Well I'm having fun getting into the classroom scene here at SAC and I've been wanting to post a small profile of class life. A teaching position opened up this term to teach English to the first year or form one college students. That is around seventh grade in US speak. Though the age range for my two classes of forty is between 9 and 15. Mode is somewhereabouts 11, that seems young to me for seventh grade, but here there aren't strict regulations about when you start school and many parents put their kids into school very young to get them out of the house. The down side to that system is many of the kids don't have the mental development for the concepts they are supposed to be learning according to their prescribed curriculum.
Some interesting bits about the challenges teaching here: in most traditional US school designs the classroom is the teachers domain. The teacher can come, prepare the room, and manage it however works for him. Here, the class belongs to the students and the teachers rotate, which means there is very little time to get ahead of anything you might want to write on the board/setup. Also, the schedule reads like this 7:00am- 7:40am English 7:40am- 8:20am History. If you read carefully you will see one needs to have the holiness to bi-locate to be in one's next class on time. Periods are 40 minutes each and what with the need to bi-locate and all, with a class of 40 (a small class for Cameroon!) it would be impossible for each student to even have a minute of personal attention per class. If you have the first period you only have 20 minutes to teach because often the doors are not even unlocked on time, the children don't arrive until ten minutes later (for a variety of reasons) and then they are expected to clean the room before the beginning of the class (no janitors).
Grading. So again, in the US a "C" is considered average. Here the minimum passing grade is considered "average." That would be 50 percent. The student needs to only master half of any given material to pass. From my discussion with other teachers, and my own observations, the grades of most classes tend to follow a very sharp bell curve. About ten percent have actual zeros, 15 percent excel, and the rest mostly fall between fifty or sixty percent. I was really surprised that the the median was so low! Maybe because of where I'm from a "C" seems like a bad grade, but that the majority of students (80-85 percent) would fail according to US grading rubrics is so shocking to me. More shocking perhaps because before I arrived here I kept hearing things like: "This is one of the best schools in the Country." And "Cameroon has one of the finest education systems in all of Africa. "
What else? Oh about five kids in each of my classes are totally illiterate. It's fascinating since I've never seen someone who is truly illiterate who isn't four! There isn't any separate remedial section they can go to so I've been tutoring them on my own after classes are over. The rest of my class is at about a 1st or 2nd grade reading and writing level. My six year olds, Helena and James, read and write and spell better than many of my students. That alone tells me the power of reading aloud to your children!
So that is a small window into teaching at a "fancy" boarding school in Cameroon.
En masse the children are occasionally nightmarish to deal with (what can you expect from a bunch of cooped up, under fed, sleep deprived prepubescents. But individually they are all very sweet and interesting and kind. They all have such big brown eyes, that melt my heart when they beg me "please madam, please come see us tonight and read us a story from your book" (I've been reading them Aesop's Fables). I'm sure your heart would melt too if you could hear their funny accents. :)