Thursday, July 16, 2009

En Universidad Catolica

I thought that today I would give the reader a little idea of what teaching is like at "Catolica" for folks in the PSU in Paraguay program. The first detail that I will share is something I didn't notice for a couple of days. When you enter into Catolica, you don't have to open a door. You walk up a staircase an you are in the building. There is no door to open until you get to the classroom.

The alert reader will discern from this that the building has no central heat and air. Each room has its own individual unit, which I believe is a heat-pump, but I have not asked.

When you walk into the university, you walk past a porter who keeps the non-University people out.

On the way to my classroom, I walk past the office of Diana who helps with house-keeping chores. She makes copies of exams, she gives me new markers for the board, and once she bought a scientific calculator.

The room I am in has no real window. It does have its own air-conditioning unit. It has a whiteboard attached to the wall. There is a screen and a projector. It is equipped for powerpoint. Indeed, with the lack of windows, it is better for powerpoint that 215 Yates at PSU, but I digress.

But a class isn't the room, the class is the students. On the first day of class, the students walked into the room, and all of the boys looked me in the eye and shook my hand. They all greeted each other and shook each other's hands. They started conversations with each other that continued in a more or less continuous fashion for the next three hours as I taught. The only exception to this were the breaks, recreo, where they could concentrate entirely on talking to one another without the distraction of a lecture.

At present, this has improved. This has happened in three parts. The first of which is that I had a serious talk with the class explaining my expectations of them. Second, I've attached more names to faces, and when I turn around and see someone talking, I call them by name and have a small conversation with them. Third, we are deeper into calculus, at a point beyond where many of them have mastered. There were times yesterday when the silence was almost deafening.

Every day I cover the amount of material that I would cover in a week back home. This is done on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday I test. It might work better with fewer exams or with a different design. If I ever get to do this again, I will try to work in more collaborative work which I think would help with classroom management. (This is a suggestion from Alice Sagehorn.)

I'm also trying to get to know the students better as individuals and to let them know me better. This is, of course, part of the joy of teaching.


Susan said...

Females in the class, or all just "boys?"

Bobby Winters said...

Mostly boys. I've got Maria, two Natalias, a Maria, and a Marcela. The rest are boys. They are the talkers. There are very strong male friendships.

Bobby Winters said...

Oops, only one Maria.