Cameroon has been getting better by the week. The first week I arrived I thought I would never make it through the next 10 weeks here. With small steps, I have come to love the environment of Cameroon.
The entire structure of the classroom is very different from a classroom in the United States. My classroom size here is 47 students. At my school that seems to be a pretty typical sized class. I have, however, talked to teachers from other schools that will tell me that they have 150+ students in one class. If all of the students show up to school on one day there would not nearly be enough seats for all of the students. They rely on students not usually showing up to school.
I struggled with the class size for the first how many weeks that I was here. I thought having that many students to one teacher would make it nearly impossible for each student to get the proper attention to help them with their learning. I learned that in a classroom of this size, not all students will get the one on one attention that I want to give them. The only students getting much for one on one attention are the students that are struggling with their learning. The rest of the students I am sure to praise for their good work so that they know I am pleased with what they are doing.
Another huge difference between Cameroon and the United States is that there is no special education here. If a student is struggling in school they are just held back until they get it. I have been told that some students will be held back so many years that they will just drop out. I have 6 students in my class that have been held back 2 or more years because they struggle in one or more areas. Most of these students need a lot of special attention. When I have 41 other kids that also need attention it is so hard to set time aside for these 6 students to receive the special attention that they need. I have started just doing little things to further their learning. I am sending extra exercises home with them so that they get extra practice with writing and reading. I am surprised that they almost always bring their exercises back completed! I have definitely seen slow improvement from all 6 of the students that were held back.
I have implemented a positive behavior system. We are using the red, green, yellow light system. Students seem to really respond to this system. Every day we track which students had to clip to yellow or green. All of the students that didn’t have to move their clip gets a sticker on their chart. At the end of the week if the students have 4 or more stickers on their chart they get a special treat! I also have other small incentives that I use every day. If I catch a student doing something out of the ordinary for that student, they will be rewarded with chocolate or whatever kind of sweets I have on me that day. The students have really taken to the positive environment in the classroom! I have noticed that kids are trying harder on their work. Kids are taking more time to complete their work. Kids will do anything to just simply be acknowledged for their good work!
Overall, the classroom environment has changed juristically since I first arrived. I can contribute most of the changes to simply changing the classroom management structure from punishing unwanted behaviors to rewarding the good behaviors! Being in Cameroon has truly changed the way I look at classroom management. You would never realize just how much kids want to be rewarded for their good behaviors until you see kids that have never been rewarded for their good behaviors.