Friday, October 24, 2014

Classroom Observation

It's been a busy week, busier than normal, and we've had a few curve balls. On Monday when I went to pick up Evie for our outing I was talking with Ms. Mariana the English Coordinator for a bit. This has become a regular check-in; I've really appreciated Ms. Mariana and her help for our family as we learn to navigate this new school and system. I've asked about ways I can help at school. Most of the schools here (from what I've observed and heard) don't make much use of the parents, and the parents don't try to help. Part of this, I think, comes from many of the schools being tuition-based. There's a perception that since payment has exchanged hands, responsibility has as well. One of the things we liked about the school we chose for the kids is that the philosophy is more open to parents. The reality, though, is farther behind. I've been able to go in a few times to read to classes, but for the most part there's little request for my help. There is a chance that I'll be able to work in the library, so I've been pursuing that.

However on Monday my question as to whether Ms. Mariana knew more about the library possibility took a sudden shift. Suddenly we weren't talking about the library need; we were talking about a new need--an English teacher for Evie's class. Apparently that day was her English teacher's last day. My heart dropped, because I liked Ev's English teacher. Ms. Mariana assured me, though, that this was a good thing. Apparently things have been difficult with this teacher from day one. I knew Ev had really easy assignments for this class, but I assumed it was because it was lower level English. It seems that more of the problem was that the material wasn't being covered.

"If you have any connections," Ms. Mariana said, "Anyone who could teach, please send them our way!" Now, technically I'm qualified. I have a graduate degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages. For an instant my heart leapt and I thought, "What a chance!" But then sense took hold. I can barely stay on top of things as it is, much less work a full-time teaching job. Yikes! However I could offer help now and then, and I could pass the word along to one of the teachers in our apartment building who has TEFL certification.

My offer to help ended up with my going in this morning to hang out with Ms. Mariana as she taught Ev's class. It turned out that my primary job was to sit against the wall and look pretty, but I also got to help with one of the exercises and read a couple books to the kids.

It was an interesting experience; I'm not sure how much I can put into words yet. The classrooms are small, and while the class size is also small, the room is cramped. Each room opens onto an outside corridor and students are constantly coming and going along it.

The walls and floor are concrete and tile, so every sound bounces...and there is a lot of sound. My kids have mentioned a number of times that the students here are *loud* and don't respond to teacher requests for quiet. It's true. They're cute kids, bubbling with energy and inquisitiveness, but they haven't learned or been taught the art of attending.

I felt like I was back in college when I had to do classroom observations. My brain whirled with opinions, ideas, comparisons and contrasts. I've seen a lot of my kids' classes back in the States, but usually on party days, so I didn't have a good frame of reference for how the lesson was taught today. It did seem to be a question/answer style. I had to remind myself, too, that this wasn't just an English class; this was English as a foreign language. Some of these kids are still struggling with the basics of English, and Spanish flowed alongside the English. Would I have run things differently? That's the question I can't answer right now. I knew some things could be done more effectively, but I didn't have enough of a framework to be able to say how.

We wrapped up the morning with a visit with the class to the school library. I was so thankful when we looked at schools back in June that this school had a library. Some of them don't, and it seems more important at the kids' school than it does at other schools. It is very small, though. They're in the process of building it up, and I'm hoping that I can be a part of that. I'll take on that job before I take on a classroom of squirrelly second-graders.

And that is all I've got at the moment. I had the roots of some deep pedagogical observations that I was going to make here, but I think I'll end as is. For now, I'll keep observing.

1 comment:

  1. It must be exciting living in another country and have you and your kids figure out the school system. I'm glad that you're trying to help and finding ways to help in the classroom! I'm not a teacher, but I've done a few classroom observations and it always interested me to see different teaching philosophies.