October 10th, 2010 by Nicki Kennedy, Volunteer Teacher at Gracious Secondary School
It seems that I have become the composition maven around here. As soon as it became clear that writing is a strength of mine I was commissioned to teach almost exclusively that. (Stop. I need to take a moment to offer up appreciations, respect, and probably humble apologies to those skilled and patient English teachers I had during my own secondary schooling. It is only as a result of your excellent teaching that I write as well as I do, and that I remember the process well enough to teach it to others with some degree of fluency. I also offer my apologies, because I’m sure that I moaned, groaned, whined, and looked at you like you were crazy when you began the process. I assume this because these are the reactions I get every day in class. I don’t remember doing this myself, but I’m sure it probably happened.) I began teaching only the Form 2s, but soon the Form 4s heard about what we were doing and started coming to me in twos, threes, or alone to have extra help. I have never worked with students who were so willing to do extra work outside of class. It seems that every day I am marking compositions that students (particularly the Form 4s) are writing on their own time. It’s incredibly motivating and inspiring to me!
With all this good material coming in I got to thinking….I could dutifully write a weekly article or so (which I will continue to do) about what I’m teaching and how it’s going, or I could SHOW you what we’re doing by having the students do some of the work themselves. To that end I told the students in my Form 2 classes that I would publish the best two compositions, one from each class, from each of the types they must learn for their exams (narrative, argumentative, descriptive, etc…) on this blog, along with their names, basic information, and a picture (when the camera situation is resolved).
In addition, one of the other language teachers (Eunice Dzikiti…the only other girl teacher) and I brought together a group of the most promising writers in Forms 2 and 4 for an after school composition group. The students are divided into two groups containing three Form 2s and three Form 4s each. Their job is to write one composition per month (per group) relating in some way to Gracious, MCV, Mangochi, Malawi, etc. so that they may update you, our fine readers, on the goings on in this part of the world. They are currently working on their first compositions, and it’s very exciting! They are learning to ask questions, add details, and work together creatively.
Also, keep in mind when reading their work that English is not their first language. Additionally, they have a very different way of teaching composition here. I’m still trying to convince my students that this way will be successful. As a result, dear English professors reading this out there, these are a long way from perfect. However, I think they’re a good start, eh? Last thing, and then I promise I’ll let you read their words and not mine, I often choose students (and their work) not based so much on their writing conventions, but on what they see. Regularly when I assign a composition I get many back that say the same general thing. Sometimes I will choose the best of these to publish, but I will also be choosing students who can tell a good story, are creative, and see the world in an interesting way.
I’m really excited to see the work the students turn out, and to share it with you. These are some pretty amazing kids. Enjoy!