Friday, July 6, 2012

Conselho de Notas

As an industrial and commercial school, my school has different breaks than the secondary schools where most PCVs work. This is both a benefit and a detriment – conferences aren’t scheduled during our breaks (because no one else has them) which gives us more time to travel. However this also means we have to miss school for PC conferences. We aren’t usually able to travel with other volunteers, but this almost always guarantees that the volunteers will be at site when I pass through. Over the last month, Estrela do Mar hasn’t had classes and after making through the much dreaded conselho de notas, I fled Inhassoro to visit some friends up North – spreading New Girl episodes and the Hunger Games movie as I went. But that’ll be the subject of the next blog – this one is dedicated to the joy that is conselho de notas.

Conselho de notas is something I had been dreading for a while. Most of the secondary school PCVs miss the first couple of conselhos due to the PC conference schedule. Since we’re on a semester system instead of trimesters, I am not so lucky. There was a mid-semester conselho in April . . . but the school forgot to tell Zach and I about it, so we missed it (and thanks to Aunt Mary’s visit in August, I’ll miss it again. Halleluiah!) But there was no missing this end of the semester conselho. In the US computers take over most of the functions of a conselho de notas, which is to verify that the grades have been recorded correctly in about 4 different places – namely by reading aloud columns of numbers while the teachers attempt to check that all the grades are correct (with between 20-50 students in each of my turmas, each of which have three different grades to be verified, I will probably have nightmares about numbers being shouted at me in Portuguese until I am old and gray). Anyways, the first part of conselho is just making sure that everyone calculated their averages correctly and properly copied them in the various books. Then we get to the fun part – reading each student’s grades, assigning them a behavior grade and, if needed, discussing whether or not any of their grades should be changed. This time the discussion wasn’t too heated because students can only fail at the end of the year. I imagine that the end of the year conselho will be pure hell . . . I really don’t want to change my grades as I feel that if you put forth pretty much any effort in my class (and don’t cheat) you’ll pass. If I can understand chemistry in Portuguese, my students should be able to as well J

Basically it was three days of this craziness after which everyone led me to believe that I was done for the semester. Luckily I didn’t escape right away, since when I went back to the school at the end of the next week (to check for the tenth time that I did not have to do anything else before traveling), I found out that I had to sign all of the grade sheets and that a number of my grades had been changed by the directors to improve the school’s pass average. Actually, I feel kind of bad for the directors of my school. They talked about how they weren’t going to change grades, but the reality is that if they don’t achieve a certain percentage (which is almost impossible with the insane curriculum we are given) the district will say that the teachers have stopped teaching and close the school down. So, while I know this is not a battle I can or want to fight, I’m worried about how it’ll affect my students’ ongoing lack of motivation – if they can fail the assignments and still pass the class are they going to make any effort at all?

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