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Center experience: main concerns

December 1, 2010

It has been 1.5 weeks now that I come to the DAAN center. I am not usually nervous, which I am really happy about. I feel comfortable teaching and interacting with them. We have only been doing English lessons, since apparently the students mentioned that they would like to learn that the most in the center. Samvit, the center director, acknowledged that English classes in the schools are usually not good, and that the teachers often do not know English enough to teach the students.

I do have a lot of concerns though; the biggest being a few students are much behind the rest of the class. Even if I give a 1-on-1 time for 5 mins in the class, they probably only understand 10% of what I say, and they will soon forget it. The lessons in the class are not one step ahead of what they know.

I am not sure how this issue has not been addressed before. I have recommended to Samvit, the center director, to hold a special class for these few students. The plan is to start with a few evaluations to see where their English are at. We never know for sure as these students are always really quiet and shy in the class (another sign that they do not understand what is going on). I will give an update next week (or two) about their progress.

I also asked the students to bring their English textbook to the center. Much to my surprise, the books contains lots of readings and exercises. There are marks on the book so I thought they must be studying hard and understanding the texts. However, when I asked them if they knew what those stories meant, they quickly shook their heads. Huh, I wonder why. Samvit further told me that the teachers must have gone through the book quickly without carefully making sure the students understand the materials. The teachers may also be pressed for time so they cannot spend extra time to repeat the materials. Ah, makes sense, I thought. I think it may have been the same as (most of) the elementary schools in Indonesia, back in my time.

There goes my second concern:  the students have a limited number of vocabularies for their grade, and particularly struggle in reading. Yes, they can read a story, but they do not understand many words in it, not to mention understand the meaning of the story. Just a few days ago, we read a story about school garden. We spent an hour reading 3 paragraphs (about 10 sentences total). In the beginning, I drew six big circles on the white board, and labeled them with: locations, flowers, things that move around, actions, adjectives, and garden tools. I asked them to point out the words that belong to these categories. This was doubly-hard for them:

  1. They had to understand the meaning of the categories
  2. They had to understand the words in the story
  3. They had to associate a word to its bigger category

It sounded simple to me, but it was difficult for the students. They seemed to get it at the end of the day, but I am yet to see whether they will be able to do this activity again for the rest of the story.

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