Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer School

I just wrote this for my VolunteerReportForm. I sent it to the EYD Program Manager, with whom I will have a PTIP during MST. acronyms!
This class ran from 1/3/12 - 2/9/12

One of the things that I found most upsetting about the school in my site was the way many students got left behind. They never learned to read well and with such a reading and copying based curriculum they weren't able to keep up, and they never received any remedial help unless their parent's enrolled them in private lessons with Prof. Hilde (who is quite good). These students get stuck in third or fourth grade and repeatedly fail to pass until they eventually give up and drop out as 14 year old fourth graders. It is strikingly inefficient and also heartbreaking.

My feeling was that a little extra effort targeted to students that start to fall behind could be enough to cement their basic reading skills and build their confidence, so that they would be able to advance again with the rest of their class. I decided to offer a special reading class, targeting these students with a high risk of dropping out early. I would teach it myself and though it wouldn't be sustainable in the sense of training local educators I thought that the example would be valuable and more importantly the positive effects of confidence and increased abilities for students (if the class was a success) would be long lasting and worth the effort.

In my service so far my chief problem had been getting people to take my free classes or clubs seriously. Attendance would collapse after the first few meetings. I knew if an optional summer school class was going to have any chance of succeeding it would take a lot of effort before hand to promote it to the parents and to establish it as an important opportunity to be taken seriously.

During the school year I had performed two diagnostic tests  and while they showed a disappointingly high amount of random variance I was able to see which students were unable to read and had failed to improve during the year. I used this information to select 30 some students from the third and fourth grades to invite to attend my class. I typed up formal letters of invitation to the parents in the correct Paraguayan style and handed them out after a short speech at the school on the day parents came in to collect grade-books. The letters had a detachable section to be returned to me before the start of the class with "sí, mi hijo/hija va a assistir" or "no, no va a asistir " check boxes to be marked by the parents.

Ultimately about 10 of the invited students attended nearly all the classes, which were Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-10am. I was going to have separate 3rd and 4th grade classes, but we ended up combining them because we had so few from 4th grade. The class went well. Though it took some preparation, much of the work had been to find the right students and to get the letters right to convince their parents to make them come to my class. I'm glad I got the preparation right, for once.

In my new site in Natalio they have a Nivelación class and a special Profesor de Apoyo, the function of both of which is to help these students which start to fall behind. Now after seeing this in Paraguay I wish even more I could help implement in Nueva Germania

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