I Have a Dream!

October 14, 2014

That one day, our children will come to love Math and Reading! 

Part I

Think of a school system without teachers that could be the school system of the future. Kids would love it; no homework, ominous commands like “Come with your mother tomorrow!” Maybe the chalk board would become extinct as well!

But how can I dream of a world without teachers when teacher Potpal is not only well known in my village, but is generally regarded as a professional by all standards –and I can prove it too! I am told that when you get good training in a specific field, you become a professional; and Potpal has had two good years of training in teaching. I therefore have no reason whatsoever to doubt Potpal’s prowess in lesson management and what in teaching jargon is referred to as pedagogy; Greek to most of us but basically refers to the science of teaching or instruction.  Though I have not been to Potpal’s class, I would be very disappointed if Potpal failed to demonstrate the skills and knowledge acquired in training during the delivery of the content of any of the five primary school subjects Potpal was trained in. However, in one of my interactions with Potpal, I learnt that Potpal’s secondary school Math grade was a D-, with a grade C+ in English and with other subjects being better performed.

Potpal teaches reading and numeracy in grade six. Unfortunately numeracy, or Math as it is more commonly known in the village, is one of the worst performed subjects in the school where Potpal teaches. However, Potpal is a very popular teacher; hardworking and takes every opportunity to provide extra tuition for a small fee to cater for ‘transport’. Like any other citizen, Potpal also is an investor, and owns a small plot courtesy of the local councilor, Mr. Nyemiak who arranged for the allotment (may Nyemiak’s cows forever be in calf!).  Potpal is very forward-thinking and in that spirit, keeps two zero grazing cows in the ‘hard earned’ plot.

Well, I know you are now wondering what the link between cows, plots and teaching is. I will not tell you more about cows and plots, that’s for another day.  I do need you to really understand that Potpal has no problem making everyone happy. However, of late, there has been some concerns from a few parents of grade eight students. Majority of the concerned parents hardly went beyond primary level education during their days but they have very high aspirations for their children hence the concerns.  All along, they thought that teacher Potpal, using the skills acquired during teacher training, had ‘prepared’ their children well in Math and English.  They however realized, to their utter shock, that their grade eight children could not read simple sentences in English nor could they ‘add 2 plus 2 together’ which in village lingo meant they were terrible in Math. Because the national exams were just around the corner, the parents had reasons to be seriously concerned about their children’s education progress.

Something must be wrong here …and that’s why the test scores for our children are low’ said one of the parents.  To make the matters worse, one of the concerned parents was overheard lamenting that some of Potpal’s pupils had developed a phobia for Math. After agonizing over these literacy and numeracy matters for some time, the parents concluded that the problem was Potpal! Oh, poor Potpal, the village had turned against him!

So how did these semi-illiterate parents discover that their children cannot read? And what on earth will Potpal do to win back the villagers? Don’t miss the finale of Potpal’s riveting story next week.