Friday, February 18, 2011

A Teacher’s Musing: On Teacher Writing and Reading

(In which she has the remarkable bluntness to ask – which is. . . okay.)


I feel utterly guilty for suspending the draft of my research proposal in lieu of the freshest, newest teacher experience I have for today. Consider this a news flash in the middle of a peaceful lunch or merienda.

So I have a new student named Mileah. She’s cute and bubbly. But compared to the conversational competence of Gerald and Jack, she has a long way to travel. But nevertheless she’s using the same book that Gerald did – a reading and writing book. (You may want to click here and/or here to know a couple of things about the book . . . and Gerald.)

And today is our first testing day. The test includes identification, enumeration and event sequencing for the stories we have discussed involving colors and colorgenics, superstitions about numbers and the Hawaiian way of celebrating Thanksgiving. For the writing part, there were identification tasks wherein she’s expected to name what part of the essay or paragraph is being described. The last one involves three paragraphs and she’s supposed to encircle the main idea and underline the supporting details. Yes, I know that sounds elementary.

Towards the end of the first hour she seemed uneasy and started to mutter something. It turned out she was telling me that when she studied for the test, she didn’t expect that she should have memorized the stories. Memorize. That struck me as though I am a terror teacher who adheres completely to the absolute power of rote memorization when it comes to influencing test scores. Or the creation of tests itself. She strongly claimed, albeit in a very cute way, that those questions involving memorization do not actually improve any skill.

Wow. Not that I have never received such complaint. But to tell me it doesn’t improve any skill? And that was also ironic considering that it came from someone from a country where students are expected to memorize roughly a hundred words in at least a week for the sake of widening their vocabulary. No and I’m not even talking about vocabulary usage. Just plain memorization of the term and the definition and poof! That’s a test!

Now, that reminds me of Gerald. And honestly, I have to be thankful that I am now dealing with a considerably shy girl and not that obstinate lad. But nevertheless I still gave the speech that I guess would continue to be handy for as long as I work here – that the class is also a reading class and readings were not done to be kept in the dark corners of one’s memory. It has to be utilized and therefore understood. That memorizing doesn’t necessarily mean understanding. That the test doesn’t require them to write in verbatim. That we have discussed the stories a lot of times. That there is a reason why there are comprehension questions at the end of every article or essay in the book. That there is a reason behind the mere existence of an article or an essay in a textbook other than to fill space.

She said she understands. I hope so. Now how am I going to clarify the scope and limitation for my research proposal again? Ah . . .