Sunday, April 18, 2010

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and my primary school's "Intervention"

I used to feel supremely irritated at unsightly stretches of telephone poles with their miles of telephone and electric lines.  How ugly and how invasive of the natural landscape!  I've come to love them very much in South Africa, because they provide wonderful perching opportunities for this guy: the Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, or Melierax metabates.  Isn't he magnificent?  One thing, one thing, I like about riding a taxi back from my shopping visit is the taxi follows 50K of road that is lined with telephone poles and electrical wires, so, I can see many of these birds of prey in one ride.  They adore perching on telephone poles. (Photos are not mine; see photo credits listed below.)

So, this week, and every term, my primary school offers three days of "intervention" for the struggling students.  Well, let me rephrase, they offer three days of intervention and those days are allotted as one day per level: one day for the foundation phase (K-3); one day for the intermediate phase (4-5); and one day for the senior phase (6-7).

Now, what comes to mind for you when you think of the term, "intervention"?  HELP for the learners who are struggling?  Yep, me too.  And then my next thought, "How can you possibly help learners who are struggling in one single day?"

Ok.  Here's what "intervention" looked like for my grade six learners.  Their parents are invited to "observe" their children, who are struggling in school, for the day.

Now, I could somewhat buy this if the parents would be observing their children within their normal, day-to-day school activities, so that they could see if their children are engaged, not understanding, distracted, etc.  HOWEVER, here is, in fact what the parents observe:

Their children come to school, to sit for 6 hours being TESTED in all of their subjects. For example, my sixth graders, the ones who are struggling, sat for a test in their Arts and Culture period from 8-830, their technology class from 830-900, their Setswana class from 9-930, etc.  So, the parents "watch" their kids "failing" these tests with the teacher standing over saying, "See, your child is failing."

Eish! I can't imagine anything more horrible than a child enduring this!  And a child who is already feeling demoralized anyway...

So, I hate intervention.

I'm currently in negotiation with my school to "let me" have extra time with my struggling students after school and on a regular, repeating basis (rather than once per term).  The negotiation is tricky, as this concept--of staying after school for anything other than sports--is quite unheard of.

Soon, Karen

Picture credits for Southern Pale Changing Goshawk:


  1. Will you try to keep a classroom open for this or will you go to the village to tutor? Why have you not been introduced to the chief, yet?

  2. I'm negotiating with the school and principal to allow me to work with my struggling students after school. The school has agreed to let me stay late on Thursday afternoons and work with the kids in a classroom.

    We're currently on a long-weekend break and will have formal assignments next week, so I'm hoping to start my idea of "intervention" the first week in May. Wish me luck!!

    Um, I'm not sure why I've not met the chief. My original campus manager at the college had initially told me he would take me (after I expressed interest) but he has been promoted and is no longer around.

    I'm sure I could press my new campus manager and perhaps even my primary school principal for a visit. But I wish it had happened earlier! :-)