One Tutor Gone and A New Game Plan

On Tuesday this week I went to my Wonoo program. This was an important session because it is the last chance that Logical has to show up on time before I kick him out of the program. Well 13:30 comes around and both Ben and Isaac are ready to go for the tutoring session. Last week when I met with the Headmaster, Math Master, and Logical we all agreed that they would let the class out 10 minutes early so that we could start early to end as close to 15:00 as possible. Well, 13:50 comes around and there’s no Logical in sight. However, the class is closing late because the students are still occupied writing their homework down. We started to take roll and hand out snacks at about 13:57 and Logical strolls in like there’s no problem with the time. The groups had already been split between the other tutors. Then, he surprised me when he took the roll sheet and controlled the rest of the tallying of his group. Sure he was late, but the group was also late and he got to work right after he came in the room. On the walk over to the other school I start to think that I will just give him the late penalty and not kick him out since he got there a few minutes after the roll started and he got to work pretty fast to make up for it. When we get over to the primary to start tutoring, Logical and a few students are walking up, lagging far behind the rest of the group. Okay, I’m feeling much less lenient about keeping him in the program now. At the end of the session I told Logical that I was going to dock his pay for being late, but I’m not going to kick him out of the program since he got to work right away and the whole program was off a few minutes. Then, he began to argue and tell me that he wasn’t late. In the middle of our conversation he asked me if I was done because he had to go and pound FuFu for his mom. He said that his mom also runs on British time and he can’t be late. I said that’s fine and finished my thoughts from the discussion. After the program, I got a ride with a school bus driver who had just closed and was heading home anyway. Logical didn’t see me in the bus and I watched him as he was walking back and forth across the street at a very slow pace and talking with his friends like he obviously didn’t have anywhere urgent to go. I probably should have kicked him out of the program for being late and not being grateful for being allowed to stay. Now that he has lied to me on top of all that there’s no way I’m going to keep him for another minute. I get out of the bus with his pay for he day in my hand. As I give him the money I tell him that this is his pay for the day and not to come back to any more sessions because I no longer need his tutoring services. He asks me to repeat myself and I do, ending with thanking him for his time. He didn’t say anything and walked away.

 On Wednesday, I planned to give the students their halfway progress test. I need to print out the test, but I don’t have a pen drive to transfer the file to a printer. I leave my place at 09:30 to allow enough time to find a pen drive or some other way for me to print the tests. I go to the place called the technology center where they make the loudspeaker announcements and my friend there tells me she doesn’t have a pen drive and doesn’t know of anyone or anywhere that has one in Antoa. I’m almost positive that the printing place down the street has pen drives and they are the same friends that fixed my sandal for free, so they would help me find a way to print if they didn’t. I get to their place at 09:45, only because I passed people without greeting them along the way. Otherwise, I would have gotten there at 10:30. As I pass Moses the welder he runs out from his shop and yells my name. He asks how I am and I tell him I’m sorry, but I have to go and come. I get to the print shop and Kingsley is there, but his wife is not. He is the sandal maker and his wife is the print equipment owner. Not to worry, he tells me that she is on her way. In the back of my head I wonder what that could possibly mean. In Ghana on their way could mean 10 minutes or before the end of the day. I wait until 11:00 and ask Kingsley to call his wife, Natural, to see how much more time she will take. He calls her a few times, but can’t get an answer. I continue to wait until 12:00 before she arrives. Okay, I have 1 hour and 50 minutes to get to my program now. I’m trying not to panic and just calmly print these tests. She pulls out her pen drive as expected and copies my documents onto her computer. She makes a few adjustments on the document to align the math problems. She keeps making the same mistake by increasing the font so that everything gets out of order. Trying to hold my patience I keep pointing to the undo button. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone move a mouse so slow. I find a few other mistakes to adjust and all along this process her baby is in her lap and is getting a real kick out of slapping the keyboard. I thought it was funny the first few times, but after she kept hitting the keyboard and Natural would take 5 minutes to get the mouse up to the undo button, I lost my sense of humor. Again, I just close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Okay, the document is set and is now printing. It comes out well and I ask her to now print 20 more for each student. She tells me that will cost 20 Cedis and it would be better to copy it and print it with the copy machine. The copy machine only takes 10 peswas per page. Okay, I’m not sure how that price was derived, but I’m not about to ask. Now Kingsley comes over and has to help punch the copy machine to get it started. Then he takes off the faceplate of the 3-foot tall machine. This must have been the first prototype of a copy machine released in the US. There are a lot of torque levers that I honestly expected him to spin with his hand like he has to pedal the lever to get it to print the page. The page copies and prints fine, but I can only see it from the hole in the side. It won’t come out of last part into the tray. Kingsley grabs the end of the piece of paper and pulls it out and the paper comes out with deep ridges all down the paper. I tell them it’s fine and that I can just smooth out the paper as I travel to the school. Then as the next few print, the ink is becoming more and more faint and the ink from the previous page is being stuck to the new page coming out. By the time the third page comes out, it’s completely unreadable. I stay calm and tightly grip the one clear page I have printed out. Then another minute later the power goes out in the town. I just start laughing at this point. There’s no use in getting frustrated here, someone must be playing a joke on my anyway. It’s not 12:45 and I just leave and figure that I will think of something on the way. I go back to my room to drop off my computer where I pass the people at the end of the road again, without greeting them. At this point I just feel ashamed because I know they are all talking about how rude I’m being right now. I get back home and decide to wait for a car by the station in the middle of town. At 1:00, I decide to head back to the edge of town by the SHS and hitchhike my way to the JHS. That means that I now have to pass my people, once again, without greeting them. I wonder if they will even acknowledge me when I come home at the end of the day. I get to the end of the road and after 30 seconds of waiting a big truck comes down the road. I figure why not at least try my best to get a ride. I start waving and jumping and to my surprise I can hear the truck decelerating. I hop in and get a ride to Krobo, the junction town. From there I catch a taxi and get to Wonoo at 1:30. I quickly run into the nearest shop and buy snacks for the students. I buy a big grouped pack of sachet waters and hoist it over my head. I start to walk at a slower pace because I realize that I’m going to make it there on time. That would be pretty bad to show up late the day after I kick someone out of the same program for being late. I get there at 1:40 with 10 minutes to spare. Okay, according to Lombardi and me that’s 5 minutes late, but it’ll work for today.

 I get in the classroom and ask the tutors to hand out snacks and waters to everyone. As they do that I start to write the questions on the board. I put only the directions for each question so that they don’t have any opportunity to talk to each other about the problems while they eat their snack. Snack time ends and I finish writing the test on the board. 30 minutes later we end our session and leave.

 Later that night I’m grading the tests and with each test I feel like a dagger is being plunged into my heart. The scores are much worse than I expected. Granted I started with the weakest students, but I expected stellar performance. I get through the test and overall the English was much better, but the math was only a little better. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m also energized to restructure our tutoring sessions to get the students more involved. I will brainstorm with Spencer this weekend, but I’ve already been thinking of some ways to change things up. The students love the snacks and often times try to steal from each other or tell me that it’s not enough. I think I’m going to use Logical’s pay he missed out on for being late to buy additional snacks for each session. I want to have the tutors to award the students for answering questions with snacks. Even if it’s only a piece of one of the snack packs, I’m confident they will try a little harder to get the reward. I also think if there’s a way we can incorporate some kind of learning game into the sessions to get the lower scoring students to try a little harder. I have some time and resources to check for some other ideas to see if I can come up with a new and better structure for teaching these students more efficiently. I think a big problem is that we only get one hour a day for two days in a row with these students. There’s no need to stress myself out with finding the solution this night. I’m going to let my pillow speak to me and continue to think about creative solutions tomorrow.

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