(I want to make a note here I’m not going to post every day of school. Just the first few days of the first week to see how much things change and how chaotic things are/were.)
If you’re wondering why I had my first day of school but Chris didn’t – his school said he didn’t even have to start until Thursday. We had an orientation on Wednesday so they figured don’t even start if you’re just going to miss a day. So he went off to run more errands (and start seeing about fixing the wall/shutter) while I went to school.
I got to school way too early and had to hang out with recess duty again. The amazing fantastic coteacher who was really efficient with discipline (and inspired wonder in all her students) yeah, she’s pregnant and her last day was tomorrow. It’s sad to see her go, she was the only one I had met so far who had prepared to work with me in class.
My first class was 5th grade. Their homeroom teacher was maybe an art teacher (Update: she’s a math teacher) who always wears a smock. Like a waterproof splatter-proof smock with huge pockets for her teaching things. As I walked in, she smashed a bell on her desk (like a concierge bell) ting ting ting ting ting ting and shouted for silence. I got close enough to see the bell was a novelty bell “Dammit All” it said. I had to hide my giggling. Did she know it said that? Did the students understand it?
She handed the class to me and left. Again, I’m not supposed to be in the room alone but that’s a rule we’ve already broken a lot. A new coteacher, who is less efficient, helped with this class. She sat on a desk in the back and couldn’t see some of the kids behind her raising their hands for questions. When the questions ran out early she had nothing prepared so she forced the kids to keep asking new questions for a painful 30 minutes. Kids bullied, poked, pushed and wriggled around in boredom.
Blissfully the bell (the real bell, not the dammit all bell) rang and I had to go to a 2nd grade class in the building I hadn’t barely been in. I’ve mentioned my school is a maze with random exits, ramps and unfortunate thruways through people’s offices.
This new building is like a rubiks cube twisted around and around. 1B and 2A are on the bottom but 2B is on the top. Explain that. (Update: as of Thursday I have learned there are two hidden 3rd grade classes tucked away behind and around these other classrooms. They’re behind the bathrooms and through some coat closets).
2A was the same 2nd grade teacher from last time. Only this time she had less enthusiasm because she had already seen my lesson once. These 2nd grade students were less interested in Korea and more interested in Africa. A big question was why I was in Africa which led to us having to explain what an orphan is. Their eyes got pretty wide as she explained. Hasn’t any one of these kids seen or read Madeline? It makes orphanages sound much more fun than they are. So they learned some new, sad things in Spanish.
Finally it was time for the youngins’. I hadn’t taught first grade yet and was nervous about their level.
The teacher is this huge man who looks like a warrior out of 300 (the movie) including the huge trimmed black beard. When he is on recess duty he has a pair of rocking aviator Ray Bans and texts the whole time while kids hang off of him. I thought he was a too-cool-for-school kinda guy but he is probably the most maternal person I’ve ever met. He sings songs all the time and acts silly. He exaggerates everything he says with reading and facial expressions to keep their interests. He’s like a host of a children’s TV show. His energy never stops.
He sang a song for quiet and danced around a little. Seriously maternal and patient – he was perfect for this age. But I ruined all their fun with my powerpoint introduction “lesson” about myself. They don’t speak any English so they didn’t understand anything. The projector was also half broken so they couldn’t see the pictures – thus they couldn’t even guess what I was talking about in context.
Fun-cool guy walked up to me “I have only spoke English for one year. This time last year I was learning English.” Okay.
So while he spoke good enough English to talk to me he didn’t help to translate or explain my powerpoint to the students. Every other teacher chose to do this so the students would understand. He decided not to translate, instead he walked around gasped to make the too-dark-to-see-pictures seem cool.
I told them my name a hundred times and pointed at myself to explain that the word I was repeating was me.
They stared at me with blank faces.
“Kaeti” I point to myself again. Nothing. I look to fun cool-guy teacher. He doesn’t help.
“What’s my name?” I said slowly motioning what is… pointing at me.
“No se! PORQUE NO LO ENTIENDO!!!!” (I don’t know because I don’t understand!!!) a fat kid shouted actually shaking his desk back and forth. The whole class giggled. High on attention he began acting out more and poking and bullying his peers for more attention. A real Dudley Dursley.
“Kaeti” one girl with a ribbon in her hair finally answered.
“Good. Yes. That’s me.”
“This is Colorado. It has mountains” I said slowly, motioning mountains.
“Montañas” Ribbon girl said.
“No ENTIENDO!” Dursley shouted again then went to poking his peers and generally bullying his vicinity.
After 3-5 more painful minutes I was done.
Cool guy teacher then asked some comprehension check questions. For real? That’s like you reading a book in Russian and someone asking you “So who was the main character?” you couldn’t even read the letters! What they had just seen and heard had absolutely no meaning to them. Only ribbon girl knew a couple, everyone else didn’t even have a guess.
So he took a few minutes to explain everything in Spanish. So he did end up translating the whole thing after all, but only after the disaster that was my lesson.
Fortunately he had his lesson prepared. We watched a youtube video of a dancing skeleton “Dem bones dem bones, dem dancing bones… the foot bone’s connected to the … leg bone. The leg bone’s connected to the … knee bone.” I think you all know the song. The room exploded into madness as every kid stood up to mimic the dancing skeletons random gyrations. Youtube Skeleton wasn’t even touching the part they were talking about, or shaking it. He just kept dancing. They were focused so much on copying the skeleton they weren’t learning about the parts. Cool teacher asked some comprehension questions about the foot or the leg. Again, nothing.
Exasperated, he got a little frustrated and sang-talked through the entire song.
“Dem. Bones … Dem. Bones … Dem … Dancing … Bones.” he stated firmly. “The FOOT bone is connected to the LEG bone.” he pointed. They just kept wiggling like the skeleton.
We watched it again and just wiggled more. Because cool teacher is cool he gave up and wiggled with them.
We moved on from the skeleton song. “What’s this?” he asked in Spanish, pointing to his nose.
“Nose” they shouted in English.
“And this?” “Eyes!”
“What’s this?” he pointed to his head. No one knew.
“Head” he said simply.
“HEAD SHOULDERS KNEES AND TOES!!!!!!” Someone suddenly remembered. Half the class hopped out of their chairs and chanted Head! Shoulders! Knees’n toes!!! While doing the appropriate motions.
“No! No! No! No! Mas despacio!” Cool teacher shouted. (No, go slower!)
“What is this?” he pointed again to just his head.
“Head shoulders knees and toes!!!!” (obviously)
“No, no, what is this? Just this?” he pointed at his head. Half the class was having Head Shoulders Knees and Toes dance party. They weren’t listening.
“Head shoulders knees and toes!!!!!!!!!”
Cool guy couldn’t beat em so he joined them (again) and they danced it out until they hit the second chorus which, to be honest, I don’t remember anymore. No one does, it’s the weakest part of the song. Head shoulders knees and toes is life. The rest of the bits about eyes and ears and nose. Whatever.
They colored the parts of the face on to the appropriate places in their science books for five minutes and I was dismissed 10 minutes early for looking too sad.
“What can I do for you?” cool guy asked.
“Your face” he motioned long.
“I’m just watching. I’m okay.” I told him with a smile. I was just watching and trying to figure out how to teach this level. He didn’t accept this. I told him I used to teach middle school. He interrupted “Ugh, teenagers. They’re so awful, right? Just terrible. This age group is so much more loving.”
I loved my middle schoolers. As dumb and chaotically hormonal they could be, they could also be loving. This age group can’t articulate thoughts or survive 5 minutes without an adult. They can’t get their fingers out of their noses or butts to pull wedgies and boogers. Middle school rooms aren’t sticky everywhere (only in some places). I didn’t have to sing or dance to communicate. This was a whole new world.
But since I couldn’t remember to keep a huge smile plastered on my face the whole time the kids colored indifferently, Cool guy dismissed me. Basically for looking sad (or because he felt really bad for me). On my way out, Ribbon girl jumped up and hugged me. She had loved it, not understanding me or being able to see the pictures enough for context. She didn’t care. She had eaten English up and been engaged the whole time. So she ran up and gave me a hug.