Ongoing Challenges in Learning

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I’m so behind in blogging, and I miss it.  I’ve been teaching the girls a lot.  Rather, I’ve been teaching them how to study.   We are making new starts, with English as their language of study.    We made this change from Bengali for many reasons.  One is that I was never able in five years to find anyone to take over the responsibility of managing their course work, homework, tests, study methods, etc.  And coming from the US, I had zero credibility with the Bengali teachers I hired.  As the girls get older, some of the fundamental weaknesses show up.

We have a strong teaching staff for the big girls now especially with Dr. Purba Rudra joining us, and with Maggie.   I hired a young man to be my assistant, Sudipendu Dutta as he has experience in admin.  But he turns out to be an incredible teacher also, so I get less help, but our teaching is stronger.  The part I bring is really more about how to study, how to learn, how to help each person learn her own way to get the information into her brain so she can use it, recall it, think about it.  In the pictures above the girls had put together lists of words they didn’t know, and then I had them put them on flash cards, different colors for each girl.  Then they alphabetized them.  It was just a way of getting them to actually examine the  words, letter by letter, and a way to think of them as groups related to a letter and a sound.

I’ve tried some of this before.  I’ve talked with them about how to find what a paragraph is about, the when where, why, how, who, etc., but they are listening more now.  They are taking me more seriously.  I believe that fundamentally they do not believe they can succeed, but they are beginning to realize their failure to convince me!  I just keep saying, “OK, so then we have to try harder, or a new way.”  The ones who really cannot learn are doing other things, including training as helpers to the special educators.  And they are helping with the little ones, giving them big sister care… and also getting special treats along the way.  Recently they have asked for some teaching and so they are getting some low stress teaching.  But my hard core smart kids who have tried and tried to convince me they cannot do the work, and now applying themselves more and asking questions more. It’s not a smooth process.

The early deprivation has taken its toll.  I’ve had to try to understand  how they are thinking, or not thinking.  They tend to compartmentalize as if each subject is a separate language.  My favorite recent problem was in physics, and Big Bang.  They didn’t connect Bang of Big Bang with bang as in, “Don’t let Rani bang her head.”    They thought it was a proper name.   In their early childhood, and also in their Bengali education, children and teachers didn’t engage in discussion.  It was only, lecture, memorize, repeat back.  The repeat back had to be exact, whether it was understood or not.

Well, this isn’t exciting stuff, but it’s the stuff of my days.

We are churning out (slowly) grant applications;  we are almost done with the website.  In fact our part is done but there are lots of little things to be fixed which aren’t getting fixed without many phone calls, Google chats, and emails.

I will write more, as it is, as it happens….

Michelle

June 2012
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