// how to read silence //
In my proposal, I mentioned (1) wanting to identify the tension between theory and practice, and (2) committing to asking questions in order to nurture my self-reflectivity. Well, the last few weeks have definitely manifested these points.
I wanted to begin by explaining how lessons actually reach the children because this hasn't always been clear to me. After I curate the lesson plan with materials, pictures and/or links, activities, questions as points of engagement, rough time estimates, this document then gets read by twenty volunteers. In pairs, they transform this raw document into a presentation format most engaging for their 'class.' A class gets held three times: on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with three different kids in each class. It gives each volunteer a total of nine kids-- if all kids are present. (It's not uncommon for a class to only run with one or two kids should they have other commitments or simply don't attend.) It also means the volunteers deliver the same class thrice.
In ID, we've been heavily encouraged to involve beneficiaries every step of the way. So when I gave a quick rundown of the lesson plan to the volunteers, I emphasized that I was open to any and all feedback. I checked in twice-- during the Google Meet and after via a Whatsapp chat-- but no one said anything. The silence left me with lots of anxious questions:
- Was the material too long, too short? Too complex, too shallow?
- Were there too many activities? I saw that other subject's lesson plans only had two activities with longer materials, while I had three activities with fewer materials to embrace the active learning I mentioned in my last blog entry.
- Was the material age-appropriate?
- Worst, was the class boring?
I wanted to ask these questions but felt like the volunteers had their own workloads to tend to. I didn't want to pester. But was it alright to assume 'silence' = 'all is good'? Haven't we been strongly warned against this, in theory? What happens when you pass on the mic and no one touches it with a ten-foot pole in practice? Should I have tried harder and if so, in what way?
A few days later, the classes were delivered, and despite communication trials (will be discussed in the next entry), I managed to sit in with Group 1 in a supervisory capacity. All my worries, thankfully, evaporated by the end of that class. The two volunteers had taken my plain lesson plan and transformed it into a colorful PowerPoint with graphics, images, and videos. They added additional material, building on their kids' curiosities without straying off-topic. They delivered the class with vibrant enthusiasm, even getting the kids to read each PPT slide, in turn, to ensure they were paying attention. The kids laughed, smiled, answered the questions prompted, and came up with their own wonderment.
When I asked what else they wanted to learn from Cultural Studies, one kid surprised me and mentioned politics, citing the election in May. I was glad she mentioned that as it made me realize my original plan for lesson two was better suited for a much younger group and wouldn't sustain these kids' attention.
After class ended, I realized that although I was a beginner coordinator, the volunteers were expert teachers and my materials arrived in extremely safe, capable hands. I think I projected my own insecurities, of needing someone to say I was doing alright, to these volunteers' capacity, as I wondered, here and there, whether they were 'competent.'