The First Week

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, and boy do I have a lot to say!!!

It’s the end of my first week of officially teaching as an official teacher! Hooray!!!

This week has been an amazing one; I’ve found myself literally looking forward to going to bed just so I can wake up and do it all over again! And I do mean ALL, from breakfast, to work, to home again in the evening. This is, I believe, the first time in my life where I really feel like the “whole package” is just perfect.

This is not to say things are perfect; I was up quite late last night panicking with nothing to teach first period today, and while the students are on the whole far better behaved than I’ve ever encountered before, there have been a few issues on that front come up this week. So, it’s not a cake walk, but it feels right… and that’s a pretty neat thing!

I’ve really enjoyed working with the grade 5/6s. They are a great group of students. I see the 6s more than the 5s, as we split up for Math and Literacy, and I’m with the 6s. It’s been interesting to step in to the classroom in the middle of the year. Firstly, the curriculum and programming is quite different from what we use in Ontario. They are using a math program that is really good, but I’m still just getting a feel for how it’s laid out (not hard, just not instinctive). The literacy program is really good, too; however, I was told the students had finished up to a certain point and had planned out the next few lessons only to find out while introducing the lesson that they’d already done all of it. So, some quick thinking got us onto another activity smoothly; it’s just one of those interesting challenges that come up jumping into something in the middle.

I actually am really enjoying those challenges. While I really like to be well-prepared for something before it happens, I also enjoy things that pop up in the middle that need to be adapted to. I always have; I guess it’s sort of like a game, only one that actually matters. J

I’m teaching the grade 5/6 art class. This week, the students made a little poster (for lack of a better word) with certain things about themselves (details I asked for – plans for the future, hobbies, get-to-know-you stuff, etc) and their photo in the middle. They presented them this morning, and they are now decorating the bulletin board in our classroom. In addition to learning lots of interesting things about our students, I also learned that you cannot assume that your students have pencil crayons at home to finish art projects. No one in my class had anything to colour with at home. There have been a few other little things like that that have popped up, but I can’t remember them now. You know, those subtle differences that remind you that you’re not at home anymore? Nothing big…

I’m also very much enjoying the grade 1 math class; the age group, if you know me and my teaching ‘preferences’, is quite out of my comfort zone, but I’m actually really enjoying it! They are a fine group of pretty normal grade 1s – full of energy, not always quick to listen, but what else is to be expected? I’m really enjoying the challenges of trying to meet the wide range of requirements of academic difficulty, managing the physical activity level, and keeping all of the students engaged. As rewarding as a successful lesson usually is, my successes in this class feel infinitely more significant. I’ve learned so much already from being in this classroom.

Another interesting thing to get used to at this school is the huge amount of classroom support! There is a full-time Teacher’s Assistant (TA) in every classroom. This is remarkable! In addition to this, in the grade 1 class, there is an ESL teacher who comes in instead of taking students out (I think just in this situation, to help the social aspect…), and there are two other TAs (I think that’s what their position is…). So, there are always 3 to 4 other adults in the room, in addition to myself. I’m definitely not used to this! And I don’t mean that it makes me nervous or anything; I mean that I just don’t know how to manage all of that support well. However, I had a great chat with the ESL teacher, and since then, I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Today’s lesson went quite well!

I’ve started covering the grade 4 literacy and history classes, just for about five more weeks. In history, I’m going to do a short unit on Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) culture, largely because I studied it a fair bit, and I thought it would be kind of fun to do some Canadian content with them. It’s grade 4, and I only have four classes for it, so it’s not too in-depth, but we got off to a great start today talking about the concept of culture. We mind mapped (yes, I, linear-thinking-Jessica, willingly did a mind map… hard to believe, I know…) Nepali culture, which was fun because the students were teaching ME things! Then, they had to do a mind map of another culture that they identified with (some are Nepali, and some chose Nepal because that’s all they remember; others tried to do their home cultures). This was interesting. I’ve asked to get some training on teaching Third Culture Kids (TCKs) for my professional development, and am looking forward to when that happens. It was neat to watch them struggle to think of elements of their own culture (after doing Nepal so easily), coming up with things like “we have funerals” and “we eat curry” – not necessarily wrong, but not unique, either. It got me to wondering how important it really was that they know things about their own culture… There are a million factors to that answer, and I’m looking forward to mulling them over, and learning more about the issue. Anyway, eventually we’ll be using that mind map as a template for our learning about the Haudenosaunee. Should be fun!

In the literacy component, we’re doing narratives. So, after doing the first narrative sample with the program, I’ve started using Haudenosaunee (mostly, and a few other Native Canadian) narratives as the texts. We’re working towards writing our own Native Canadian Narrative. We did some impromptu oral story making-up, and I was so impressed with their creativity! I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with when they’ve had time to prepare!

So, I think that covers school… The lunches they make for the staff are fantastic! They have food that is Nepali, and also other food usually. I must say, I prefer the Nepali food to the international stuff, but it’s all been yummy!

Last Sunday, Simon, Michelle and another friend, Jordan, made a Scrabble board for us! We hosted a games night here on Wednesday – all of us, Jordan, three other teachers from the school, and another new friend. Some of us played Scrabble (six players), and there were some other games out, too. We played two games of Scrabble, and then several rounds of Take Two, which is also called Bananagrams – lots of fun! (It’s similar to Scrabble but without the board – and it’s a speed game!!!) Last, we played Bible Mad Gab all together, which was a great way to end the evening!

Thursday was Kim’s birthday, and tonight we all went out for Mexican food to celebrate! (I had no clue the Mexican restaurant here would be so authentically Mexican tasting! I thought it’d be like everything else – a Nepali spin on something else…) We had such a great time together, and then came home and played a couple of card games.

Now, I’m sitting here, writing this, and listening to the movie Jump In! while I putter away at things. My bed is looking quite tempting, but I thought I should take the time to blog now that I have a few minutes to spare! Monday’s lessons are all prepped except for art, and I have ample time to mull that one over.

Tomorrow, we’re all going out of town a ways to the Leprosy Hospital, where there is a carnival-type (I gather) event to raise funds. We’ll spend some time out there and then walk back (should be quite a nice walk! We’re bussing in, though.). I’m really looking forward to it – the event, getting out of the city, seeing new things, taking a nice walk, etc., etc., etc.

Alrighty, it’s late now – almost 11:00 – and I was up late last night working, so I think I’m going to turn in now.

I hope you all have a super great day!

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