My first semester as a health teacher in Moldova has officially ended. As much as there have been ups and downs, it is hard to believe that I am half way through my first year of teaching. I just had a great talk with my tutor/adjunct director, and I am hopeful and excited to start implementing some ideas that extend beyond the classroom beginning in 2013.
This last week has been pretty cool. It started out with the different grades presenting final posters of various topics we have discussed throughout the last few weeks. That went well enough, although we had several kids absent so for each grade, at least a third to half of the class didn’t present, which I found frustrating. My partner teacher waved this off and seemed to think it was normal, and didn’t really understand why I was a little flustered that so many kids just didn’t show up for the final project.
I tried to explain to her a little bit about the grading system in the States versus Moldova because they work very differently. Grades in Moldova are subjective to a certain extent; for every lesson, each student present is given a grade from 1 to 10, 10 being the best. In general, students usually receive something between a 7 to 10, although I have seen a few sixes and fives before. The grades (or “notă” as they are called”) are hand written in the official grade book, called the Catalog. Each class must hand carry the Catalog from one class to the next (each class seems to kind of have one or two students that are in charge of this and make sure it gets picked up and dropped off with the respective teacher for
each lesson). The subjective part comes with the fact that the teachers must decide each student’s grade for each lesson before the Catalog is taken to the next class; thus notă for each class are usually a rather rushed process completed either during class if the kids are given time to work in groups or by themselves, or sometime in the 10-15 minute break period in between classes; thus notă for each class commonly and unfortunately tend to be based on reputation, i.e. those standout students usually earn a 9 or a 10 by default, those “screw-up” (or less engaged) students earn something between a 5 and a 7, and everyone else in between gets an 8. Consequently, there is not really an opportunity for a “troublesome” kid to redeem themselves because they have already been labeled as “troublesome” and they don’t have any incentive to change.
These grades are then added together and divided by however many classes the student attended that semester (i.e. the total number of notas they received for the respective semester). This is all done out loud during the last class; the students even help calculate the grades, and then the teacher reads everyone’s grade out loud to the whole class. At least this is how my partner teachers did this.
So back to why half the class didn’t show up for their final presentations. I tried to explain to my partner teacher that in the States, grades are weighted based on percentages, so there is an incentive for the students to show up on the day of the final test/presentation/whatever, because it is worth more than the rest of the days. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know the words for “weighted” or “incentive” in Romanian, so I really wasn’t able to get my point across. Story of my life right now.
But back to fun stuff. Friday was basically a fun day, as lessons were officially over, and the kids put on an end of the year ceremony for the teachers/parents. There was a fun little Santa Clause/clown act in the afternoon for the youngest grades. I found it amusing and slightly ironic that many kids seemed to dress up in random costumes, kind of like Halloween (the ironic part would be the fact that we were not given the blessing of the community to put on the Halloween party this year, but it is ok for the kids to dress up in various costumes for Christmas). The two costumes that stood out to me were a witch and a bright orange fox. Also, strangely enough, the Santa Clause for the youngest kids carried a rather creepy looking snake staff. Possibly an explanation was given about this that I didn’t understand…
Anyway, all in all it was a really fun day, and I’m glad I was able to partake in the events. I will be in Greece until after the New Year, however, the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, so it will be interesting to experience all of this when I get back.
I wish everyone a safe, warm, and wonderful holiday season :)