them for them to write the answers. On hindsight, I see the point too. As of now since they really cant fully read and comprehend the questions, by not reading out the questions and not explaining the questions to them, in all the subjects I am testing English reading comprehension, except Maths. Even in Maths there were a lot of word problems which most of the students didn't even attempt, since they just couldn't read them. Those who could read them, just couldn't understand them.

On the results day, most of the parents came over and picked up the results from me. Father of my smallest little mouse, who has failed in 3 subjects went to the Principal to complain that his son has failed. I had to explain to him, how the little mouse refused to write the exam and after writing 3 sums he was returning the Maths paper to me. I gave it back to him 3 times and made him do more and then more and then more. He just cannot concentrate in class, neither he can concentrate while writing the exam. When he manages to do that once in a while, he really understands what is being taught.

After looking at my special kid's results my Principal had already warned me that we need to tell her parents that she needs to repeat 4th standard. Since we didn't want to give it as a shock at the end of the year, Principal wanted to give the news during this result itself. When her mother met me and the Principal, Principal informed the mother about the need for her kid to repeat the class and the mother started crying. She started telling that her husband is going to beat them both up.

Surprisingly, the student who got just 4 marks in English in the last exam got the IInd rank this time. It shouldn't actually come to me as a surprise as I have seen some very surprising thing from him once. I have given the class a list of male and female gender to learn by heart. The idea was for them to read it there and go home and learn. After 5 minutes he tells me that he has finished learning. I asked him 10 random words and he answered me each of them correctly. His memory is amazing, but his behavior unmanageable.

Indeed, I cannot experiment with my kids. Though I am seeing that their English reading comprehension has improved double fold, I still cannot leave them alone in the battle field. Their big goal is to "Ace the scholarship exam". In the scholarship exam, all the questions are multiple choice questions. I have already talked to my school management about making my next question paper totally objective type and she has agreed to it. Wait till then and I am going to post much better results then.