Day 214 and 215: Keeping up... but not running
Trip Start Nov 11, 2009
273Trip End Ongoing
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This week has seen me getting to work on some of the midterm exams which I have to write (a surreal experience to be sure) and submit by later in the month. I put together what would be considered a fairly easy set of questions for M2 and then had the chance to have my expectations immediately lowered by the Unit test I had prepared for 2/11 (who you'll remember, are the stronger class).
Almost as soon as they saw the questions I was assailed by piteous cries of "Oh Ajarn, very difficult!" which immediately led me to suspect that - more than any lack of ability - the root cause was a lack of motivation to try. The test was 'open book' so they had all of their in-class material to refer to and yet most of them still needed to be prompted to get their books out.
I gave a couple of hints (e.g. "These questions are on these parts of the subject" etc) and even though the test was clearly marked "Air Pollution" and I reiterated this several times, when I came to mark the sheets I found a few answers which were copied from the 'Land Pollution' or 'Global Warming' units. I don't think I am being unfair on these 'second language' learners, every question was phrased in more or less the exact wording of the notes and so even a partially motivated student should have been able to get 50% by searching for patterns of words (whether they comprehended or not).
After the test we had around 45 minutes to get started on "Water and Water pollution' starting with the water cycle (a fine opportunity for some long "sciencey" words that will feature in the exam as "match the word to it's definition") and - unsurprisingly, the class were a little unfocused - but in an affable way. One kid who always manages to make me laugh is C-Mos, he sits on the front row with his pal 'P' (that's right) and I think they are among the more inherently bright members of the class; C-Mos is also (*don's amateur psychiatrist's hat*) almost certainly on the ADHD spectrum as he frequently sits there clawing manically at his head and gurning with barely suppressed energy. Despite this, he and P are not really a disruptive influence (even if they do delight in over-zealously 'shushing' their classmates when the room gets noisy) and are often quick with the answers (even before Khet who sits at the back of the class - this led me to mistake him for a slacker in the first lesson, but he has turned out to be one of the smartest and most motivated students of all).
Looking at the test after the lesson had finished, I realised that most of the class had got 50%, however before I get too carried away I need to consider a) the 'open book' bonus, b) the 'co-operation' co-efficient and c) the 'blatant copying' factor. I resolved that I needed to increase the multiple choice element of the mid-term in order to give most of them a fair chance of passing. When it comes to exams the language barrier does have an effect I think: many of these students (most, in the case of 2/11) would have no trouble with this subject matter if it was delivered in their native tongue and would probably remember almost enough to pass without any issues at all; but throw in the extra challenge of studying in a second language and independent learning for effective retention will (I postulate - never having done it) become extremely difficult. This is just one of the reasons why I have heard some queries about the overall effectiveness of an EP as a learning process (rather than as a 'cash cow' where it's efficacy is unquestioned)
After school there was another session with the science readers and a new and reduced script for them to handle, I felt a little bit like I was nit picking with them on pronunciation (because I was) as they were all completely comprehensible now. Tomorrow they assured me that they would start memorising their pieces.
I headed home and considered going for a run again, however I reasoned that if I did then I would be late getting round to Johnny's - they usually look to get some food once the day's classes are over. So I bailed on the physical exercise in favour of mental exercise and headed over. In the event we took a little time to get going anyway since there was some landscaping going on in the back yard which Johm was overseeing, eventually though we sat down to lesson 4 and this was where some of my vocabulary started to become a little bit hazy, telling time is largely OK, but some of the words that go along with it (exactly, before, after - that sort of thing) have not yet cemented themselves into the old noggin; 'had not' I should say because tonight's lesson remedied some of that.
We went out to eat at the little place down the road from walking street where I ordered some fried fish that was mainly just batter and then headed back to the shop where they were going to watch a weird movie where the population of the world had largely succumbed to vampirism and they had a shortage of blood... human resistance... blah blah blah. It was interesting enough however that I needed JOhnny's help to tear myself away and head home to get a reasonably early night (after a couple more episodes of "Arrested development")
Thursday: Still somewhat bleary eyed I rose and made may way into school where the first lesson (English, M1) was largely a 'mopping up' session of bits and bobs from the 4th unit before their test tomorrow. After this there was an hour before our regular Thursday brunch (which we took at the canteen again), chatting about getting older and land ownership and stuff like that (we should have got some wine and called it a dinner party but that would have meant drinking 'Chateau de Loei' which would certainly have ruined the middle class vibe).
Moving on and 1400 saw the second installment of the M2 unit test and predictably, the bulk of the class were even more vociferous in their complaints with even less actual attempt at the paper (even Ploy complained as she worked although on this occasion - and not for the first time - she was outdone in the test by Kaem, who would appear to be the quiet 'dark horse' of the class). These two girls managed to score higher than the best of 2/11 and the 'blatant copying' factor pulled up the averages of the class as a whole (I'd like to say I do my best to prevent the blatant copying but to try would achieve very little except make me unpopular and the copying more hurried, and therefore heedless - what I do try and say regularly is "if you are going to help each other then do make sure you understand why you are writing an answer, if you do not understand then you MUST ASK ME (they don't, of course, but they can't say that I haven't given them teh option when they come to failing the mid term - and some of them WILL fail, no matter how much multiple choice I put in)
Another session with the science readers followed and they are all getting very good at the introduction now (shame we haven't been able to start on the rest) and have all memorised their pieces (Ploy claimed she couldn't but proved herself wrong when she tried). We also covered a few of the questions that might crop up around the subject and I wrote down some brief answers for them to rewrite in their own words.
I had opted not to head over to JOhnny's tonight (Johm said I could go over every night as she has free time but I figured she might want to use a bit of that free time herself) so I stayed home (apart from a trip over to walking street for food) watched some more "Arrested development" and started to get things ready for the departure the following day . I wasn't too successful at this however, and crashed out around 10pm - usually a 6 hour night is enough when I am not training but clearly I was still running at a deficit.