Another week and the KIDS STILL KEEP COMING. This is a good thing. I would HATE for them to miss out on learning opportunities…really .
More tests, grades and levellings have been the order of the day: I am fairly happy with the end results, but have a slight niggle that I have not given the boys with more acute special needs the attention they deserve. There is really nothing in place to assist them, and when you have 27 (ESL, extremely boisterous, relentlessly talkative) boys and no teaching assistant it is hard to ensure they are making progress at all times. Of course I do the IEPs and differentiate, but I realise how lucky I was to have another adult in the classroom back at home. I have also been spoilt in that every TA/LSA I have worked with back in England has been fantastic; it also highlights how grateful we should be for the TAs that turn up every day and put their heart and soul into a job that pays them very little….
This Thursday, I am going to have a little party in the classroom to say well done to the boys for not killing each other (or me) this academic year. When it comes to parties here, anything goes. The more ‘e’ numbers the better. Bring on the cheesy wotsits, the mountain dew and the fizzy snakes…. oh, the fun we shall have. The boys in the upper primary years drink coffee, Red Bull and other energy drinks at playtime. We have tried to ban it and educate them as to why it is detrimental to their health, but to little effect. I will be writing a note to parents, asking them to provide some food and drinks for Thursday, but the usual “absolutely no fizzy drinks or sweets or chocolate or meat or NUTS God NO NUTS or ANYTHING MADE IN A FACTORY THAT HANDLES NUTS actually just bring some PRE-PACKAGED steamed broccoli” letter is not going to make a blind bit of difference. As I have done so many times here, I am going to just go with the flow. Let the mayhem commence.
I have booked my flight home (woo hoo!) and am now just waiting for the education council to reimburse me. I will find out at the end of next month if I have made a profit or a loss. Only six weeks to go before it is home time. Quite a few of those days will be spent doing professional development meetings in school, and just generally hanging around while the kids fly off to various exotic locations on their holidays. I do believe this is the ideal time to check out a few more of those “mid week” ladies nights…
Apologies for the delay in writing: After the lack of February half term here I think I went into shock! But what a term it has been…
The last week was spent inputting grades and watching my class dwindle to zero children by the last day. The older children in grades three, four and five were sitting tests in Arabic, English and Science ( a bit like SATS at home, and equally soul destroying.) I have spent quite a lot of time doing individual assessments and feeling elated and thoroughly depressed in turn. I have children who know all their letter sounds and about 50 high frequency words, and then of course the few children who look at you blankly when you show them “S”, despite writing it, reading it, building it, cutting it out, making it out of play dough, making it out of string, and contorting your own body to look like an “S”. Daily. For months. However, I consoled myself with the fact that the MAJORITY of children are on target and making progress. I find myself smiling more and handing out more stars and “well done” stamps, which is costing me a fortune in toy cars as prizes from Daiso. Maybe I am just getting nicer.
I have been lucky enough to have more visitors, including two friends from home followed by my father. It is amazing how their perspective can make me feel more positive about what I am doing over here. They loved the country and the lifestyle, and having them here made me appreciate it more. My dad even came into my school for the morning. The boys were incredibly cute and eager to impress him with their writing skills. My poor dad sat for an hour whilst a variety of boys came to him with various letters written on whiteboards and a shy smile. It was pretty relentless, and I think even the most patient of people would tire of enthusiastic “wows!!!!” after seeing the letter x scrawled for the 68th time. He was, however, impressed with what they could do and the with the fact that they all shook his hand and asked “How are you?”. Cuteness.
I HOPE I am in grade one again next year. I have spent so much time, money and effort making it into MY classroom, that I would be peeved to have to start all over again. There are certain things I have bought that are pretty much ignored, but the boys LOVE magnets, construction toys, whiteboards and pens. Mind you, I think that would be the same if I moved to grade five.
Outside of work I’ve got entertainment on the agenda as I help a friend look after a gaggle of guest staying with her: Going to Al Ain tomorrow, and then Dubai on Wednesday. I think when people come here, they are pleasantly surprised at how relaxed things are, and the floor length cardigans tend to come off after an hour or so. However, as this little link highlights, it serves well to always remember where we are, and to be careful:
Perhaps a harsh reminder that we aren’t in Kansas any more.
Have booked my flight home for the summer holidays and am incredibly excited! I want to have a barbeque (with Richmond pork sausages) in a garden in the rain and I want to buy a Tesco ready-meal deal for ten pounds. ‘Tis the little things in life….
I have been on my first class outing! I think I should do a little comparison here:
School trip at home:
The trip is booked months in advance. Parents are informed at least two weeks in advance, with a plaintive plea for some money and a permission slip to sign. This ends up with teachers sticking up posters outside their classroom doors, BEGGING for money and aformentioned permission slips two days in advance of the trip. On the day of the trip, teachers will have filled in a risk assessment form so detailed that we will all be fully aware of what measures to take if aliens land and invade the coach. Children will be wearing wrist bands and florescent vests, be standing rigidly in twos gripping their partner’s hand whilst the teacher tells them which SMALL GROUP they will be in and who their assigned adult is. The teacher will try to look relaxed as she checks her medical pack for the 18 inhalers, 3 epi-pens and 50 sick bags for the 24th time. The trip will be linked to what they are learning and teachers will spend a great deal of time telling them how exciting it will be, and asking them lots of questions about what they can SEE, and relate it to their learning, despite the fact that we all know they are simply interested in eating their packed lunch on a park bench somewhere (the packed lunch which we will have directed them to bring with NO SWEETS or FIZZY DRINKS). Their day is interrupted at various times so the teacher can do a head count,and if one head is missing for more than 3 seconds we convince ourselves that said child has been abducted and our mugshot will be on the front page of the Daily Mail. It takes at least 24 hours to recover.
School trip in the UAE:
Five minutes before the children go home:
Arabic Teacher: “You are going on trip.”
Me: “How lovely. When?”
AT: “Tomorrow, Inshallah. Here are forms. You give to children. You ask for the money.”
Me: “How soon! Er…where are we going?”
AT: “The mall. Fun City. To play.”
The following day, every child brought in their permission slip and money. We got on the coach, with no wrist bands, medical supplies or risk assessments. We went to Fun City. The children went on all the rides, played in the ball pool, threw the balls at each other, ran up the slides or dive-bombed down them head first, climbed over gates, had burgers, chips and coke for lunch, spent their own money on candy floss/ice cream/various e-numbers and blue food colouring and or playing shooting games in the arcade – and then they went home. You know what – they had a blast. And so did I.
Aside from that, I have my official evaluation on Sunday. I have put my little file together and am ready for the interview! It is Spring Break in three weeks, so everything needs to be wrapped up before then, including putting the new grades into the system. I was also informed that the children stop coming to school in May. By mid June, there are no children. None. “What do we do for the last few weeks?”, I asked. The answer was…not much.
I love living here.
It has been a long time since I have written this blog, and it has been a pretty busy month! Next week we are due to hand in our “Professional Development Profiles” where we will be graded in a variety of areas; work differentiation, teaching style, assessment, contribution to the wider community… One of the requirements is that we observe our peers teaching and give them feedback, which hardly any of us have done. I find this kind of thing extremely uncomfortable and I DO. NOT. WANT. TO. DO. IT. I know this is my issue, and I would have to force myself to be really objective but…but…what if my favourite people are a bit rubbish? What if my least favourite, arrogant people are really, really GOOD? Hmm. We must provide “evidence” (staged photos, anyone?) and back up what we say. We will then be given a percentage as a teacher. Charming. Can’t wait.
Observation wise, I am pretty happy with how mine have gone so far. There are official observations alongside the more informal “walk throughs”. During one walk through I was unfortunate enough to be caught sucking the joy out of a planting activity due to a lousy headache and a dire mood: Instead of saying “So what do YOU think will happen to the bean?” in my most Miss Honey voice, I was more of a Mrs Trunchbull “That’s ENOUGH water, Hamed! Next!” Oh well. We can’t be perfect ALL of the time and it does seem to have been overlooked…
I have been doing a little writing assessment over the past couple of days and I am so pleased with how far the children have come. I gave them pictures of a busy playground and asked them to independently write about what they could see. My “top” kids were coming out with things like: “I kan see the dog jmpin”. The lower ability ones were writing “the in a see can it”. Still. They are WRITING!! I even saw a few full stops which filled my little nerdy teacher heart with joy. At the beginning of the year they pretty much knew no English, so I feel like I have achieved something.
It is pay day today which generally means a visit to the “special shop” for wine, a pedicure and a slightly intoxicated discussion with friends about how we are definitely going to book a week in the Maldives soon,but then spend our money on brunches instead. However, today we were all 3000 dirhams short. This equates to about £550. When our buildings collapsed last October and we were all stuck, the education council gave us all £3000 dirhams to help us out (remember, some people were still in their pyjamas…): It appears that this has been deducted from our salaries today. Lovely! No notice! That is just how things work here!
On a lighter note, my friends are coming to visit in less than three weeks and I cannot wait!!! Unfortunately the “salary cut” means a cruise around Dubai and a champagne brunch may be down-scaled to more sedate affairs like kayaking and a lager brunch, but it is the company that counts. I miss my friends dearly. Aside from that, I am very happy here, which makes it even more surprising that many people seem to be talking about going home this summer and not returning. Everyone is an individual having their own personal experiences, and factors like family illness, acute homesickness, and intolerable schools are playing a part. In many ways I think I landed on my feet: I have grown used to the boys, my school and the way things work. The only problem is, I could well be transferred somewhere that there is a greater need come September…
Rather consumed with jealousy regarding the snow days you’ve been having; I miss checking the met weather website for ”red areas” which used to determine whether I could have another glass of wine or not, followed by a lazy lie in and trash TV (errr…I meant “working from home” on planning and assessment…). It is an altogether different matter here. We have “fog days”. I have never seen fog quite like it – photo of the “view” from my balcony attached!
Fog days involve a rather slow and laborious drive to school with the hazard lights on, followed by waiting around for the children to arrive. The vast majority of children come by school bus, so they arrive in dribs and drabs throughout the day, if at all. It makes for quite a peaceful day, but the frequncy of foggy mornings over the past week mean that I am not covering as much teaching as I would like….I feel like I am constantly on catch-up at the minute.
We had parents’ evening last week and were warned that the parents of those children who had received less than a B grade would be coming in to ask us why we were not teaching their children properly. However, I only had seven (very lovely) parents turn up. I was told that this is a good thing: it means the parents are happy with you. I have a parental communication sheet that goes home with the children every day. I tend to write on it if the children have achieved something, worked very hard, or if I have any concerns regarding their behaviour. Unfortunatey, I don’t get a lot of communication back. Back in England, it was easy to grab parents at the end of the day as most children were picked up by their parents. However as the children here travel by bus , and many of the parents have little English, it is much harder to communicate effectively. I have given out my email address, but am yet to hear from more than two parents about anything. Perhaps I should be pleased…..
Behaviour wise, the boys are doing pretty well. I have a star sticker chart for them and once they get ten stars, they receive a prize. There is a great little shop here called Daiso which is a bit like the 99p stores at home. I have a huge bag of prizes at the top of my cupboard and tend to make a rather big fuss when a child reaches the 10 star mark…..But (always a but) I was off sick for a couple of days: Being absent from school makes me feel incredibly anxious as I just have no idea what I will be walking back to. This time around was no different. I returned to an absolute shambles of a classroom, and during the course of the day, realised just how much was missing……. pencils (of course), my good work/well done stampers for their work and…yes…the entire bag of prizes from the top of my cupboard. A child could not have taken them whilst being supervised…could he? I would not be surprised.
Anyway. It turns out that the “culprit” is a child I have had concerns about. He got caught out mainly because he had stamped his own hands with the stampers and was proudly displaying no less than three spiderman pencil cases at lunchtime. It is the third time he has stolen from the classroom, and as we know, stealing is generally a sign of true unhappiness. The kids here are well off and usually quite spoilt, wanting for nothing. They are talkative, boisterous and loud. The child in question is different: he craves attention and veers between wanting positive to negative attention consistently. Back at home, we were lucky to have different avenues to take when we had concerns, between the special needs coordinator, the art therapist, small groups, records of concern, social services, CAHMS…. there was always something we could do, always someone we could talk to. My role at home involved teaching a small group of socially and emotionally vulnerable children, where nurture was key to their development. I miss it very much; I also think I was pretty good at it. Over here, I floundered a little. It is so difficult to get to the bottom of things, especially with the language barrier. As it was his third “offence”, I had to take him to the social worker in school (the school social worker here is a bit like a…well…they tend to contact parents if the child has been “naughty”.) The child in question was extremely upset, which in turn made me feel extremely upset, because I felt like all those years honing my skills in how to relate to troubled children were for nothing. It made me realise how hard situations like this are when there is such a language barrier. It is also apparant that many people do not want to admit or recognise that some children have special needs , be it social, emotional or academic. The education council are working on it, but there is still a long way to go.
On a lighter note – am off to Dubai in a few weeks to see Cirque de Soleil and I cannot wait! I am also planning to visit a friend in the dreaded WESTERN REGION very soon. I just want to see what it is like….although my friend assures me that really, unless I have a passion for sand and am planning on judging a camel beauty contest any time soon, there really is nothing to see. We will have to make our own “merry” entertainment…..