Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comments on an International School

October 2010

*Every now and then I'm just struck -- awe-struck, in a way-- by the sheer lack of discipline problems I have at this school. Usually, I just go about my business, focusing on teaching and all the issues that come along with that. I start to get frustrated with my workload, the multiple groups I am teaching at multiple levels. And then, I remember: I used to have discipline problems. Last year and for my 4 years teaching at a public school in South Carolina, I had immense discipline issues. So much so that I rarely taught; I felt like my entire teaching life was simply managing discipline. If I could get the kids to not hurt each other or an adult, well, then, my day was a success.Here, though, discipline is not an issue. The kids are good, kind, loving, sweet, and hard-working. I have rules posted in my classroom, but I don't think I've even pointed them out to my students. THAT'S how good they are.

Most of my students WANT to work and WANT to learn. The biggest issues come from the students who speak almost no English. As they learn English, they start to behave. I have one older student with OK English who in America would be diagnosed with ADD. He has some problems, but he is not a disruption. I am more concerned about him academically and socially than I am concerned about how his behavior affects my classroom.

*As this is an international school, so many of my students are from far-away places. I know they are dealing with homesickness, culture shock etc. One 6-year old boy, with almost no English, on his 2nd day here, when his teacher tried to explain to him that he didn't need to change his shoes, crawled into his cubby and started to cry. Poor child--new city, new school, new language.

*I have a Kazakh student who is from another city. His family lives there; he lives in Astana with his tutor (or something like that). He is an older boy, but genuinely excited when his mother comes to visit. During Fall Break, he went home. This is a kid whose parents have enough money to pay the $20,000 a year tuition plus pay for a full-time tutor/nanny and for him to live in another city. What did he do over Fall Break? He collected mushrooms and grazed sheep. What wealthy American kids do that during their free time? What wealthy Americans are that close to the land and our rural roots?

*Other comments on this being an international school: Already we've had to declare our intent for next year--simply, do we plan on returning to this organization? Do we plan on returning to this school? By Dec. we'll have to say for sure and even what grade/subject we will teach! (Although that could change.) I know for sure that I'll be back, but others aren't too sure--for those teachers who have never taught abroad before, the first few months have tough and they're not sure if by the end of the year they'll be loving it or ready to high-tail it out of here.

Me, my main dilemma is whether or not I want IE (Intensive English) again. My other choice would be 4th grade. I love teaching IE, but with so many levels, it's a headache. Once our school gets bigger, we could probably get another elementary IE teacher, and I could focus on the beginners, the other teachers on the intermediate students. But for now, it's just me. Last year, there was no one, so the other teachers are quite happy to have me! Last year, the low-to-non-English speakers went down a grade or two for English class, and had an hour of Intensive English (with a local assistant) during the foreign language.

*Also, we just ordered our supplies for next year! Again, how hard it is to know now what we'll want for next year! Esp. since I'm also teaching 6th grade math--I know which supplies would have been useful to have for the units I've taught already, but I have no idea what I'll be needing later in the year! Oh well. I ordered some things to teach decimal place value with; last year, teaching 5th grade math, that was the hardest concept for the students to get. This year, too, so that's something I'm sure is needed.

I also ordered a ton of books, since the IE classroom doesn't have any books, since there wasn't an IE classroom next year. The principal let me order well over my limit, since he knew I needed the books so badly. So it would be nice to have IE next year and to use all those books!

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