I'm having a blast at school!
11.08.2010 15 °C
Here is a description of one morning:
A class of Year 5/4th graders is working in visual literacy so are going to make origami box and top to hold the biscuits (cookies) they baked yesterday. Yummy! Following directions, sequencing, fractions, reading visual cues not in text was the goal. So, we all learned how to fold the large heavy white paper into boxes – for those that have done that you KNOW sharp creases are essential! Once boxes were built they could paint them as well. It took us almost an hour for everyone to finish & then it was time for “brain food” (snack time).
From there I went to kindergarten, what kiwis call year 1. Kindergartens exist and (from what I understand) are similar to US preschools. More on that later as there is big national controversy going on … Here in NZ, all children start school at age 5; from the parent/child point of view it may sound delightful and fun “oh what a special day!” But it is a teachers’ nightmare. As the teacher told me, kids come at all times throughout the year and you have to orient them (and parents) how to “do” school. Other kids get bored with the orientation. We teachers all have had new kids come in to class but as a first day ever, in the middle of the year that is really hard on everyone – and the poor student is way behind on what school is even all about! Many schools also have a class called ‘new entrants’ where all the new kids go after a certain point in the year. Whether those kiddos go on to the next year 2 or stay at year 1 all depends on their age and progress.
Today I worked with kids who clearly were very young, emergent, pre literacy level kiddos. It was exhausting trying to keep them on track for more than a nano second but we managed! They are adorable as any 5 year old can be, full of energy, enthusiasm, and the God's Honest Truth about anything and everything. The content of their work was high level and interesting: yesterday they watched their teacher pour hot water into a bowl and water vapor rose and formed droplets against plastic wrap over a bowl. They were labeling their pictures and writing up explanations of what happened. Oh but guess what? One little girl stuck her bright little face right into mine, I mean really right into me, and whispered excitedly that she had 3 glue sticks!! OMG! Clearly that was the highlight of the moment for both of us!!!
Morning Tea is a time when the children run outside and play while all teachers all gather for tea/coffee in the staff room. Everyone is together expect those (appears very few!) on duty. We had a trivia game and teachers won prizes like boxes of cookies or candy! I’m very struck how all the teachers and the office staff all enjoy morning tea at every school I have visited. Everyone is together for 20 minutes to connect and socialize. Often there is a game or simply a few casual announcements but everyone is together every day. I think back to the millions of times I have heard teachers – in the same small building - exclaim that they have not seen their colleague or buddy in DAYS.
Next 3rd grade/year 4: I had a group of 6 students and we too were working on sequencing and following directions while working within the larger context of things that change form. Their goal was to make yeast for Maori bread called Rewana bread. The class room was a hub bub of activity! Every group did something different. Overall, every subject is organized in groups so students do a lot of independent work and the teachers do lots of planning! Today while we worked on cooking the potato for the yeast, mashing it up and adding the flour, filling in the work sheet, & looking up facts on teeny tiny laptops, the teacher met with a variety of groups to check their progress on whatever they were doing.
My overall first impressions are that the pace is a bit more relaxed, recess is much longer, & there are many more hands on activities than what I have seen recently in classrooms in the US. Recess rules! Morning tea recess is 20 minutes and lunch is a total of 45 minutes for eating and playing. Wow! The kids eat outside as the weather usually is “fine”. They take off their shoes a lot and don’t appear to be cold at all when I’m freezing. Staunch kids!