High School - Day 1

El Alba School - view from outside.


Always tease tease tease
Siempre - coqetiando y enganyando
Youre happy when I’m on my knees
Me arrodilla y estas feliz
One day is fine, next is black
Un dias bien el otro negro
So if you want me off your back
Al rededar en tu espalda
Well come on and let me know
Me tienes que desir
Should I stay or should I go?
Me debo ir o que darme

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecisions bugging me
Esta undecision me molesta
If you dont want me, set me free
Si no me quieres, librame
Exactly whom Im supposed to be
Diga me que tengo ser
Dont you know which clothes even fit me?
saves que robas me querda?
Come on and let me know
Me tienes que desir
Should I cool it or should I blow?
me debo ir o quedarme?

Should I stay or should I go now?
yo me frio o lo sophlo?
If I go there will be trouble
Si me voi - va ver peligro
And if I stay it will be double
Si me quedo es doble
So you gotta let me know
Me tienes que decir
Should I stay or should I go?
yo me frio o lo sophlo?

Asking me how today went, would kind of be like asking someone how their first trip on the Titanic was. Let me see, if the school was more organized, if there was someone who could answer questions, could be found and who spoke English, if I had ever taught before, if I actually had textbooks for all the classes, if someone could tell me where the students were in their textbooks, if the students hadn’t finished all their reading material in their textbooks or there was something else I could give them???*(*??$#?%?^

Let me hope that teaching in Canada is not this disorganized, or I will tell you to pull your poor kids out of school and close down the entire system…

I think that even a seasoned teacher would have a fit if thrown into this. Maybe I haven’t had a fit because I have no idea what expectations to put on them. I thought at least a textbook, and an idea of what parts of it needed covered – perhaps an outline of the basic objectives would be a bare minimum.

So here I go to my first class. Grade 7. My little Charlie and the Chocolate factory book in hand. The one I brought to read to the grade 2-4 kids I was supposed to have. These kids have done all the stories in their reading book, and no one can find anything for me until tomorrow at the earliest…maybe. So I get them to introduce themselves, and talk about their goals. They all want to be doctors. I read them the story and I dictate the questions for them. Not bad.

English – Grade 11 – Speaking and Listening. We define Listening and Hearing, Active and Passive. Everyone introduces himself or herself and talks about their goals. They all want to be engineers. I tell them their homework is to write one nice thing about each person in the class. I look at the clock. 22 minutes left out of the 40-minute class. How did that go so fast? I’m out of material. I have nothing left to say… Quick… time to improvise… Body Language. I talk about body language for 15 minutes. I demonstrate, I answer questions. I talk about business and stature and whatever else I can come up with. Seven minutes left. It might as well be an hour. The clock ticks. An ant crawls up my leg. Someone clears their throat. Epiphany!!! I get them to point at each other – I go through the whole 3 fingers point back at you. I explain this whole philosophy to them. I ask them to spend the next week listening to what people say, and to think about what that makes you feel about them. I talk about gossip, and how if someone is gossiping to you, you can be sure they are also gossiping about you. Whew. Class over. Yeah!

English Grade 7 – I show them the schoolhouse rocks video on adjectives. I show it twice. After last class I’m going to make sure I stretch it out. We try some examples of adjectives. The kid in front yells out every answer. He calls the other kids stupid things in Spanish when they don’t know. He is right with his answers. I put him in charge of telling the other kids if they are right. - A bit better.

Reading - Grade 9. Ask them for homework to make a list of any stories they haven’t done in their book. Ask them all to introduce themselves. This takes a while. Good. Take them all outside to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory since the kids in the class next door (the grade 8’s) are making too much noise for me to hear them. ***Please take note of the obvious bit of foreshadowing*** Get told their grade 6 teacher read it to them. Ya. I kinda thought it might be a bit of a stretch. But what else was I to read? Anyway, they seemed to enjoy it anyway and were happy they all knew the story line a bit. I told them we could watch the movie at the end if we finished the book. I added a bit to the grade 7 questions, which are just to see if they actually heard and understood the story line. A little below them, but hey not too bad, and an easy first day for them☺

Puran tells me about her morning. She sent two of her grade 5’s to the office because they were in fisticuffs and she had to get older kids to come and pull them apart. It all started because a girl kissed a boy, no then the story comes out later, he hurt her hand and she was telling him to kiss it better and she stuck her hand on his mouth and said “kiss it better”. The boys started fighting because … glad I don’t have any classes with animals like that… ***Please take note of the second obvious bit of foreshadowing*** At least my classes have settled down and I haven’t had anything like that…

Reading Grade 8 – Wait 5 minutes for them to settle down. 6…7… hmmm not settling. They want to introduce themselves – good, go ahead. Ask them to be quiet. Tell them that I will give them extra … homework if they are not … QUIET… Careful not to raise my voice ... Someone starts talking about what they want to be and someone says, “he says he wants to be a terrorist” I tell them the extra homework for the whole class is Define terrorist, and explain why you are not one. 3 or 4 people wrote it down. I continue with the next person, whom I can hardly hear over the din. I ask them to settle and explain that the younger grades do not have a problem with this. I never raise my voice. I explain that it is their marks, the exam will be the same whether they listen or not is up to them. I give them extra homework number 2. Define Listen and Hear, and explain the difference. I will not lose my patience. Two people write it down. I go on. I get to person number 4… Now extra homework number 3… 10 adjectives about your classroom… don’t know what an adjective is, guess you’ll have to look it up, smile for me. Person number 5 and then person number 6. Now we have extra homework. Write a paragraph on silence. One person writes it down. This isn’t working. I’m jus’ diggin’ a big ol’ pit of extra homework that I gotta mark. I get out the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book. They ask why they can’t continue with the introductions. I tell them we are out of time for that. Smile – repeat the mantra – smile! (In fact we only have 12 minutes left.) If they all work together could they have me hog tied and drawn and quartered before the Director got there? Would she care? Smile! I tell them that I don’t have to be here, and I have my house and my yacht that I can go back to whenever I want. I don’t need this job, and I don’t need them. I am willing to help them, but It will not bother me if all of them fail. I will lose no sleep over them. (LYING!! Can they read it in the corners of my eyes – WAIT – don’t let them see the whites of your eyes!!! Oh what am I thinking – these are kids – like many pirates were, and like the kids that tied Piggy up) I read, …”This is Charlie” … and miraculously, a hush settles over them. They are like babies with the sound of a soothing voice. Maybe I should read to them every day. Maybe. I finish the chapter. Five minutes left. I give them the questions and they want them written on the board. They want them repeated, they want every word spelled, they want… I read faster. I’m only saying these once and these are for marks. Write fast I say. If they want to play hardball… The sad thing is, there’s a couple of good kids in the class and I feel sorry for them. One boy comes to me at the end and I let him look at the questions to make sure he has them all. Tomorrow I think I will try running them around the soccer field before sitting them down. I think that I will impose an absolute silence policy, and anyone who breaks it will run up and down the stairs. Maybe a few days of exercise? Can’t hurt them. What is the saying “Exercise when forced does the body some good, learning when forced, does absolutely nothing.” Maybe at least they will be thinner and they can do all the work at home.

English – grade 10. – See grade 11. I go over all the body language etc. and we’re done 6 minutes early. They have been so interested and co-operative. I tell them the last few minutes is theirs to do what they want with. I get a lot of smiles. This was a much better way to end the day than grade 8’s.

They hand me a new schedule. The colour drains from my face. I scan it quickly. Have they taken my stupid advice and given me a second dose of the Grade 8 class instead of the Grade 10’s for American History? I was really just beginning to think I liked American History… But no. I still only have the Grade 8’s for reading, and I still have American History. They have changed around the order of some of my classes for some unknown reason. It makes no difference. I still have no literature book for grade 10. I still can’t prepare for their first class tomorrow. Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is out of the question. I will just have them write a story themselves.

I phoned Greg and I phoned my father-in-law. He has dealt with sweathogs before, surely he can help. He pauses. “That’s a tough one” he says. Believe it or not, I feel better. So there is no right answer. I haven’t failed the exam. We work on some ideas and I feel better. Tomorrow I have them first thing. They are my challenge, and … my fodder for my blogs. I shall chew them up and spit them down on my pages and it doesn’t really matter what else happens, I win.


hilary slater said…
hey...hope the week ended more smoothly :-) ..and yet I know what (all!!!) grade 8s are like!!
I had just such a class ..when i had to teach them music, remember?!
I didn't fare any better than you in those first days... but something changes over time, thicker skin perhaps..
All I can say is that grade 8 is about getting attention...so let them present. If they speak, pull them up to the front and have THEM read a chapter..or have one of them dictate the questions.
The whole world of teachers hates the excessive hormonal energy of grade 8.
The "my life is wonderful whether you cooperate or not" line is probably a great one..that takes them down to a new level..so they realize they are there for themselves..in 2 or 3 years they will remember back and like you...:-)
( I had my grade 8s again in high school at another school...and most of them clamoured around to see me and thank me for teaching them al about Leonard Cohen -who the claimed as a loser when they were grade 8s!)
IF you run out of reading material (Which I see happening within the second hour!!) you can always read them your BLOG!!
I remember when i read my own poetry/writing to my students, the hushed right down, plus they had more respect for me because I was a writer and demonstrated another side of me..so they were more interested in learning about writing from me!
Why not!
Or write/tell stories from Life in Canada, and homestay tenants and all the things we always tell each other..they will lap it up happily, I'm sure!
Miss you@@!!!
Its my birthday next week and I just feel like escaping my life..
EXCEPT that the water disease is still upon me (and Iain) so I"m struggling to keep nutrients in me..
At least I have a washing machine! :-)
OH>>>Greg could probably email you the stories-on-tape that he has, -For the older kids, (8!s) ...the Angels and Demons guys books!!
THey would LOVE it, and IF you can play it on your laptop, it will also give your voice a break during the day, since 5 days a week or talking non-stop is deadly on the throat..As I"m SURE you are learning! :-)
I will look up whatever I can..
And plan to try for a visit once i"m better..
a week might be all I can manage..but I can bring BOOKS!! :-)
hilary slater said…
PS I've got SKYPE now! What time are you on usually??