Monday, September 30, 2013

The Class 6 Test - Day 1

Today was an important day in Tonga.
It represents what we (and our students) have been working towards all year.

Today my oldest students took the Class 6 Test. 

Like I've talked about in other posts this test is even more intense than standardized testing in America. It determines what secondary schools students will earn admission into. The secondary school many times determines whether or not you will go abroad for university/college or any sort of post-secondary. And this is all decided when you are 11-years-old. Talk about intense.

But my students did awesome. I reminded them last week to make sure that they were drinking plenty of water, getting a good night's sleep and eating lots of fruits and vegetables (not root crop... but green veggies!). 
So today dawned and at about 8am the first Class 6 students arrived at school. The rest of the students in the school were told to stay home for the next couple days. This will give the Class 6 students plenty of quiet time to concentrate on doing their best on the exams. 

The proctors of the exams are principals and veteran teachers from other schools across the island. The thought is that this will cut down on cheating. The Ministry of Education stopped by this morning and dropped off the examinations. Today's tests? English and Science.

When the test started I asked one of my fellow teachers what I should be doing while they were taking the test (since I'm not allowed in the room). They motioned to my classroom and said "go and sit in there". I walked to my classroom door to find that all of the tables were taken out and that I was being recruited (unbeknownst to me) to serve kava to all of the men who had a child currently taking the test. Sweet deal. So I did some leg stretches, said a big malo e lelei (hello) to the men and sat down. The town officer handed me a giant cake with frosting and sprinkles and told me that that was my payment for serving kava. Thank you, Alavini. Then I spent the next 3 hours serving kava to the ministers, the town officer, a fellow teacher, the dads and the grandpas of the children taking the test. 
Discussing the tests and what's been going on in the village.
Chatting away.
My view from the kava bowl - the cups are made from coconut shells and the bowl is carved from wood

The conversation was interesting - topics ranged from talking about the tests, to rugby, even to my marital status. At one point an older gentlemen (who had a grandson taking the test) inquired about my age. I replied with "29" and he said, "Really? I'm only 28. We should get married. You like younger men, right?" All the men started laughing, throwing their heads back in the air. Not only was this man probably close to 70 years old, but he also has a wife. The men then encouraged me to up my efforts and find someone to marry right here in my village because it would make me less homesick (I'm not), a better Tongan speaker (ok, maybe) and cause me and to gain weight (Just what I've always wanted).
When men want kava they will clap. You continue stirring the kava until everybody has been served.
The town officer - Alavini - is in the center of the picture.
So after 3 hours of kava and va'e ma'mate (dead legs), I excused myself and went and sat with Ane (my counterpart) and talked with her about the test. We went over the English portion and found that what I had been teaching all year was right on par with what appeared on the exam. Fist pump. It was such a good feeling. When lunchtime rolled around Kalo (Caroline) a little 2-year-old cutie patootie in the village found me and wouldn't let me put her down. We split a nesi (cross between a pear and an apple) and just hung out. Every time I  walked across the school yard to talk to somebody else she would come running at me with her arms spread wide and jump into my arms. I love little kids and their enthusiasm. Hugs are nice too!

Tonight my village will feast to celebrate the end of Day 1. Tomorrow the students will take their Maths (they add the "s" here) and Tongan Language tests.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes, I wish the US Department of Education would do something like that. It might actually force kids to give a crap about their education. Or not. ::sigh:: I had enough trouble with standardized testing as a child as it was (I was the anal-retentive one that made sure all my bubbles were perfectly filled in and that all "outside" pencil marks were fully erased).