Thursday, October 13, 2011

The First Day of School...

I have perhaps put off far too long talking about the classroom. Luckily I wasn't just thrown in there and told to teach like  was in Korea. We had meetings as a faculty whole as well as grade level meetings during the first week where we had to prepare our classrooms.

I believe I mentioned that I was left with very little to start out with and my room is comprised of the things other teachers had no use for or no longer wanted. That is fine as I really didn't know what to expect going in anyways.

We saw our classrooms for the first time on September the 4th and had until September 11th to prepare them, although we had orientation on the 8th for all the students to meet their teachers and get the orientation packets. We were running around a lot before the Thursday making sure things were in order. On top of that, we also had some visa requirements we had to fill, like medical tests for our civil identification cards.

The work week here is Sunday to Thursday, as for Muslims Friday is their holy day. It is a lot to get used to. I am still making the mistake of calling the day of the week the day after it really is. For example, it is Friday here and my first day off of the weekend, so I keep thinking it is Saturday. I spent my off days, Friday and Saturday, relaxing, but I also went to the school both days just to put a little work in on the classroom. By the Sunday it didn't look half bad. That is when the fun began!

Sunday, September 11th I started my first day at American Creativity Academy, teaching grade 3 boys. Most, if not all of them are Kuwaiti. One did spend the first six years of his life in Canada on the west coast and another was born in Hamilton Ontario, about a 2 hour drive from my home town. I was without a doubt slightly nervous, this was a brand new experience for me! I don't mean living in the Middle East. I simply meant having my own classroom. This was going to be quite different from Korea for sure! I actually had to create lesson plans and teach these guys subjects other than English. Plus, it was larger than any class I had in Korea (24 students) and it was my only class. In Korea I taught several different classes of all skill levels everyday. I liked the idea of teaching one class all the time and can think of a few Korean classes I wish were them.

I received a lot of advice from different people as to how to handle my classroom. Classroom management was a goal I set for myself from the start of the year and a lot of people basically told me I had to be mean. I also don't seem like that assertive of a person--anyone who saw me substitute teach knows it is true (luckily no one watched!)--so I think people were telling me that a little more.

I took it all to heart, and tried to implement it as soon as possible within my class. I am actually quite pleased with how things are going a month later. I don't need to vent nearly as much as my colleagues seem to and I generally enjoy my class. Progress reports are due next week which is a little stressful, but I am taking it in stride. Some students aren't doing that well, but it is a small sample size really. I just need to work on being organized and making parents aware of how their child is doing.

Back to the first day, we practiced one procedure the school asked us to do school wide. It's called "Give Me Five" and is basically a way to get the students quiet and listening quickly. My kids were quiet and pretty shy on the first day. Which makes teaching the procedure difficult because they were already quiet. I also needed to teach them where they should put their bags and things in the morning. I basically got them to put their things away in small groups and had the rest of the class make noise while they were doing it, whether it be clapping their hands or just making silly sounds (I tried getting them to talk but they wouldn't). As a result, we practiced the procedure about 15 times before doing anything else in class. They are experts at it now, and still do it for me quite quickly.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I had 2 spare periods in a row and then taught something for 45 minutes before I had another spare and lunch. The teaching job here is really nothing to complain about. We have 3 spare periods everyday. That leaves us teaching only 4. If I was better at time management and better organized I could get everything I needed to do done during those prep periods and not need to bring my work home. Maybe that is something I can work towards. On a typical Sunday my prep periods are spent writing the newsletter and creating the homework package. Someday I will have that ready by Thursday, insha'Allah.

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