After a few minor setbacks we got the class started. It went well, people were happy, everybody attended...It went well. that is until testing time. At testing time the two instructors put all 12 students through the written test. No cheaters were found, although I did find a student that looked over at a friend for a translation which I quickly stopped.
Grading time is when it started to go bad, as only the first two students who turned in the test passed. 2 of 12 Rounded up equals...17%...are you F-ing kidding me? A 17% pass rate, 83% failure rate? 5 students did qualify for retests, so if they learn to read and comprehend written English overnight, or manage to guess a lot better tomorrow, we might be able to bump that score up to a 42% pass rate for day one!
I feel horrible. The organization that produces the materials and writes the exams is a little different here than it is in the US. In the US we really don't want people failing these classes. We want people to go through remediation, and be taught again and again until they get it right, but we don't want them failing. The Regional Faculty here though wants them to fail if they don't do well enough. I can't change that, and I'm not allowed to complain about it (you can bet your ass I'll complain about it when I get out of here though) I personally disagree with them for the most part, this IS about saving lives...its also about building people up. I have met very few men or women who managed to do this in the real world the first time without serious hesitation and or error, at least not in the field. Maybe, and I stress maybe in a clean and well lit hospital with 2 doctors and 5 other nurses but not in a dark cold ditch or cluttered apartment.
Then again today showed me something I haven't seen in many of my students before...Humility, yes humility as in the state of being humbled. Many of them have been telling me for weeks how easy this will be, how they have read through the book and will do well. Today taught them them wishful thinking may not be enough. Still I feel bad, really, I do. The look on one face in particular damn near killed me. This student has a smile for me every morning, a wave if I'm farther away, has never been rude, demanding or disrespectful. Today after learning he had failed completely, that smile was gone.
Long before I was an educator, I was a plain old street medic. Long before I was that, I was a plain old firefighter, long before that I was a plain old Infantry Marine. In all three of those fields I excelled. In all 3 of those fields, mistakes get people killed. Misunderstandings aren't allowed, and the difficult subjects are beaten into your head by ruthless instructors and the dangers of the actual job. I've been trying to impart this to my students, but its hard...mainly because they don't totally understand me. Some do, and some do better than others, but some just don't.
All of this makes me realize that the sad and discouraged looks on those faces don't belong to me. They belong to you, you the pandering parent before me, you the weak educator before me, you the weak administrator before me, you the weak system before me that allowed them to cheat, beg, borrow and steal their way to "success" since they were children. YOU failed these students...you told them it was all going to be OK. You lied. Now I have to clean up your mess. Now I have to teach English, teach Mathematics, teach Ethics...while I try and teach them how to save lives. Looks like I also have to try and reach completely across cultures and be a big brother as well, teaching them that failure is just a part of life, not the end of it. Oh well, I think I can handle that for a little while...maybe. But not for you, for them. For YOU? all I have left to say is Fuck YOU! You have done these students a great disservice. You stole their money, you stole and wasted their time, you stole their dignity.
Today's long faces and dashed hopes belong to YOU, not me or the other two instructors.