Before I knew it, it was time to write down the quiz on the whiteboard. We asked them to list the months of the year, holidays, and to mention how one of their holidays would be celebrated. I wrote “ten minutes” on the board to indicate how much time they had left, but I was surprised to see how slowly they wrote things down. I would have been rushing, but I remembered that the concept of “urgency” is different than it is here. I had to emphasize that they were not only copying down the questions for the quiz, but also the answers. Nicaraguan students are used to copying everything they see on the board, but it’s been more of a challenge to get them to understand that they should answer the questions as well. It makes me wonder what quiz formats they are more used to using, but my co-teacher said this was fine.
During the quiz, my co-teacher and I noticed that one student was just sitting there without copying anything down. She looked lost. We realized that she had been gone for the whole unit on holidays, so I pulled her outside of class to talk to her about her attendance (but more importantly, to build a relationship). I asked her why she hadn’t been in school, and she just shook her head and waited for me to lose my interest or patience with her. Then, I mentioned that I knew she was smart, but a bit lazy, and she smiled and agreed. Then I asked her if she enjoyed school, and she said that she did. “Why is it important for you to come to school?” I asked. “For my future”, she answered. At that point I knew she had all of the answers and that I didn’t need to lecture her. I told her that I wasn’t here to punish my students, and she added to that, saying that I was just there to correct students and help them out. This was one of the easiest behavioral conferences I’ve ever had. The hard part is the follow-up. As an action step, I told her to copy down her friend’s notes so that she could get back on track, and I made a mental note to check in with her on Thursday. The most yet least surprising part of talking with her was the fact that she knew all of the calendar months in English. From my experience, the kids who are often absent actually are pretty bright. The hard part is getting them to push themselves in class.