After a week with the computers, I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t in a school, despite the scream mass of childer running around me at break times. I said to our headmaster that I’d like to spend a little more time in the class room. He dutifully obliged by placing me with Mr Luddy’s Grade 6.
This was a different planet from the chaos of my previous classroom encounter. For a start, the class is smaller, with less than 30 learners, and these learners are that bit older, and so that bit calmer.
And finally, Mr Luddy is the deputy head, a trained teacher, and a dedicated educator, in complete control of his class. His classes were structured, and they had a flow and cadence that was almost musical; as the kids’ interest in one subject started to wane, he would move onto the next. As the kids were working, he would by turns cajole, exhort, inspire and amuse to keep them engaged. The difference between this experience and my last could not have been more stark. I felt little bored, and quite unnecessary in the class, up until I brought the boys out to play football, when I was told that I wasn’t taking my refereeing duties seriously enough.
It was an interesting experience for a number of reasons. First of all, I had very much forgotten how a primary school class should be structured – this information was to prove invaluable for our next classroom experience. Secondly, it’s interesting to note the difference class’s background made to the classroom environment.
Several years ago, the school was only drawing from the local area, and was in danger of running out of numbers. To avoid having to close its doors, the school cast its net a little wider, and brought in kids from some of the local informal settlements and children’s homes. The kids that we had taught previously in Grade 3 had been from this background, and the kids in Grade 6 were from the more settled background, and this made a huge difference. All of the kids had the basics: pencils, erasers, rulers – in Grade 3, this was the exception rather than the rule.
Finally, it was interesting to see that even in what is probably the best behaved class in the school, that there are still problems. The did a practice assessment, and we marked it in class. Only 2/3 of the class got marks that would have passed them. Some of them were failing on things as basic as not reading the questions correctly, some on basic arithmetic.
Join us later in the week for Part 3: The Storm – the tale of the week Helen and I spent in charge of the largest class in the school.