"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to School!

School is now in full swing! Since I seem to rarely talk about my teaching in my blog, I feel that I should fill you in (although it may or may not be as exciting as climbing mountains or visiting the village people…)

I am teaching the same students that I had last year, although they are no longer freshmen (they moved up to the sophomore level). The new freshmen won’t come until February or March, which is disappointing, because that means they will be missing out on a full two months of learning… It makes it just about impossible to finish the entire year of freshman work when you start two months behind. However, when they come, we’ll get down to business (at least in Mathematics and English).

In Mathematics this year, I have set up a simple structure where we first discuss the necessary concepts for the lessons, then we do 3 or 4 problems together that encompass everything they need to know for the lesson, and then the students are off to work on their own. If you have read my previous blogs, you will remember that many of the math problems provided in their textbooks are far beyond the level of the average (or above average) high school student. For this reason (and because I only have 5 textbooks for 70 students), I type the problems for their lessons, and then I make a copy of the problems for each student.

The problems that I write are “scaffolded,” which means that they start out with basic problems and then gradually move up to problems like you find in their textbook. The students seem much happier now—they are not immediately frustrated as soon as they start their first independent problem, which is unlike how they were when we used the textbooks. And, to top it off, they are much more likely to solve the harder problems after doing some of the easier ones (the easy problems build their confidence). What I am thinking is that when we are done with this year’s work, I can just put all the lessons I wrote in a book and make lots and lots of money.

English, on the other hand, is not as easy to teach as Mathematics. Where should you begin when teaching a language? You have speaking, listening, grammar, spelling, reading stories, reading poems, reading non-fiction, and writing in a vast assortment of genres. Kenya’s solution to this problem is to teach a lesson from each topic every week. I feel that it makes for a confusing week when you jump through so many topics. Yet, I am still using their method, and while there are many lessons that flop (like today’s lesson on context clues), I feel that their English is rapidly improving (their writing, reading, and speaking all seem to be growing). So, while I have toyed with different approaches to teaching English, I suppose I will just stick to what I am doing.

Continue praying for the students and me. Pray especially that the students will see the need in their education—one of our smartest students was just married and will probably never enter a classroom again (even though she was just a sophomore).

I also just finished my applications for graduate school—you are welcome to pray that I get accepted (the competition is stiff for philosophy and theology)…

Here are some pictures of my students decorating the classroom during the first week (there was nothing on the walls last year, which made the room look pretty depressing, so I thought that we should change that):

1 comment:

benkenwill said...

Zach! What grad programs are you applying to?