Light at the end of the tunnel…for the first week of practice school anyway.
So far practice school is exactly how other Volunteers have described it. Incredibly exhausting, busy, time consuming, but in a lot of ways rewarding. I felt like going into practice school that I was slightly better prepared because I have a little teaching experience whereas other volunteers in my town do not. However, my little bit of teaching experience only goes so far.
As a quick summary Monday was probably the longest day of my life as it started at 7 and went nonstop until 12:00 with high levels of stress included. My lesson went well and my students were excited to learn even though half the class was in the sixth grade last year and felt comfortable with the material, whereas the other half was in fifth grade and all of the material is new to them. The biggest difference between an American classroom at first was the constant talking, just whispering, but constantly and half of my techniques for classroom management fall on deaf ears because I speak English and they speak Romanian. It got so much better the next lesson as they started to understand all of my hand gestures/classroom management techniques and I felt so much more comfortable teaching the lesson. The next big difference is that when a teacher calls on a student the student must always stand up, for me this was a waste of precious class time but old habits die hard and I only have these students for a week so I haven't taken the initiative to reprogram new habits.
Tuesday went much smoother with very little classroom interruptions and with planning because I only had to teach one lesson on Wednesday instead of two (my resource teacher taught the other). Planning for me is very difficult because it requires me to think about how I would teach this lesson with a text book that is not the greatest…more on that later… with students from a culture I'm not familiar with, who speak a language I don't speak, and with a subject I have never had to plan a lesson for. Plus as much as I hated lesson planning in the USA I always planned my lessons a few days in advance at least and I only needed to plan one lesson to teach all day, but during practice school we are planning and preparing materials for two lessons that we will teach the next day. No planning ahead. We couldn't if we wanted to because we don't have time.
Lastly, to make matters even more fun a current Peace Corps Volunteer appeared in my classroom today and observed my class. Which was ok because I had been observed and evaluated on my teaching before but it was very unusual that I would not be told before hand. But afterward I could immediately see the light at the end of the tunnel, my lesson went well and now I have an observation out of the way and I've already taught 6 out of ten lessons and all that remains is teaching the lessons tomorrow and planning two more for the next day. The students also come on Monday and Tuesday but we are only reviewing and testing…and of course passing out certificates and taking pictures… but all of that doesn't require massive amounts of planning as a real lesson.
Oh, I also wanted to tell you about a note I found in the class after the students left today. Very roughly translated it says,
"Do you understand what he is saying?"
*check yes or no*
"No I understand nothing. Catalina understands a lot."
"so so" (In a third persons handwriting…presumably Catalina.)
"I don't understand anything but are you going to play in the street after school today?"
When so many things are different its nice every once in a while for things to be so familiar.
OK I wasted way too much time typing this and now I will be up all night hand writing my lesson plan and preparing materials but too late to change it now….