Saturday, October 29, 2011

School School School

I heard plenty of warnings on how chatty the kids at American Creativity Academy (and I assume the whole of Kuwait) were. Classroom management was one of the professional goals I put down during orientation...I was told I would sure get a lot of work at that!

I was familiar with assertive discipline from my practicum in Australia and was anxious to try it out on my own classroom. For those unaware, assertive discipline tries to focus on positive behavior with the premise that most behavior issues are due to attention. If you give the positive behavior the attention, then students will try to get attention by doing positive things.

One of my colleagues wrote her thesis on this theory and she let me read it in preparation for my first days of school. I certainly could have done a lot better of a job implementing it, but I am sure it has helped quite a bit as well. I have a pretty good group of boys and very few if any complaints about how things are going. As long as they continue to work hard I will consider the year a success. I am considering taking them ice skating as an out of school reward for good behavior. We will see if that works out.

I recently purchased a new camera, although it isn't working the best right now, I do have some pictures of what my classroom looks like that I will share. I won't post any pictures of my students as that would be unprofessional, but if you really want to see them, let me know and I will get them to you.

Everything is going okay within the classroom. I still don't know exactly what I am doing, but I am learning a lot along the way and know that next year everything will be so much easier. I am looking forward to teaching the same things next year.

So far this year I have taught Place Value in Math and Map Skills for social studies. I teach each of those once a day and teach two periods of Language Arts everyday. That puts me at four classes a day out of seven or twenty for the week. The other fifteen are specialty classes, six Arabic classes, three Islam classes, two PE classes, two Life Skills classes, an art and a computer class.

The school is an English instruction school, so everything is done in English other than Islam and Arabic. That means the level of the students English is far superior to that of the children I taught in Korea. The students in my class--grade 3 and roughly 8 years old--probably understand about 80% of what I say where as I would be surprised if any of the classes I taught in Korea even understood 40%, or half that of these 8 year olds. The one class that may have had exceptions was a high school class I taught, and they were all close to 10 years older.

That isn't to say it's not ESL, because it certainly is. These students are behind in literacy. There are ESL teachers for the younger grades. One ESL teacher talked to us and told us one of the biggest differences between these children and the children from back home is being read to from a young age. We have been encouraged to include reading to the students.

This is a hard thing to do because of all the curriculum stuff we are supposed to get through. I enjoy reading to them myself and had already been doing it a lot before we were even told to do that. I was starting to feel guilty about doing that because of the curriculum stuff we need to get through. Hearing that has put me at ease a bit.

I feel like I am so far behind in everything I am trying and supposed to do within the classroom. Things in the school always come up that push my planning back and don't allow me to get through nearly as much as I need to. This past week was 'Reading Week' where the school tried to focus on reading. As a result, there were some special activities planned that cut into class time, like for instance a parade of characters from the books we read (my class read Horrible Harry Goes to the Moon), and an assembly with an author of a new comic book series (I may need to write a small blog post about that later).

In addition to that, the grade 3's are preparing for Hajj, an Islamic ceremony where they are preparing for what they do when they go to Mecca. That is this Sunday, and I lost a few classes this week because they needed extra practice. They are also doing standardized tests next week, and this is the first time grade 3's have done these tests before. I spent several periods last week doing practice tests in preparation for the tests Monday and Tuesday. Those were classes I was unable to teach curriculum, the 4 periods they take the test I will be unable to teach curriculum and the whole day they are at Hajj I will not be teaching either. Other teachers are calling me lucky because I have an easy week before my week break starts, but I am just worried about not being able to get through lessons these kids need.

At the same time, my hands are tied and there isn't much I can do. If I go through things too slow, I go through things too slow. I have 5 days left until I get a week vacation. I will spend that on a beach in Sri Lanka. I am looking forward to that!

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