Kenya, Teaching

A Good Teacher?

Two of my three classes finished today and they’ll take their exams next week. I didn’t have any failures last semester but this time around we had some irregularities. For instance, the students reported to school two weeks late! I don’t know why, but they did. The IT instructors had assumed this meant we’d have two weeks tacked onto the end of the semester but we were wrong to assume. When I thought we were halfway done with the semester we learned that we only had two weeks left. Ahhh! So I had to rush my last assignments, tests, and lectures, but I think I managed OK.

One metric I have is the number of students who correctly answer a certain question on my final test; last semester every student got it incorrect. I’m not sure what I did differently this time, but everyone got it correct. Woohoo! It’s a simple logic-based programming question and I ask them what the following code should print when it is executed:

int cows = 10;

if(cows > 7)
     cout << "I have a lot of cows!"<< endl; } else {      cout << "I need more cows!" << endl; }

Maybe that means I’m not doing too bad at this teaching thing. Sometimes I really hate going to class, but I am starting to notice that I only hate it when I have to deliver notes on something I either think is pointless, or something I don’t even understand myself. On really good days I feel like a stand-up comedian, teasing the students for being so quiet, impressing them with my knowledge of “Sheng” (Swahili/English slang spoken on the streets of Nairobi), or telling funny stories. They are a hard crowd to please, but they usually start gossiping and laughing the second I walk out the door when class is over. Besides, I laugh whether they do or not… because I think I’m funny.

In other news, Tala has finally started raining. Unfortunately when it’s not raining it’s really freakin’ hot. I’m glad to see plants turning green again, primarily because green plants aren’t flammable, but also because this place was so dry, dusty, and brown the last few months. In fact, I had been afraid to burn my growing pile of trash for the last few months because I had visions of accidentally sparking some shrubbery and burning my house (and the college) down.

Have no fear, I can assure you I am comfortably posting this from my unburned house.

3 Comments to “A Good Teacher?”

  1. Tracy

    Hey Alan, Sorry this comment is so late, but I’m just catching up on your blog now that I’m home (My Father is ill so I’m back in Canada on Compassionate leave). We had the SAME thing happen in our school this year. The students showed up 5 weeks late because the universities needed to make first selection. When they arrived we were under the impression that we would have an extra 5 weeks at the end to teach the important stuff like anatomy and physiology, but after 2 weeks we found out that they weren’t extending the term so we had to pack 11 weeks of class into 6 weeks. It was so discouraging. My colleagues handled it much better than I did. They were much more able to be flexible and adaptable than me. Unfortunately this kind of thing is more than commonplace and people have just adapted to doing the best they can in a less than ideal situation.

    I don’t want to discount your wonderful teaching skills, as I’m sure you are doing a great job, but did you consider that the students may have shared the exam question? I would just be a bit suspicious that EVERYONE got it right. I know it happens a lot at our college that the students sell old exam questions. A student came to my office once with like 4 old exams and was asking me to give him the answers….it was a good try I guess

    1. Alan Author

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m not sure if my students cheated or not, but part of me doesn’t really care; that question is on a test which is responsible for 10% of their final grade. About the past exams, it seems to be a policy around here to go over past exams with the students… Whatever! I dunno, some of the students seem to just “get it” with or without the extra help like past exams and cheating, and it always seemed like that was the case in University in the USA too.

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