Sunday, May 15, 2011


Check out my facebook page to find newly uploaded photo albums from the whole trip thus far.  I have had a good internet connection this weekend but I probably won't be able to put pics up like this again until I return for good.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Exam Week


Exam week.  Yesterday the girls took their Biology exams, today is Spanish, tomorrow Chemistry.  Yesterday’s exam went well, everyone passed and Sandra got a 97.  Tomorrow’s exam will be a joke because they can only answer, at most, 9 of the 24 questions because this year they switched the books’ information but when they made the test it was still from the old material.  Now, four questions pertain to our information, and there are five more that they could answer because of material that I taught them in Lab.  
The past week and a half with them has had its ups and downs.  Before Semana Santa, they were pretty unmotivated, didn’t participate as much as they used to, and weren’t doing their homework.  I thought they were just getting tired after a long trimester--I was too.  So, I expected them to come back from the break refreshed and more ready to go.  Instead, they were just as non-participative and hadn’t done any of the homework.  I was trying to talk with them and get a feel for what they thought needed the most review, but they were not saying anything, and they would not answer my questions, so I told them that I was trying to make things interactive, but if that’s not what they wanted, we would just do book exercises.  No response.  So we started with the book exercises.
The next day after lab I had a talk with them about how it felt like I had lost their respect, that they had been doing well in class, until recently, etc, and that class would start to be different in the second trimester, that they would be held more accountable for participation.  I didn’t feel like this talk did all that I wanted it to.  It definitely helped a little, but it didn’t reach them and make them return to participating well.  
So, the next day I talked with them more from the heart.  What I said to them will remain between us, but I talked to them about role models I have had, and what I expect and hope for with them.  This talk definitely reached them more, and they were almost instantly warmer.  Their participation improved greatly within the same day, and since then things have continued progressing.  They have been working very hard, preparing for their exams, and I am very proud of them.  
Other than my own students in class, things have been going very well with the other students outside of class.  They could tell that something was bothering me in the beginning of last week, which started to affect the way they interacted with me--because, heaven forbid, I should have a bad day.  Now, however, I am interacting well with each grade, and I am looking forward to this next semester when I might have different grades in class, or at least in the poetry club that I will have time to do every week.

Well, I lied.  Immediately after writing that the Chemistry test would be a joke, I saw Sr. Theresa and she told me that we had just received special permission from IHER to write our own Chemistry test.  Which means: "Mateo, write a Chemistry final exam in a couple of hours and tell your girls what to study so that they can study for one day and take the test tomorrow."
I started out figuring out what types of problems I would ask on the test, then wrote a study guide out for them so they could start studying while I was writing the test.  For the next three or so hours until lunch I was in furious test-writing mode and just finished before lunch.  It used some multiple choice questions similar to those that are on the stupid IHER tests, but that were better worded and at least had the correct spelling and answer choices, and then the second half of the test was fill-in the blanks and diagrams/drawings of molecules for them to name, label or draw.  I always have worked best under pressure, and I think the test came out pretty well.
After lunch, I reviewed with the girls whenever there was free time to do so, even staying late that night with two of them who needed extra help, but as I was going home it was with a sense of unease in my stomach.  Not only did we have to cover most of the book in the last two weeks because of all the review I had to do in the beginning, not only is all of this material Organic Chemistry, which is hard for even college students, any type of Chem is the hardest and most dreaded class for every girl here.  Add to that the fact that I had shot myself (and them) in the foot and told them to not worry about the Chemistry exam because it would be a lot of material from the old book that I would end up giving them the answers to, and finally the fact they did not have any direction for their studies until about 10 am the day before.  
The next day, Thursday, we reviewed a couple of things first thing in the morning, and then they took the test.  Most of them passed, only three of them have to take the retest (for grades less than 60%).  For the ones who did pass, the average was a 70%, which I was pretty happy with because, despite all of the factors I already mentioned, this is a huge improvement over the quizzes and tests throughout the year.  I was even ok with those who didn’t pass, because, for the most part, their grades were improvements over their test or quiz grades throughout the year.  I told them to not beat themselves up too much over it because, considering all of the factors laid out against them, they ended up understanding enough of the material that, when they study more and take the retest, they will have the opportunity to really improve their final grade.  I’m almost positive that the first test score will go away as if it never happened.  Also, these final exams are worth 60% of their final grade and their work in the classroom is only 40% (not my choice, but it’s adapted for the long-distance learning format of IHER), so if they do well on this next exam their final grades have the potential to be very high.Therefore, one of my tasks this weekend will be to make the retest.  I will have to make it similar to the first one, but different enough for it to be a different test for them.  
Last week we also received next Trimester’s schedules.  I will be teaching Math, English and a continuation of Chemistry and Biology with the seniors, English to Tercero Ciclo (9th grade), two-three poetry workshops a week, three physical education classes again, I’m still going to the farm Tuesday mornings, and I will be working in the health clinic every Monday from 8-12:30.  This trimester will be very different, and very demanding.  I am nervous about the English classes--it’s hard enough to teach our grammar rules to native speakers.  I am looking forward to the change though, there will be many new experiences and challenges.