Saturday, November 10, 2012
The Red Pen
I'm sitting in the back of a classroom watching Mr. Vincent teach history to a group of 9-year-olds. The material is dense, and covers former leaders of Kenya and their attributes and contributions. It is being taught lecture style, and the kids are all taking notes in their tattered notebooks like they are in college. I've never seen 9-year-olds (3rd grade aged kids) take notes like this. The class is quiet and well-behaved, focused on the teacher. Classroom management is not an issue at Achungo like it is in the States. Suddenly, I see a boy throw his pen across the room at another boy. It's the first time I've seen any form of misbehavior in a classroom since I've been here. I'm surprised Mr. Vincent doesn't say anything since I'm sure he saw the pen fly across the room. The boy who was hit with the pen scoops it up, scribbles with it in his notebook for a few seconds, and then throws it back across the aisle. It lands next to a girl sitting on the other side of the classroom, and she picks it up. She writes with it for a minute, then throws it at another student who is sitting next to me. He grabs the pen, and begins to write with it too. It suddenly dawns on me that these kids aren't throwing the pen at each other, but rather to each other. They are sharing it. And then I see that it is a red pen, and the boy who is writing with it is using it to highlight his notes. After a minute of improving his notes, he throws it to a boy on the other side of the room who I now notice has subtly held his hand out for it. This pen, this red pen is the only colored pen in the room. And the kids are sharing it so they can all take better notes.