Friday, April 23, 2010

Lamenting the Realities…Celebrating the Possibilities

The schools here aren’t great. That’s the first reality. They are overcrowded, teachers are exhausted, they take exams too often, and the grading scale is suspect. It’s weird, the scale actually changes in different grades. In late primary school (grade 6-7) you get a 1-5 grade, 5 being the highest. In Grade 5 it’s 1-4. But it’s equally divided across the 100% spectrum. So, you get a 4 for 75-100% proficiency, a 3 for 50-74% proficiency, and so on. A 3 is actually considered pretty good. So, if I only know just over half the right answers I’m doing pretty well. Obviously this doesn’t show much learning. I think you only have to get 2’s to pass the grade.
Well, yesterday Kyle brought me his report card for 1st term. He got mostly 3’s and a couple of 2’s. So, he was decently pleased, but most of his 3’s were right at 50%, so he’s very close to them all being 2’s. I’m disappointed because Kyle is really bright. He communicates well, especially compared to his peers, so I figured he would do decent in school. Yesterday he asked me to help me with his homework. I have NEVER actually heard him say he has homework. I ask the kids all the time if they have done their homework and they ALWAYS say that they don’t get homework. I think in high school they start getting real homework.
So, he brought over a little worksheet that was practicing capital letters, commas, and full stops (that’s what they call a period). He had to rewrite some sentences with the correct punctuation. I would have him read out the sentence first and I realized that he was really struggling with the reading. He’s in grade 5 now and it seemed like stuff he should be able to handle. The scary part was that he had no real concept of how to sound out the word or break it into manageable parts. We did about half the sheet and then he stopped to eat some dinner with Kieren because he was going to ‘babysit’ her while I went to practice and Sarah had a meeting at the house. (He basically keeps her entertained so that Sarah can focus, and he gets a few rand in his bank.) There he was sitting at the table and he looks at me and says, “Can I ask you a question?” Of course I’m like sure, but very interested in what was about to come. He asked, “Can you help me with my reading?” It was such a sweet moment. It was so humble of him to ask for help with something. I don’t really know how to teach reading (maybe Woo can give me tips since he was my STAR reading teacher at East Millbrook when I was in 6th grade), but I think he really just needs somebody to practice with him. So, another door has opened to implant something really important in him. More important than an opportunity to play with a soccer ball (though I hate to admit it!). Most kids around here ask to play our XBOX, for some food, or to play with the ball; but Kyle is starting to ask for something else really important.
We’ve been sad recently because Kyle’s mom said he can’t go to church with us anymore. They go to the New Apostolic Church, which I’m learning can be a bit of a ‘cult’. The evangelical churches here seem to be disconnected from it. I need to learn more about it. But with him continuing to open the door for us implant these other truths I’m not worried about that. Please pray that we’ll get this time to help with reading and to study the Bible.


1 comment:

Allison said...

Hey Casey,

In Lesotho, 40% was passing. I often asked myself about that. Think about Driver's Ed, for example. If someone you knew passed Driver's Ed with 42%, would you feel comfortable driving on the same road with them?! It's sad. Lesotho also has to do a lot of teaching to exams instead of just teaching to learn. I think a lot of kids slip through the cracks that way.

Good luck, and know that you guys are making a huge difference! :-)