Pure Randomness!

Pure Randomness!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Imagine Child

Last year when I started doing Writer's Workshop with my kids, I dedicated one whole period for imagining things each week. So we went inside a giant mango, getting bathed in mango juice, smelling the sweet fragrance and finally hitting a wall when we reached the pip. Then we went up a bubble from the bank of the river running behind our school, went up and looked down at the buses and cars plying on the bridge nearby. We went into a dark forest and saw all the animals around and felt a little scared and excited. We did many more, week after week. After we imagined all these things, we spent time talking about it and then wrote.
This year I have only 70minutes each day with them, so we have not done any imagining. But I found the result of all the work we have done last year, this year in the stories they have written.
They were given the picture of an upturned wattle basket to write about. These were the ideas they came up with.
1. Three hen babies (babay) were separated from their mother. They end up in a jungle somehow. They all are very worried about how to get back to their mother. At the end the mother hen comes searching for them and then they are reunited and they live happily ever after.
2. The cat was in the hat and was very sad because of that. A boy was passing by and cat in the hat asks for help and the boy rescues the cat.
3. The hen laid an egg and it hatched (broke and a baby hen came out). Then a big hen came and took the baby away. The mother hen went and fought with the big hen and got the baby back and lived happily for many days.
4. The basket was filled with fruits. A dog came and pushed down the basket and all the fruits fell on the floor. At the end the dog said sorry and helped put all the fruits back.
5. The basket was left on the road with 2 cats inside and a dog found them and started chasing them. Then a man came and took the cats to the police station where the policeman told the man that he can take one cat and the policeman will take the other. Both the cats then lived happily in their new homes.
6. One day a basket fell down from the sky with a cat. The girl took the cat and became friends and fed it with milk everyday. Then one day the cat went away and she felt very sad and her mother came and hugged her.
7. The rat was under the basket because it was afraid that someone will kill her. But then the basket had an automatic door and the cat came in through that and chased her still.
8. The basket was left on the road and the boy asked everyone whether it is theirs. Then he took that to the police station and the police gave him a medal (middle). When father and mother saw the medal they were very happy.

I feel that the mystic nature of the picture has made the kids imagine beyond the obvious. Taking a clue from it, I am going to make them write more and more on pictures where there is no obvious story.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wattle basket vs hat

I have decided to write more on the daily high I get while teaching my kids.
So today I distributed the question paper to the students for their English exam, in which I have asked them to write a story about this picture.

Since they understood that it is a basket, they started looking at each other for ideas. I heard puppies, cat, snake and also komdi ke pille, which I thought must be chicks. I had to let it pass that a rule is broken by someone speaking in Marathi, since I more urgently wanted the exchange of ideas to stop. They were supposed to write on their own, so I took care of stopping them from talking. Most of them were on task when my special kid put her hands up. I went to her and she asked me, "But didi, this can also be a hat". I was happily surprised at this and I took one more look at the picture, as it had not occurred to me, and told her, "Of course, it can also be a hat. Now you have a choice. You can write about a basket or about a hat. Take your pick".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Things I can change and things I cannot - 2

Read Part 1.
Every year quite a few or may be all B.Ed and D.Ed students do their training in regular schools for 2 weeks. In my school also 2 weeks are given to these 'students'. Again I pleaded with my senior teacher to leave my class out of this as I was petrified about missing 8 days of teaching. But I was told that I don't have a choice but to give the class to these students to teach.
I had 5 'students' teaching various subjects in my classroom. The first thing most of them did was wishing my kids 'Good morning childrens'. My kids just do not know what politeness is. So immediately some of them have raised their hands and told them, don't say childrens, it is child-children and childrens is wrong. It was just a start, my kids kept correcting them where ever they found a mistake. One teacher asked my kids to give examples of common noun. When one kid said cat, she told my kid that it is a proper noun as it is the name of a particular animal. I was surprised by the confidence of my kids when he started arguing with her that it is not. Finally I intervened and told her that my kid is correct.
They kept making mistakes in their spoken language and in the things they wrote on the board. They struggled to manage my kids as my kids will not sit quiet and listen without doing something on their own. They kept calling one kid at a time to the board to write answers leaving the others with nothing to do. I kept sitting in the class and when they were making mistakes and the kids were not correcting them, I took them aside or told them after the class based on how bad the mistake was and how scared I was that my kids will catch on to that. The 'students' were very responsive to my feedback and I could see that they took in my feedback and changed their English pretty quickly, where ever they could.
I was not sure once they are out of my school whether they will remember all the things and stick to it. These students come with their teachers who observe them and give grades for their teaching. So I met up with their teacher and inquired about their willingness to take feedback from me and pass it on to their students in a more structured manner. She agreed immediately. She has seen me giving feedback earlier to her students and I felt she was a little embarrassed at the kind of mistakes they were making. So I wrote down all the things I observed into 6 major categories - Spoken English, Written English, Content Knowledge, Pedagogic Methods, Assessment Methods and Behaviour Management - with ample amount of examples from the mistakes these student-teachers were making and suggestions on how to improve.
When I handed it over to their teacher, she told me that she will discuss that with her students. That discussion part is indeed something which I cannot control, change. But then I tried turning around missing 8 days of teaching into something I thought might be useful by giving feedback to those teachers.
I tried, I guess that's where I need to stop worrying. The rest is out of my hands.

ps. My favourite teacher from my school is a teacher who taught me for 2 weeks like this when I was in 8th grade, her name is Susan Titus. I am actually still searching for her.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Things I can change and things I cannot -1

A few of my friends have expressed concern over my last post. For 3 days continuously when I couldn't sleep at night, the third day I got up and just penned down what was coming into my mind. It didn't help my sleep, but it is making me write this post. This is my attempt to apply the serenity prayer to my life; mainly to my teaching and things which surround that.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

I think I have been having trouble in the last sentence or may be at times I try too hard and take my failures to heart before I realise that it was a line 2 and not a line 3.

There are many things being done by Zilla Parishad in Maharashtra to change the education system, most probably as a run in to the implementation of RTE. One major thing is the way in which student learning is being assessed [moolyamapan (: ]. Instead of just having 4 unit tests and 2 semester exams, they have put in place formative assessments, which assess the students' daily learning. The summative assessments, which are given lesser importance, replaces the unit and semester tests. The students are supposed to be evaluated in 5 different ways (orals, written, projects, homework, class work, group discussions etc). This is supposed to reduce the pressure on the students and also is recognising the fact that different students perform differently in different tests and making them all just write, is not really going to show their real mastery.
Now when it comes to implementation, the whole point is lost. In my school now the last week of the month, no teachers are in classrooms. All of them are preparing their formative assessment reports. The students and left to do what they please in their classrooms wasting precious time (their favourite past time being shouting and howling, especially the seniors). I first explained to the senior teacher who is responsible for getting the records in, the actual idea behind these changes. I also told her that it is not about just making these reports, but it is about observing and testing the students in such a way that the results can be put to use in improving the teaching process. She responded by telling me that the Zilla Parishad people are only going to check the records and they are not going to come and observe the classrooms.
The next day when she reminded me that I need to make separate sheets for each student and one sheet for all, I asked her whether we can keep the work lesser. Since she thought I was worried about my spending too much time in doing that, she told me to just use my class time to do that. I told I am not bothered about the time I spend, as I need to prepare the sheets for only 13 students and it is not going to take much time and I will do that at home. By this time I was pleading with her and I told her that I am only worried about the other teachers spending their class time. By the time she left my class I was in tears and she just couldn't understand why I was crying in front of my kids for a silly matter like that.

This was a thing which I wanted to change, thought I could, but failed miserably.