Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Days at a New School, Same City

The first day for new staff was Thursday, 19 August, but luckily my new principal told me that I could take the day off, since we had just arrived Wednesday at midnight! (Visa issues... Too many little mistakes plus the Kazakhstan Embassy taking longer than expected, meant that we had to put off our arrival in Kazakhstan by a week.)

Jet lag hit Sophia bad, as usual. Thursday she fell asleep around 6 pm, and I thought, maybe she'll sleep most the night. At least until 4 am. No, she woke up by 11 and from then on, she woke me up every half hour, saying "Momma!" Around 5 am I yelled at her and she was finally quiet. But then, I had to wake up at 6...

At 8 am, I came into the new school and met the new staff. The principal had lined up an aide to watch over the teacher's children, which was very nice. It's still a small school--maybe 120 students this year, or a bit more--and growing every year. It's in its 5th year.

Every year they've had to buy a new school building, as enrollment keeps growing. This year, the school is located in 3 tall buildings. My room will be in the middle building, the Elementary Building, for students aged 7 to 11 years old. Because the school caters to an international crowd, they call the classes by ages and not by grades. Because in different countries different grades mean different things.

On the first floor in my building are the 9-year old and the 7-year old classrooms, as well as a small bathroom. The second floor is where my rooms are located, plus the 8-year old classroom, the teacher resource room, and a bathroom. I'm doing Intensive English--English for students whose English is not good enough to take English and Reading in their regular classrooms--and I have 2 aides and a wide range of students, ages 6 to 11, with a wide range of abilities. So two classrooms, the second one being rather small. The 3rd floor has the 10-year old room, the 11-year old room, the assistant principal's office, and the cafeteria. The top floor has the library.

Each building has a cafeteria, which will be nice in cold weather. The less the students have to travel between buildings, the better. A local restaurant caters and children can decide if they want to buy lunch or bring their own.

One building contains the preschool through 6-year olds, plus the Elementary Kazakh and Russian classrooms, plus the computer lab and the Elementary art room. The Elementary music room is the cafeteria, as the 10-year-old teacher also teaches music, and her room is next to the cafeteria. The third building contains the main office and staff rooms, plus all the high school classes. Another building has the gym and storage--they are really excited, since this is the first year that the school will have a real gym. Another building contains an indoor play area for when it gets cold, plus an auditorium (just a large, empty room) on the second floor.

There are two areas with some play equipment, plus a basketball hoop. The entire area is gated, and there is a little guard house near the main entrance, and there are guards 24/7. So, in theory, if I wanted to get some work down at midnight on a weekend, I could come by and a guard would let me in. Also, in theory (and hopefully in practice, too!) if a kid wants to run away during the school day, a guard will notice and stop him.

I found out on Friday that I would also be teaching 11-year old Mathematics (Middle School Course 1, is what the textbook says). I decided to convert my 2nd room into a Mathematics room, which worked nicely when there were only nine 11-year old students, but now there are 12 and it's rather cramped!

I spent that Friday as well as Saturday and many days the next week attempting to get my room in order, to decorate it and make it look nice. Hard, since I wasn't sure exactly what I'd be doing, who I'd be teaching, how I'd be teaching, what they'd be needing. I was thankful for all the supplies the principal's wife had brought with her, and in the end, my room looked rather nice.

Friday for lunch were were driven to the American Embassy, where the Librarian / French teacher's husband works. Here I was able to order pizza for Sophia, which she only somewhat liked.

Saturday, while I worked in my classroom, my Kazakh friend watched Sophia for most of the entire day. That was rather nice. They went to eat at Mega, played in a park, went out for cake and tea, then Sophia went to the ice skating rink to watch her friend ice skate. I got quite a bit of work done without Sophia!

On Monday, I met the rest of the staff. Maybe about 20 people in all. Mostly Americans, some Canadians, a Korean-American, a woman from Barbados who I think is also Canadian. Mostly couples also, as the organization that runs the school prefers to hire teaching couples (to save on the cost of apartments, I believe, possibly other reasons too). Mostly around my age, in their 30s or late 20s, from what I could guess. The principal and his wife have two children, ages 9 and almost-7; a new couple have two children, ages 10 and 7; another new couple has an 18-month old daughter. The librarian (older) has two teenage daughters. A male teacher has a 4-month old baby; his wife taught here last year but now is staying home with her baby. She will be babysitting the 18-month old during the day. For now, the 18-month old's grandparents are here to help babysit.

For lunch, they took us to a restaurant with a buffet. Sophia did not like much of the food, but was able to eat the salami. She and some of the other children got quite silly after a while, which is to be expected, and it was nice to see her playing.

Two more days until school would start!

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