Sadly, what was "boring" about Freda's homework today wasn't the tasks themselves, it was her homework tutors' inability to help her understand what the task actually was. They had worked themselves and her into a complete state.

From Monday to Friday we pay a 2 students (one a day) to guide Freda through her homework. She can manage most of it herself, but occassionally comes up against a new word or character in the questions - true of the Maths and Chinese exercise books. I supervise homework that doesn't require great Chinese and the tutors pick up the other bits and bobs. They don't have to teach her or give her the answers, just check that she's doing what she's meant to do. Sounds simple.

When I returned from my short bike ride with Tina I found the homework tutors in a pickle and Freda crying in her bedroom. It had taken them an hour to convey the meaning of two comprehension questions and the last exercise was apparantly too difficult to explain. Remember this is Primary 3 Chinese. What could be so hard? Freda had to write a sentence that included the following words: "From time to time.....from time to time....from time to time...." For example, from time to time it rains, from time to time it snows, from time to time it...." and so on. The students hadn't thought of checking a Chinese or Chinese-English dictionary (for the meaning of 'shi er', ie. time to time), nor of giving Freda and example. Finally I asked for a direct translation of the instructions and extrapolated from there. As it happens, this is usually what happens - Freda translates word for word and with a bit of lateral thinking the two of us work out what to do. 

We are delighted that these two, lovely, flexible and studious young students have accepted this part-time job. Nevertheless, the events of this week's homework sessions has highlighted so many other issues - our students' inability to think for themselves without a teacher at hand, their insufficient teaching skills (they are English teaching methods and will soon be let loose in a classroom), their basic communication and language skills. So far Freda's had A+ for all the homework she's done by herself, and mistakes in that supervised by a tutor. We'll see how it goes but if it carries on like this we'll have to re-think our strategy. Either that or accept that this is another opportunity to help improve the skills of two future teachers. If this results in Freda hating homework, however, even I'll have to say no to that.

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