Wednesday, March 7, 2012

School's in Session

I've had quite a bit of classroom and teaching experience, but I feel like this job is giving me a whole new way to look at things. Different culture means a different approach to learning and education, which is cool, but also throws me off since it's so different than what I learned. I've been pushing myself to get over my "cultural bias" and take away as many new tips and techniques as possible, which has been interesting.

The postcards we sent to AK.
The one "bad" thing I've noticed myself doing is raising my voice more with students. Teachers in Spain raise their voices, and bang on the desks or blackboards, to get attention or to settle a class down. They also have no problem raising their voice to a student if that student isn't behaving. I've been fairly successful at not banging on things to get attention, but I've noticed that my voice gets raised more than I'd prefer and that I have a little less patience with students sometimes. I'm aware of the problem, and I'm really trying to fix it. I love using a countdown to bring them back under control for quite a few reasons: fairly each to teach, even for students who don't completely understand English; they start counting with me, and as I lower my voice, they do too; it gives me 5 seconds to refocus myself on what's going on- not on the frustration I have when they're talking over me. (I've been reading lots of teaching blogs and websites, especially ones focusing on classroom management, and apparently it's been helping me get better with it.)

One of my teachers gave control of the classroom to me for the whole time I was there yesterday. It's 30 minutes right before the recreo (break) and they're 3rd graders, so it's always a little crazy and hectic. She explained what she wanted them to do, and then let me do everything. We're making a "crazy solar system" so the kids had to write a description of their made-up planet. I explained it in English, slowly and with actions, and no one got it. I did it again, supplementing with Spanish, and no one really got it. And then I did an example on the board, in English, with Spanish and we finally got there. Once it clicked, they LOVED the project, and I loved getting to see them so excited about it. That class really likes me, so they love showing me their work, so it's fun to see what they do.

Today, I got the chance to deal more with the emotional needs of students. I normally try to avoid being the teacher kids come to with a problem at recreo, because I can't understand them, but today it kept happening. I got to hear about whose birthday it was from the other kids, say congrats to them, listen to tattling, and even talk to one of my first grade kiddos who was upset because someone didn't want to play with her. I didn't have any great words of advice, but sitting and listening is sometimes all they need.

How cute are the "signatures" over their names? Love those boys!
All of the 2nd graders heard a presentation from the doctor about being healthy, and my teacher was planning with another teacher in the hall while I sat and listened with them. (I was practicing my listening skills, and learning about lice. Gross.) One of my girls came up to me sobbing, and almost hyperventilating, and couldn't even tell me what was wrong. I got her calmed down and apparently she was scared of the doctor because last year she got vaccinated. Oh L., I feel your pain. I cried like you did when I was 21. I let her sit next to me and hold my hand, and told my teacher about it. It happened again though, and my teacher asked me to take her outside and rinse her face and let her calm down. Then another teacher started talking to her, and wouldn't let me take her out, and then took her out and lectured her about how she shouldn't cry.

What should I have done? Disrespected a teacher, who is both older and more experienced, and a REAL teacher, and followed my teacher's directions? I'm still upset about it. I hate the language barrier. I hate that I didn't know how to handle it because it wasn't my student. And I hate that my sweet girl was lectured about not being afraid. It doesn't always work- I was lectured until I turned 23 about how shots weren't bad and I needed to grow up and it didn't help. I had to force myself to get over it, and I'm still working on that.

On a positive note, I had a 6th grade class clap and cheer for me when I brought them copies of their textbook since their projector didn't work and I saved class. I also had art with my adorable first graders, who love to show off their English and tell me all about their lives. And one of my second graders held my hand all the way to the meeting, told me I'm the best teacher, and then talked to me about her favorite season- IN ENGLISH! The ones around her joined in too, so we had a nice review of seasons on our walk. Overall, the day was definitely a win. I am going to miss these kids more than they know.

The pen pal wall. I love this!
The pictures have nothing to do with anything recent, but I forgot to post them, and I love that the first graders can write in cursive, and some of the adorable pictures.

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