Monday, December 04, 2006

A day in the life...

...of an American teacher in New Zealand.

I teach, mostly every day, and I work as a waitress at night. It's nothing new. It's a busy job to do both, and very tiring, but I do get to see and do a lot because of my work. So, all and all, I don't mind.

I LOVE relieving. I mean I LOVE it. I can't think of a better way to be exposed to heaps of different schools, classrooms, and learning styles, all while challenging myself in the effort to find my way through a day full of kids who are completely different than I am. The pay is INCREDIBLE (better than in the States, even after the exchange rate), and the hours are flexible. I can take a day off whenever I want (which I never actually do).

Teaching itself is different here, for sure. After four weeks of relieving on and off on a near-daily basis, here are my initial impressions:

*Schools, and the kids in them, are (surprise!) very laid back. The kids' lack of discipline is a compliment to the parenting style of a laid back society. And for Miss Foreman, control freak extraordinaire, some days get pretty rough (learning, learning learning...).

*Speaking of... I have yet to be called Miss Foreman in any classroom. It's straight up Wendy each day.

*Kids don't have to wear shoes and that's o.k. (shocker, right?).

*Class sizes are far too large (but I guess that's nothing new either).

*The teacher's lounges are all equipped with a 3X2 box of boiling hot water mounted to the wall for morning tea time. Also, mugs, spoons, milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and often biscuits are provided as well. Daily. At all times.

*Kids in some schools are moved around and shifted to different grades during the year. This is part of the domino effect of making room for the new 5 year-olds in the Year 1 rooms who start on the day they turn 5.

*It's o.k. for children to say the following words out loud: damn, damn it, damned, and hell.

*When the bell rings for playtime to end, teachers usually sit for 4 or 5 (sometimes up to 10) more minutes in the lounge while students line up outside.

*Schools don't use textbooks. Teachers have curriculum guides with links for activities, but most of the lessons come from the teacher and other resources (researched by teachers). So it's a much more involved process for teachers, and more work as well, in my opinion.

*Kids don't go elsewhere for special classes. There's no art teacher, no PE teacher, no media teacher, and no music teacher. It's all taught in the classroom, by the classroom teacher.

*The school day is only 6 hours long, with only 4 hours of actual teaching. The other 2 hours is spent at lunch, play, morning tea, roll taking, or daily fitness.

*Teachers don't generally leave lesson plans for relievers. One day, my lesson plan said 'Have a great day!'

Each day I take a set of lessons to each classroom. I have books from the library paired with activities for all grades. I am a lesson recycler, and have actually been teaching for the last two months with a recycled set of about 15 lessons. It's amazing what you can do with chalk, m&m's, and the American flag. Again and again and again.

Even trickier still is the fact that Richmond Road has four units of students. One unit speaks and learns in French, one in Maori, one in Samoan, and one in English. I have had a chance to work with all age levels in all of the units. Although I sometimes don't agree with the teaching practices and philosophies in these units, it has been amazing to work so closely with such unique cultures. And I can now say hello in two new languages that most people don't know.

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be needed almost daily in the same school as I get to know the kids, the teachers, and the routines (which is nice when nobody tells you what in the world is going on). And, since my school is in my neighborhood, I even get kiddos at the store who are able to say hello and call me by name. Which is almost like being at home at a Warrior game. Except without the football and all.

Now, having said all of that, I have a confession to make...

I have made a decision not to teach for a full year in New Zealand as I had originally expected.

But you'll have to wait until another e-mail for more details on that.

Well, I've gotta go. The bell to end playtime rang 8 minutes ago, and I still need to make a cup of coffee before heading to class. There's a line of teachers at the water box, so I've got to get my place...

No comments: