Day of teaching

This morning began with morning assembly. It’s a funny sight to see all of these Ethiopian children singing some very western songs that the volunteers from last year brought.
Lately I have been hearing a lot of Akon, Katy Perry, and Britney Spears around town and in taxis. It is a weird feeling to hear them listening to western music, an unfortunate representation of the west I decide as I listen to the empty lyrics.
I stand in the sun and wonder how I made it to Africa without both sunglasses and sunscreen. The sun beats down upon me, it is warm. After assembly I hurry back to my desk to find some pages that I need to photocopy. After doing my photocopying I head to grade four reading. As I walk into the classroom I am greeted with the usual:
 “Good morning class, how are you today?” I reply as I walk across the classroom and put down my books and papers.
“WE ARE FINE THANK YOU AND YOU?” they respond.
 “I’m good, take a seat please.”
“Thank you Mr. Galen.” The volume teeters off as they take their seats.
I talk to them briefly about the book review template sheets that I have photocopied and what they will do when they finish their book. I ask for two volunteers and send them to get some books from my desk, they eagerly hurry off to complete the errand. Sometimes they can be too helpful, and are all yelling and pleading to help carry your stuff at the same time, their helpfulness can be very frustrating at times. Once the two volunteers return they hand out the student’s books. Among these are a majority of Harry Potter books. I enforce silence and they begin to read. One of the girls has finished her book so I give her the page with pictures and short summaries she had been working on to complete. Half way through the class I ask them to close their books and hand out the pages they have been working on. I ask them to draw a picture from what they have just read, and write about what they just read. Today to my horror I realized that some of the kids that were so adamant about reading Harry Potter are completely incapable of comprehending a single word of it. They all need new books, they can read but there is no comprehension. Again I wish this was a Waldorf School.
I head back to the staff room and sit down to purify another liter of water with my ‘steripen’. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a pen like device with a tube light on it that emits ultra violet rays that kill any viruses or bacteria in the water within 90 seconds. I’m saving the environment from the hundreds of waste water bottles I would produce without it! And it is so very convenient. I highly recommend it to anyone traveling where the water is unsafe.
After drinking my fill of water I begin working on the books I am creating for grade two reading. They do not seem to have any books with blank pages here so, I have to make my own. Being the Waldorf student I am, lines are a clear obstacle to creativity. Ms. Hana gives me some blue card paper for covers and I am in business. I spend the entire period making 24 books for grade two.
At snack time I devour an egg sandwich and gulp down some delicious sugarless tea. During third period I continue to work on the books, and towards the end I go outside to move around and stretch in an attempt to ward off some of the sleepiness that has crept up on me.
The bell tinkles and I gather some of my new blank books, my boxes of crayons, a red white board marker, and a print out fable and head off to grade two. Mr. Olata enters before me and is greeted with:
I can’t help but smile when I hear this; I’m not sure what made them start adding the chocolata, besides the fact that it rhymes and is funny. I follow shortly after him and am greeted with:
“Good morning class” I reply, “please take a seat and listen to Mr. Olata”
Mr. Olata begins with his ongoing saga of the story of a girl in computer class that is a thinly veiled hint to them about what they need to do that class. Afterwards half of the class line up a the door and file off behind him to computer class, I am left with the other half. I ask them to be seated and spend several minutes getting them to be quiet, sending at least one kid into time out. Once I have their attention I explain to them about the books that I made for them, and what they will be using them for. I hand them out and ask them to write their names on the cover and then write ‘Reading Grade two’ above. Once they have completed this with varying degrees of success I allow them to decorate their covers. With some mildly fancy lettering I write ‘Fables’ on the board and draw a simple castle below the word. I ask them to copy this onto the first page of their book. They do not have their own crayons, so I have to facilitate the sharing of the few stick crayons that I bought. This is entails constant attention and work to avoid strife over certain colours, and continually supplying them with new colours. After most have finished I ask them to put down their crayons and close their books, they can finish later I tell them. I briefly talk to them about what a Fable is, and then I begin reading the story about the Elephant and the Ape. I carefully create a voice for each character in an effort to help them soak up the story. Half way through I stop and ask certain students what I just read, only a few are able to answer. I confiscate some books and start the story over again, telling them to listen carefully. Upon completion I ask questions again. They have a habit of all eagerly putting up their hand and answering with the same wrong answer as the last three people before them, it can be frustrating. Finally I am able to milk some answers out of them and I read it once again for them. This time they all have grasped it and would eagerly go on for the most part of an hour babbling half sense and have nonsense answeres if I allowed them too. English is still a challenge for some of them. The bell rings and the uproar begins again as they prepare for lunch.
It feels good to have a very structured lesson, and I feel like I am getting somewhere at last. When looking for Waldorf reading stories I came across a book of fables, and surprisingly I recognized most of them from when they were read to me in grade two! I was very excited to copy some of these off the web and use them in my classes, especially as they all have morals to accompany them. I am hoping that mom will send me some of these fable books. Hint Hint…
I munch on some spicy green salad and a piece of bread for lunch. After eating I become suddenly tired and put my head down on my desk and doze off for 15 minutes. The bell goes and I head out to grade 1B for PE. When I arrive in the class one of the girls is crying because someone was beating her from 1A. I try to comfort her while restoring some order to the classroom. I warn them that if they don’t listen and behave they will lose the privilege of PE and we will come back to class. We head outside and I begin the very difficult task of numbering them off and having them divide into groups. Once they are in five spaced groups I lye an orange rope in front of each group, and demonstrate the first drill that they will do with the rope. After various drills we move on to skipping. Some skip like pros, and others need coaxing to even try, and then won’t let go of the rope once they get the courage up to try. I do my best to understand that they will be noisy and difficult no matter what as they are grade one kids. I am able to focus and block out some of the noise and enjoy working with them. Towards the end of class when I try to organize one last activity control is lost and I am forced to send them back to class. As punishment we sit in absolute silence for the last 3 minutes of class. I have to say that they are improving each week, slowly but somewhat surely.
After the bell rings I head to next door to 1A.
“Good luck” says Kyle as I pass him on the way out. ‘Great’ I think. I walk in and it is a warzone, I am immediately confronted by several kids yelling desperately in an attempt to voice how they have been cruelly wronged by their classmates. It takes several minutes to restore order to the class, at least ten. A group of five students is identified who were misbehaving last class and have lost their PE Privileges. To their dismay they are sent outside to sit an watch. I can’t stand the yelling they seem to think is necessary to get my attention. Those who love to yell have succeeded in getting me to quickly learn their names as they give me need to continually discipline them.
Finally we head outside, it is much more difficult to divide them into groups using numbers. I could just place them, but I want them to figure out how solve things for themselves. It takes two tries to get them organized. Finally we are able to continue with the same lesson as the previous class with the ropes. I am forced to send several kids into time out, talk to them, and then allow them another chance. All of the troublemakers seem to have landed in this class. Finally the class ends and they rush away to class, the end of the day has arrived. For the last twenty minutes I stand amongst the students with the rest of the teachers and wait for parents to pick their children up. Finally it is time to head back to the staff room, drink some water, eat some food, and begin evaluating the day’s lesson plans.