Monday, September 08, 2008

School, not Rice Cakes

I was going to write about the Turmeric Rice Cake Lady and how I think she was just an apparition or an angel because we haven't seen her since that first night we came to look at the castle -- but...everyone is asking me to write about school. I got three emails about that very topic just now.

By the way, my brother signed me up for a blog counter. It has a variety of measurements, but the one that really surprised me: 273 people visited my blog from separate computers last week. I just want to say: 1) who are all of you? and 2.) wow...thanks for stopping by!

Anyway, school. I'm not writing about how worried I am about my Turmeric Rice Cake Lady returning to the alley very soon...I'm writing about school. OK. I teach five sixth grade classes, which means that I teach every single sixth grader in the school. Three classes are Language Arts and two are Ancient History. They are labeled 6A through 6E and travel together through all of their classes. I teach on the fourth floor and the copy room is on the first floor (which, by the way, is not the ground floor). The elevator doesn't work and so I do a lot of running up and down the stairs. The copy machine doesn't work, either, but the copy girl runs all of our requests across the street. I guess this is OK, but we don't have the textbooks in from the states yet and we are supposed to rely on copies until that time. Oh, the internet is very slow and doesn't work half the time, either. But we do have LCD projectors that are hooked to our computers, so I have been using lots of visuals.

Let's see...the schedule is a bit crazy. We teach either four or five hours per day, but have at least two hours for breaks or planning, too, which means I arrive at seven and usually leave at five because Tarn (librarian) and I share a taxi back to the castle. Each week, each class has one block period which means they have one hour long class, a five minute break, then another hour long class. It's hard to get used to. And this morning I completely spaced on the fact that I was starting with a block and had only planned for one hour. So I recalled Amy's comment in the last blog about just playing games and using the language and I faked my way through the second hour with fun fun fun. We reenacted Otzi the Iceman's death: I put sticky notes on the foreheads of volunteers (all boys) and had them fight and stab each other and die. They loved it, and the kids had no idea how lame their teacher was. Maybe they even learned something~ However, I can't do that too much because the school is on the fast track to reach IB (International Baccalaureate) level. We are told to push them as much as we can...that is why this particular principal was hired; he specializes in opening new international IB schools. Here is a shot of my floor: pretty exciting, huh?

Things seem to be running rather smoothly, considering how much change the school has experienced in the last year. Many of the new students were required to attend summer school, so their English is OK. Some are so difficult to understand, though. One in particular, Minh, is so darned cute...the most prominent feature on his face: big teeth with even bigger (dirty) braces. He loves to talk and every time he raises his hand I try so hard to understand what he is saying, but I just can't. It doesn't help that the constant drone of motorbikes outside my window drowns out most of what he says. It sounds like the loud lawnmower that would always visit Scriber at the worst teaching moments, the times that you really just wanted to make a point. Plus, construction on a building started today and poor Minh might as well be a big set of clattering braces for all I can understand.

Sixth grade is interesting. I found that they didn't get my witty sense of humor the first day, so I am adjusting it with some success. Breaking things down to this low level is difficult for me, but I am great at thinking of fun games to play, especially at the last minute. And the kids love to get me to pronounce things. Minh loves to act as a conductor to get me to understand intonations...he sweeps his hands up and down, up and down. When I get it right, the whole class says "YES!" (This happens rarely and I usually cannot repeat it.)
What else? The girls hate sitting by the boys and vice versa, but I made a seating chart doing just that. The girls want to gossip with me and be my friend. The boys are polite but distant. I don't have one discipline problem yet. Like I have said a few times, the kids are cute and eager to learn. I tell you what...if you ask me direct questions about school and details you want to know, I will address them. But right now I am going to go peek around the corner to see if she is there and then I'm going up to my hammock. I will try to get pictures of the kids soon...that's what you will really like!
Good morning to you, good night from me! Isn't it strange that I am saying goodbye to Monday and you don't even know it's Monday yet~

9 comments:

Brian Bowker said...

So let me get this straight...

School is going fine, and you have Internet connected classrooms with projectors to aid with teaching.

Except the Internet doesn't work half the time, so you need to rely more on the textbooks.

Except the textbooks aren't in yet, so you have to make photocopies.

Except the elevator isn't working, so you have to run down four flights of stairs.

Except the copier is busted, so they have a girl that runs across the street to make them.

And there's the constant din of motorcycles outside your window.

And your fairy-rice-cake-godmother turned out to be just a mirage...

Goodness Marjie! No wonder you had all your students pretend to murder each other!

AmyT said...

Marj, Brian is trying to steal your thunder again... He's funny. Have you always had this competition between the two of you? (oh, thanks for the nod to my oh-so-sage-advice)

kumma said...

Hey, smarj... Sorry about the 273 hits from 273 computers. On my way in to work every morning, I can't wait to see what new adventure you're having. So, I make 267 stops along the way, just to check up on you... my bad.

The Norris Clan said...

Oh... I hope you found your rice cake fairy godmother. Your students sound like fun. Of course the girls want to be your friend - you're Marjie. I really do love the murder game, though. Classic. That should surely help the school be a 1B level school.

Brian Bowker said...

@Kumma: "So, I make 267 stops along the way..."

Now THAT'S funny!

marjie said...

Brian, you have summarized my school situation perfectly. But I am glass half full, I've decided, what do I have to complain about? Except that when I woke up this morning, there was no running water in the castle. And the copier was down, as was the internet and the grading/attendance system. But like I said, I've decided to be half-full...

marjie said...

And Sbill, thanks for making me feel popular, just like you did in high school~

marjie said...

Amy, my brother and I have never been competitive. I wished him into the world so I can only be proud of his witty replies.

Anonymous said...

AWesome comments! I am smiling from ear-ear! Yes-Brian and Marjie could have their own show and entertain the world with their wit and charm-they balance each other out beautifully. I was blessed to camp with them on an island in the middle of Flathead Lake and see both of them in their mother nature enhanced glory. Keep the vibe going-everybody-all 287 of you -holy moly! love Jaci