They Learn, But…

Rosa Martinez

Cuban junior high school students. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 9 — Everybody in my neighborhood knows me as a literature and Spanish teacher.  That’s why several youth in junior high and high school come to my house trying to clarify doubts or looking for an explanation of some homework problem they didn’t quite understand, even in other subjects.

Recently two junior high students knocked on my door, since their teacher gave them one day to complete an activity that would take them a week to prepare.

The same thing had happened to my cousin Marielsi, who’s in the eighth grade.  One morning her literature teacher asked her to research the life and work of Jose Marti and be ready for a test on it that afternoon.  Can you imagine having to investigate Marti in two or three hours?

Tests that are given to students should be done with rigor and demand increasingly better preparation by them, but to carry them out properly requires that they receive quality instruction that the teachers don’t always provide.

I studied at a high school where the teachers were extremely demanding.  Today I’m thankful for the hours of study I used to put in.  It was like that from the very beginning on through, and no one tested me on anything I hadn’t been presented previously.

What sense does it make to ask a seventh grade student to memorize the answers to 30 questions for the next day?  The answers of many of these are long paragraphs that are not internalized; they’re simply memorized mechanically, and should the child forget a single word it can result in nonsense.

I also criticize the English teacher who for a final evaluation has a group of questions that, in almost all cases, the students are forced to turn to other people to answer.  We all know that practice and the systemization of study are elements of vital importance for the learning of any language.  One cannot learn any language by repeating over the course of one day —like a parrot— how to greet someone, how to say your name or how to say your nationality in that language, and much less by memorizing dialogues that another person has prepared.

The same thing happens with spelling.  After several years in which spelling mistakes don’t matter in subjects other than Spanish, to tell a pupil at the end of a course that four or five errors could mean their failing is simply unacceptable.

The support of family and friends is always welcome, but to see yourself obligated to do the work of our kids so that they can pass doesn’t help anything; on the contrary, we’re preparing students who don’t know even 50 percent of what they should learn in classes.

In the last school year the most important thing was integral development, meaning that the student would have to participate in educational as well as non-educational activities.  Greater importance was placed on participation in sports as well as cultural and political activities, leaving knowledge to one side.  Fortunately, this year we are reintroducing the role of learning as the sole measure of the quality of a student.

There is no better example to cite than the catastrophic results of last year’s university entrance exams.  They demonstrated the errors made and give the appearance that everything in this field is carried out on the trial and error basis.

The worst of what have been found to be “ineffective” evaluations (seminars, practical classes or final exams) demonstrate the resounding failure of the education process and force students to engage in cheating to obtain satisfactory grades.

The greatest damage is always suffered by those youth and by society, which will later have to deal with mediocre professionals and substandard cultural levels.

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3 thoughts on “They Learn, But…

  • Thank you very much. In fact , i love teaching

  • Rosa, in English there is an expression that “you can lead a horse to water, but you can not make him drink”. After many years as a teacher, I can see that you know that the job of the teacher is to instil in the young child a desire to learn. Knowledge should be acquired for it’s own sake, not just to pass a test. The fact that former students still come back to you is proof that you have made an impact on them. My congratulations to you.

  • Another example: At a recent performance of “Tia Vanya” at the Teatro Hubert de Blanck in Vedado, a group of five girls in the row in front of mine were filling out a two-paged form requiring one or two sentence to one or two paragraph written responses on Chekov’s play. At the Teatro Hubert de Blanck– they were filling in the blanks! If there is anything that will kill a young person’s natural inclination to enjoy the theatre, it is having to fill out, in the jargon of schools of education, such an “instrument” while attempting, at the same time, to follow the play. In between writing their responses, LOL, they were also texting on their moviles. At the intermission, they made a hasty exit, probably to enjoy some raeggaton!

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