Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

House visits - day 2

Before I forget the details of the rest of the house visits, let me put them down.
For going to Rahul's house, one need to go through umpteen number of small winding streets. I have been there only once and I didn't want to lose my way trying to get there. So I called his mom to ask her to come and pick up his books, together with him. But before I could ask her, she told me that it would be nice if I could visit them at home. She agreed to pick me up from the main road. I reached the junction at 8.15 am. Rahul's father greeted me and left directly to work from there and we walked to their house. On the way she told me that Rahul is at his uncle's place. I felt angry and upset, as he is the one who can get affected most by the summer setback. He is not motivated to read on his own and even after repeated requests to his parents, they don't seem to guide him in the right direction. I still gave all the instructions to his sister and ask her to go to her uncle's house and get the work done by Rahul. I followed up for the next 3 days till the books reached him.
Since I have not been to Kiran's house till now, I had a little bit of trouble in finding his place. But he was waiting for me near the road. We walked up to his 4th floor apartment. He is one of the better offs in my class. I gave him the books and explained how much needs to be done everyday. He was the only one who started doing the work even before I finished explaining. He kept doing page after page while I waited for my colleague to come. They are making a video, with one child from each TFI fellow talking something. His father told me that he has been playing all the while, now that he has got the books, till he finishes he will not do anything else. Oops! that was not the idea. If he finishes the whole thing in 2 days and plays around for the rest of the vacation, his summer setback might still be the same. So I asked his father to also get him more books to read and write during the vacation.
I reach Riya's house and the first thing that catch my attention is the huge air cooler in their room which is taking 1/4th the space in the room. But it is indeed cool in here when compared to the 41degrees outside. Her parents think that I have done some wonder on Riya, she was detained in 4th standard last year and this year she has even managed the first rank once. I have once again told them that she is an intelligent girl and she is putting in the right effort in the right direction now. Again the same question of next years teachers and I reassured them that I will still be there teaching English and Maths.
Since I have not been able to reach Nanda's father's mobile for the last 2 days, I asked Riya whether she can take me there, since I knew thats Nanda's house is very close from her house. We walked to Nanda's house. When I reached there she was just lying down on her bed doing nothing. This is exactly what I do not want them to be doing during vacation. Can't she at least go and play something!! She said she will play (argh, did any kid need any asking from her teacher for going and playing, ever? ). I gave her the books and explained her what she needs to do. Since I saw her distracted I asked her to repeat what I have told and she couldn't. So I explained again and this time with some minor corrections she managed. There is a new woman in the house, whom she was calling 'mommy', may be that explains the distraction. I need to find details of that soon, so that the distractions are not allowed to affect her studies or her behavior.
I am done with 12 and tired to death. My mind is busy finding ways in which I can avoid the last one visit. Then I shout at myself for doing everything half way (this time 92% way) and go to Umesh's house. Last time when I visited Umesh's house, his mom had to search for him for more than half an hour to get him back to the house. This time again the same story. She told me that he was waiting for me all this while and has just stepped out. I worry most about him getting into bad company and she tells me that she too worries the same. But since the time his father has passed away, she says that, she doesn't have much control over him. I sit and wait, while several kids go in and out of the house. Every kid who enters the house get an invitation for coming and eating lunch, a request to also call some other kid for lunch and also to find Umesh. All of them go out trying to find Umesh, but with no success. During the time, the pressure on me to have chicken biriyani there is also increasing. Finally I explain what all need to be done by Umesh on a daily basis to his mom and also write that down in a small note book she has given me. I agreed to eat some biriyani and eat just 2 spoonfuls much to her protest. I wait for another 15 mins to round it off at one hour and decide to make a move from there. She apologizes again and agrees to make sure that Umesh does the work daily before he goes out to play.
Tanned, tired and thirsty, I am done with the first step in the summer setback attack plan. Now the next one is to follow up by calling up all of them and checking on how much they have finished. I know that some of them wouldn't need any calling up for them to be on track, but some could do with even daily calls. I would like to visit them again, sit with them and correct the work they have done till then. Let me see whether there is any scope of 'House visits - day 3 and 4'!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

House visits - day 1

Students, especially the ones from low income background, are prone to summer setback. This is the loss of reading and math skills during summer holidays. To prevent or reduce this in my students, I have bought workbooks in English and Maths which they can work on during the summer holidays. I thought the impact of giving them these books at their house in front of their parents would be higher, instead of distributing them at school. On Sunday I bought all the books and on Monday I started the visits.
First visit was to John's house. For a change I found both his parents at home when I reached his house at 8.30 in the morning. As usual his parents are always ready to force feed me, even if I tell them 100 times that I have come after having my breakfast. Their comments were quite touching. His mother told me that, this is the first time he has ever got a teacher who has taught something which he understood. He doesn't need anyone to tell him to study when he comes home now a days. He does that on his own. I didn't need to take a promise from him to do his work everyday. I know he will do it.
Next is Prakash's house. He was waiting for me at the junction and he took me to his house. I have just enough place to sit inside with the other 4 women who are already there. Prakash's mother passed away 3 months back and he has not come out of it till now. So his elder sister listened to my instructions carefully. The other assorted grandmas and aunts asked me to be a bit lenient with him since he has just lost his mom, to whom he was extremely close. When I was about to leave, one of them called me back and told me to make sure Prakash is also taught some discipline and that he talks back to them when they are telling him something. I had one of my "think wrong or right before you do" session again with him and left.
I always referred to him as my dyslexic. But then when his mom got his IQ checked, it turned out to be 64, which means he has moderate mental retardation. Alex's mom picked me up midway as I have been banned by Alex from coming to his house all this while. He had just gotten up and taken bath when I reached there at 10.30. His mom is talking to 2 schools for slow learners, to move him. With moderate mental retardation his learning in a class with normal students is limited and also it affects his confidence negatively. He agreed to do the workbooks and also copy 20 lines from his text book to his notebook.
Farhan has passed in all the subjects but Marathi. They talk Gujarathi at home, it is no wonder that he is struggling with Marathi. But he has already repeated 4th standard once and he cannot do it once again. So his mother has agreed to teach him Marathi during the vacation. Major part of the conversation there was around the other kids in class teasing him calling 'gorilla' since he is extremely fair. He gets into a fight with them on that and this gets the kids tickled and they continue the act. So here again we went through the exercise of "think right or wrong before you do something and say sorry if you have, by mistake, done wrong". His mom also asked me to put him in another teachers class if he doesn't behave, so that he will know the difference.
Next to my special kid, Anita. Here instead of just giving instructions and the book, I made her to do one page in all the books. She did that. Her mom has been told already that she will have to repeat 4th. She came to my class just reading alphabets. Now she reads at 25 words per minute and is able to comprehend 2nd grade passages and sometimes above. But not enough for her to go to 5th standard. But her mother's argument is her age and size. How can she sit again in 4th standard! I told her that what matters is her skill level and not age. She told me that her father will not let the kid to go to school further if she fails. But then that is something I need to convince him about.
The last visit before I head back home is Meena's house. Her mom is ecstatic about the progress she has made over the year. She was shifted to my school since her old teacher has asked her mom to get her IQ checked and told that she might be slightly retarded. But from what I have seen Meena is an average kid. She improved in her English and Math skills 2 grade levels in one year. Now her mother is going to take the progress report and go to the old school and show it (throw it on their face, in her words) to the principal and the teacher and tell them that there is nothing wrong with Meena and it was their problem that they couldn't get Meena to learn anything.
At 41deg Celsius going around in the dry dry Pune can be punishing. So I head home, for some food and an hour of rest and then start again.
I get to my small little mouse's house. Anil is almost always sick, but he still had the 3rd highest attendance in class. His mom is worried that he has not studied this year as much as he has done previously after he has been shifted to my school. Also his elder sister complained that his work books are not completed. I again explained that I do not teach by giving question answers to be rot learnt. So next year his mom is planning to put him to tuition, and I agreed to talk to the tuition teacher. Also I suggested that he be sent to my house for some extra work twice a week. His Math skills has improved, but still not at 4th standard level, but I will take him to 5th as he just needs a few weeks of extra attention.
The last one for the day is Bhavya, the girl whose leg is disfigured. Here also the mom cannot stop talking about how the kid has changed over the year. She is an above average child, who was never taught anything earlier. She started the year reading at a speed of 7 words per minute and numbers till 100. She has also grown 2 grades and is almost always second in Math tests. She also showed me the channels which she watch and agreed to watch some English channels also (CN). Her mother was very anxious to know whether I will be teaching her next year also. I told her that I will be teaching Bhavya English and Maths next year, to her relief.

Friday, April 9, 2010

March is the month of tests

This is a strange thing I am doing now. I am making excuses. I didn't manage to write a blog last month. So this month, first I am going to write why I didn't. I was almost torturing my kids with the tons of tests which I gave to them.

I didn't realise how much work need to go in at the end of the year to finish an academic year. So the realisation set in on the last city meet in TFI where the staff introduced to us the final exams which we need to administer to our students. That is 7 tests of one hour each. Then there are the ASSET exams, English and Maths. Thats the time I counted the number of days remaining before the final exams in school start. We counted and unbelievingly recounted the number of instructional days remaining and all the time came up with the number 10. So that time I knew that what ever I was going to teach this year, I have already taught and it is only testing which is going to happen now.

I did a 3 day marathon revision before I started giving them the exams one after the other. Sometimes I managed to do an hour of revision, most of the time they were only writing exams.

I did the below-grade level tests in reading comprehension for grade 2 and 3 also with my kids. The results are not very encouraging, it shows that my 4th graders are still at the level of 2nd and 3rd grades mostly. But it is indeed an improvement over the KG levels in which some of them have come in. I also realised that, even though the kids are able to do Maths, if they do not understand the question properly they cannot do it. So reading comprehension will take the foremost place during next year. This test was supposed to be for data collection for future comparisons and not really for assessing ourselves. But since data is available, it indeed is not possible not to look at it and not feel bad.

Then the school exams started and it was a cycle of revision and tests. So every day for me it was correcting the answer papers, entering data, preparing for sessions which will keep the kids engaged for one and a half hours before I give the exams.

Today, we had a session in which I gave the results for the entire year's tests and announced the winners. The ones who got 2 purple crowns in the behavior chart got books and gift sets. Those who had one purple crown got gift sets. Those who have topped the subjects, shown biggest improvements from the beginning, or have been present in class the most days got Dairy Milks.

The exams are over, the corrections, the entering data and also the group photograph. Now it is reflection time again. I will come back with that soon.

ps. The activity which has taken the most amount of time during March is a secret. I can just tell that it involved around 6 red pens, a computer printed mark list and the future of 300 youngsters!