Now that we are three weeks into the school year, I have enough of an idea of the daily routine here to be able to describe it for you! My job description here at Bingham is officially Grade 7 Homeroom and Bible teacher, and ESL and learning support teacher.
The school day begins for staff at 7.45am with a devotion and prayer time. Each week the devotion is led by a different staff member; each one is rostered on for one week in the year; and it finishes with a prayer time during which we pray for each student in the school, three at a time, as well as for other concerns. At the moment we are praying for the KG1 students; the little 4 year old kindergarten children. It’s a lovely calm way to start the school day and I think I will miss it when I return to my state school in South Australia next year. Sure beats listening to people complain about things during morning meeting!
The “warning” bell goes at 8.15am and all my Grade 7s are in our homeroom by the time the second bell rings at 8.20am. Our “bell” is actually a short clip of recorded music. It changes each week, and is chosen by Rupert, the Economics/Geography/Business Studies teacher. In the first week of school it was “Jump” by Van Halen. I can’t remember what it was in Week 2, but last week it was something by Hot Chip. We’ll have to wait and see what it will be this week coming! (PS I just heard what I think might be this week’s selection: “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns n’ Roses… Oh, boy…)
We have 6 periods each day, each of an hour long. The first period for all the Middle School and High (think “Senior”) School students is Bible, which is taken by the Homeroom teacher. We teach this 4 out of the 5 lessons each week; the 5th lesson is chapel, sometimes combined, but generally just the Middle School or High School together. The Elementary School also have chapel once a week. Before we start the Bible session we do the normal things a homeroom teacher would do: take the roll, check on absentees, give any notices and check on the students’ behaviour and academic progress. My lovely Grade 7s love to be helpful, so I set up a duty roster: changing the date; collecting and returning the register; reading the daily notices; handing out any forms; and cleaning the board; and they are just so willing to do their job, even without being asked. In fact I think most get upset if they can’t do their job properly for some reason!
The new thing for me is teaching Bible. Each year level has a set curriculum, and all students have weekly Bible verses they must memorise. I am starting with a quick look at the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13). When that is done, we will do an Old Testament overview, then we will use the book How to Read the Bible for all its Worth by Gordon D Fee and Douglas Stuart, which focuses on the different forms of literature in the Bible (Epistles, Psalms, Old Testament Narratives, Parables, etc) and shows the students how to interpret the Bible in a really common sense way. Preparing it is going to be lots of hard work, but I am looking forward to it. The really new thing for me is that there is a different type of accountability to just doing a Bible study with the youth. I actually have to assess them and give them a grade!
The rest of my day involves supporting a range of students from Grade 3 to Grade 12 with their literacy. Almost all of them are ESL students of varying ability. I am part of a team of three people. Jolene is a trained Special Education teacher in the elementary school and is overseeing the learning support team. Emily is an elementary school teacher and a reading specialist. My focus is generally the middle and high school students. A typical day might involve running a small spelling group in Grades 7, 8 or 10 (the students can drop a grade band because of their poor spelling in the Cambridge IGCSE exams so getting this under control is important). I go into Grade 6 and 9 English classes to give support to small groups of students who are struggling with English or who have processing issues. I also work one on one with several students. Alex is a Grade 10 Norwegian student who needs a bit of help with writing his English assignments, so twice a week we talk through his latest piece; he is currently studying Much Ado About Nothing which is fun! Jun is a Grade 12 South Korean boy who has just arrived and is studying in English for the first time. I am helping him to preview or review his material mainly in History, but probably in other subjects too, so am busy reading all about the causes of World War I at the moment! I am going to try and get some material on English for academic purposes for him too; he wants to continue to study in English at university, so he has a lot of work to do to get his formal English up to scratch. Josian and Leonard are very bright German boys in Grades 6 and 8 who just need a bit of help with new vocab and writing, so we are previewing lesson material and I am helping them with their writing especially in English. Finally there are two South Korean boys in Grade 4 and a Finnish boy in Grade 3 who need a bit of help with reading. Bless their hearts, they can talk okay, in fact they could talk the hind leg off a donkey!
The ESL stuff is hard work, mainly because at the moment I am still trying to work out where each of these boys is at and how I can help them! The MEd (TESOL) is finally getting a workout! I have plenty of communicative resources for teaching them, but generally their conversational English is quite good. What they need help with is the formal writing, with correct grammar… you know, the hard stuff!
Morning recess is 25 minutes long and we have morning tea provided for us every day, ranging from cake to biscuits, pancakes, crackers and salsa and cinnamon buns, all freshly made! It’s such a lovely treat to have each day! Lunch is 40 minutes long. This week school lunches started, which we have to order a week or so in advance. There is a different meal each day, including chilli and cornbread, pasta bake, tuna melts, injera b’wat and soup. It’s nice not to have to think about what to prepare for lunch each day, so I am taking full advantage of the school lunches!
The day finishes at 3.25pm, so it is quite a long day. We have only one meeting a week, a staff meeting on Wednesday nights. This begins as a combined meeting, then breaks in to Elementary School and combined Middle and High School meetings.
All in all, while I am busy, and I am sure eventually would miss the responsibility I have at Clare HS, I am enjoying the break and change of scene! And I am certainly going to learn a lot about teaching ESL from just a semester here!