Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First day of school

Monday, 3-21-11
Well, today was my first day of school. I was really nervous about starting to teach again. I get nervous about a lot of things sometimes. As I came out of my room Kathy was there waiting for me with her camera. It was like I was in grade school all over again: There was mom with the camera to get some pictures and I was nervous about leaving. I grabbed a quick breakfast to go and was on my way. As I walked outside the door I saw one of my students from last year. He remembered me and we chatted for a while as we walked to school. It was nice to have someone to walk to school with. When I reached the giant hill I climb to get to school I sighed. I had forgotten how big it was. I will have thighs of steel when I leave in November.
The boy’s school where I teach has only the basics: desks, chairs, a whiteboard, and workbooks provided by the government. All decorations in the classroom are paid for by the teacher. The kids buy their own notebooks and pencils (which sometimes prevents kids from attending school). Most of the time there is electricity though occasionally it does go out. There is no air-conditioning at the school. There’s no soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms at the school so I bring my own. There are no computers in any of the classrooms. There is no projector to show them things on the internet or to use as a teaching aid. There’s no place at the school where I can photocopy or print out exercises, homework, or quizzes. There is a place in town to make photocopies so I’ll probably go there if I need to copy something. Of course, that will be paid for by me.
I’ve had people ask questions about how the English lessons that I teach were planned. Did the teachers help? Who provided curriculum? What were my instructions? What were the guidelines? To answer those questions in case anyone else was wondering: I do all the lesson planning. I have no curriculum or guide given to me to follow. There is nothing that I am supposed to teach or not supposed to teach. The teachers don’t provide anything. No one tells me what they want taught in English; most of them speak no English. I go into different classrooms and teach by myself. The teachers usually stay but sometimes they leave. Everything is left up to me. From day one I am given complete control over how the English classes will be taught.
Now, this might sound like a lot of work. It is a lot of work. And it was hard to know where to start when I began lesson planning. But I am definitely not complaining. I like being able to go by my own schedule and personalize how I teach. It’s good to be able to start where I think is appropriate and go at the pace of each class. Plus I haven’t heard the best things about the English classes and lessons that are taught in the high school (as in, they aren’t really helpful in learning English). Sometimes I think it would be easier if they’d given me some guidelines, but I also don’t like trying to conform my ideas to other people’s ideas. Shocking, I know.
I’d already planned out my school schedule with the director so I knew what classes I’d have. I’ll be teaching in the mornings at the school five days a week and will have ten different classes. Six of the teachers I’m with this year I also taught with last year. I will have:
1st grade A – 37 students
2nd grade A – 33 students
3rd grade A – 31 students
3rd grade B – 28 students
4th grade A – 35 students
5th grade A – 40 students
5th grade B – 35 students
6th grade A – 39 students
6th grade B – 32 students
Teacher class – ??

Now, I know not all the students are there every day. I’d like to do a count of kids over a couple of weeks to figure out the average number I have for each class.

There are five class times in the morning with a little break in between classes which is nice. However, these times are more of suggestions than definite times. The bell rings sometime around the time when classes change. It’s the director in the office that rings the bell. So if he’s not paying attention, the bell is rung later. This happened today and I’m sure it will happen tomorrow. It keeps things interesting. Here are the class times:

1 – 7:30-8:15
2 – 8:25-9:10
3 – 9:25-10:10
4 – 10:20-11:05
5 – 11:15-12:00

Before classes started today there was something which the teachers called “formación” which means “training” or “education”. The teachers explained to me that it was some sort of civic exercise that they do every Monday and Thursday morning. I didn’t remember that at all from last year. Then I realized that on Monday and Thursday mornings last year during the first period they hadn’t put me down to teach a class. This year they put me down to teach the first period every day. So my first period classes on Monday and Thursday will be short because of this exercise.

I started with the same curriculum in all of my classes. We’re starting with the basics: the alphabet, vowels, pronunciation, etc. I want them to have a good base to start with before we jump into social words and introductions. This is especially important because the letters are pronounced differently in Spanish than in English. Plus pronunciation in English doesn’t seem to follow any rules. For example, every letter in Spanish is almost always pronounced the same way. Thus, I can read Spanish words I don’t know and I’ll be able to pronounce them correctly. This isn’t so with English. You have to hear how it’s pronounced and memorize the words. Guessing does not always work. I have to repeat things a lot so they can hear how words sound.

My first class was 1st grade. The teacher’s name is Carmen and I worked with her last year. I hadn’t originally planned to work with such young kids but at the last minute I thought it might be fun. And it will be. But I’m going to have to change the way I’m teaching for them. It will be much less writing and more spoken and visual learning. I’m guessing it will be the same for my 2nd grade class as well. Obviously, they’re further ahead than my 1st grade class, but they still won’t be able to write as much as my other classes. I hadn’t worked with the teacher in the 2nd grade class yet, whose name is Milagro. It’ll be fun getting to know her.

I have two third grade classes. They’ll be able to follow most of the lesson plans I’ve created. I figured it’d be easier for me to make more detailed lesson plans and then take out info that’s too advanced for the younger kids than vice versa. We’ll see what happens. The teacher in section A is Guadalupe and the teacher in section B is Silvia. They’re both new to me. My last class of the day was 4th grade section A with Melba. I worked with her 3rd grade class last year. She now teaches 4th grade and it’s with the same group of students she had last year. Yay! I guess the teachers keep the same group of students from 1st to 6th grade. It was exciting to see the kids again and the class remembered a lot of what I’d taught them last year. Melba told me they’d been practicing with the English books I’d left for them. That was a pretty good end to my first school day.

Cecilia’s son, Marvin, is in my 4th grade class, so he walked with me home today. Another little boy from the class, the same one who walked me to school, also walked me home. His name is Ruben and I told him that there was a sandwich in the US called a Reuben (pronounced the same way). I said I was hungry and wanted a Reuben sandwich. The boys thought this was hilarious and laughed about it the whole way home.

First day of school photo

There I go down the stairs

Kathy wanted an "at the door" photo

Bye bye!

Walking to school with my little friend

A whiteboard with all the classes, teachers, and number of students

Map of my school


Carrying the Salvadoran flag

Walking to the stage

Food the kids get during the midday break
This is provided by the government

My 1st grade class

Other part of my 1st grade class

My 2nd grade class

Another shot of my 2nd grade class

My 3rd grade section A class

Another photo of my 3rd grade section A class

Example of what the kids study during the week

My 3rd grade section B class

Another photo of my 3rd grade section B class

My 4th grade class 

Another picture of my 4th grade class

By the time I got home I was really hungry. I went up to check on Chelita. She was outside of her new little fenced in area! I tell you, I put Kathy in charge for one morning of putting Chelita into her area and she manages to escape. But it turned out to be for the best because we realized that Barbara and Chelita were getting along. We didn’t have to worry about Barbara killing Chelita. I took Chelita’s food and water dish out of her area so she could eat, drink, and roam free in the yard.

The rest of the day I spent working on school things, writing and posting blogs that had been delayed because of no internet, and finished up a report. Other than school I don’t have a ton of stuff to do right now but I’m still behind on a few things and hoping I’ll get caught up soon. I’ve also been thinking about my birthday, which is this Friday the 25th. I’d like to do something special for my classes but not sure what to do. Plus right now I’m struggling to get caught up on things so we’ll see what happens.

Chelita escapes!

Barbara taking a bath

Drink please

Now I'm hungry

Taking a snooze

Best friends

Chelita is inspecting Barbara

Hanging out

1 comment:

Matt said...

I'm so proud of you for doing so much work to get ready for this amazing opportunity. I know the kids will learn a lot, and I'm sure you will too. You should be commended for doing such difficult work and doing it with a smile on your face. I know this school year will be great!