JBFC Graduates: It’s Been a Long RoadNovember 25, 2015 3:41 pm
“I felt good to take the exam today- and good because soon I am going to start my plan to reach my goals. I felt like I prepared and was confident. I was a little bit nervous this morning because it was the first day but not really. To celebrate, first I will take a nap!”
Confidence. A belief that “I can” and “I will.” A feeling that when your time comes, you will succeed even beyond your own imagination.
These are the sentiments I would use to describe the feeling shared by most, if not all, of our 28 seniors who sat their Form Four (equivalent of the 11th grade in the U.S.) national exams. These exams are a big deal in Tanzania- bigger than all of the other exams (Tanzanian students take national exams in 4th grade, 7th grade, and Form 2 or 9th grade) that these students have sat for in their lifetimes. These exams don’t just determine whether or not these students will continue to the next grade, rather what course their life will take after schooling.
That confidence was earned over the course of the past few weeks, months, and even years by a group of determined students and staff members who share their confidence today. We have added staff, changed schedules, and opened the school on Saturdays to help these students gain the confidence they needed to succeed. Our students and teachers have worked harder, studied longer, and really pulled together as a team.
Starting in April, our Form Four students, secondary school teachers, and Administrative team developed a strategy designed to give all of our 28 seniors the best chance of succeeding as possible. The first step was to address any content areas that may have been neglected over the past four years.
Since the Form Four national exam is cumulative, our students are being tested on topics that they may not have studied in years and potentially were never taught. Knowing this, we ordered an intensive review of all topics as far back as Form One (8th grade). Using the information from these tests, we were able to review (and in some cases cover for the first time) topics that could have been weak spots for us on the exams.
Second, knowing that the Form Four national exam puts an immense amount of pressure on the students to succeed, we believed that we would have to support our students psychologically. While many schools may encourage their students as the exam approaches, we wanted to build our seniors up early and often. We advised them on study habits, time management, stress management, the importance of rest and good nutrition, and even specific ways to deal with exam-related pressure. We sought to instill in our students with a belief that they CAN and WILL succeed.
Third, the Form Four national exam includes practical portions in the science subjects (Physics, Biology, and Chemistry). Knowing that most of our students were unfamiliar with conducting experiments and had probably only done so on a handful of occasions, we wanted to put a special emphasis on conducting practicals.
At the beginning of July we hired a specialized Lab Technician with specific experience in secondary school practical experiments to teach at Joseph and Mary part-time. Every Friday, Mr. Mikela has been coming in the afternoons to teach Chemistry, Biology, and Physics theory. Then, every Saturday morning since July, our Form Four students have been attending half-day sessions with Mr. Mikela at school, focusing solely on practical experiments. While our new science laboratory was unfinished for most of this time, we had enough equipment and specimens to begin to familiarize our students with scientific experiments.
Finally, while our school has a great student to teacher ratio overall, we truly believe in the value of one-on-one or small group work and the impact it can have on the student. Since July, our Form Four class adopted a new schedule designed to increase the amount of one-on-one and small group time that the students have had with their teachers. In the mornings, the whole class has followed their normal, daily subject schedule. In the afternoons, however, we have been breaking the students into small groups and pairing them with subject teachers allowing each group to work closely and more frequently with the subject teachers of their weaker subjects. In doing so, we have allowed students who were behind in, for example, Geography, increased time with our Geography teacher and in groups of only five or six students per teacher.
While these steps were designed (and I truly believe have) to help all of our Form Four students, we decided to take a couple of additional steps to help the eight JBFC residential girls who are in this class and currently taking the exams.
In June we decided to move all of our Form Four girls into one dorm with JBFC’s nurse, Paskazia, as matron. This way the girls could help each other study and receive additional tutoring in the sciences. After-school study sessions for the girls were often attended by Joseph and Mary’s Geography, Civics, and Swahili teacher, Mr. Kija, and Joseph and Mary’s Biology teacher, Mr. Tanzania.
While we won’t have the exam results for months to come, I am confident that the efforts that our students and teachers have put into preparing for this exam will be evident when the day comes. Having had the opportunity to watch these students grow over the past two years as JBFC’s Campus Director and now Chief Operations Officer-Tanzania, I couldn’t be more proud of the dedication they have shown. Looking at the eight JBFC girls, I, too, am confident. I am confident that their efforts will propel them to become the leaders of change that this world so desperately needs.
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This post was written by Mainsprings