Wow! What an amazing week, and what a transformation. Things have been super hectic, but all for the good in so many ways, and I’m even starting to feel like a real teacher now!
Oceans Project News
So, things have really picked up for the project. We had the cheese and wine presentation last week I think it was, and we will have another this coming week if we can. Lots of new people came to the project on Saturday, and it was a full house, despite fifteen children being away for a school trip.
We also have two new teachers on board, and there are a team of 8 of us now, with designated roles, and a view to employ everyone full time in the long run. Everyone feels like a team member now, and I could not run the project without them.
This week we really picked up the pace on the project and the children’s presentations are incredible, especially to think that many of them had never used power point before, or even given a presentation. Even the eight year olds come are looking like professionals, and those who have barely even spoken in class at school, are now presenting to an audience in a nice clear and confident voice and with really good English.
What is more, their behaviour in class is also improving, and we are really starting to build up a nice rapport now. Kids who I couldn’t stand in the class room, are like angels on the project, and I think this is helping them to transfer this angelness to the classroom now that they have cottoned on to the fact that I shout and sound less teachery when they do as they are told! Two of my students who were the worst in class are now my favourite students, and are even scoring highly on exams. Whether or not it is due to being on the project I have no idea, but the fact is, they have all improved, and I love it, especially as it makes lessons more teachable and ultimately more fun now.
I almost had a teary moment this week, when I saw on facebook that my private school kids were sharing jokes and videos with the kids from my public school, and Georgian and Russian kids are also friends now. They are really starting to respect each other and get the team vibe, and this really makes me happy and extremely proud of every one of them. If they are this good just a few weeks in, then I can’t wait to see how they are at the end of the project and even after expedition!
The cheese and wine evening was great and it was nice to relax a bit with the team leaders after the presentation over a glass or two of wine. Its hard to get those moments together logistically, and I was happy to catch another brief team moment after yesterday’s session too. It was great to be able to share my dreams for the project, and to share information, and I hope that now I have everyone’s email addresses and we are an established team, that I can start to off load a few more things, so that I can focus on the other important stuff more.
Dropping pre school has also been a good move, and I hope to continue at pre school on MOndays each week, just to keep my hand in with the kids. But it should free me up to focus more on the project.
As expected, there are one or two kids on the project who are really just there because their parents think it will help them to learn English. But they are the ones who play about a bit and disrupt things, so we had to be very firm with them this week, and may need to throw them off the project if they don’t improve. The other kids are amazing, and every week they inspire and drive me to do more. Its funny how attached I feel to them, and because of that I will do everything I can to help them and to raise the money for the expeditions.
This week, we ran the project pretty much as I had originally planned. In teams of 6 with one computer and giving one presentation of 2 minutes. It was much better, although harder for the kids as they had to work harder as a team, but I think they really benefitted from the experience.
The task now is to get them putting things in their own words more, as a lot of them are great at finding the information, but they just cut and paste it, and then have big blocks of test, full of words they cannot read. But a lot of them this week, actually started to get this and their presentations were a lot ore enjoyable. The next task for me PR wise is really to start putting their presentations online so that people can see what we do and how amazing the kids are, given that this is all very new to them, and English is not their first language.
I also want to start focusing on the Volvo Adventure stuff more, ready to enter the competition, and to start to do some group stuff and then to start skyping. We have a smart board in the classroom, so it would be great to use that too.
One of the biggest issues at the moment is computers. I have a mac, and it is sadly not compatible with the smart board or the DVD player, and with the adapter we lose the red colour from the screen. But hopefully when we go to London we can buy some laptops which have been donated and recycled, and then bring those back to Georgia. We also will need these for expedition.
One of my plans is to put together a blog and scrapbook for each student, so that I can show this to potential sponsors. The hope is that they will then sponsor individual students to go on expedition. It still needs some thinking about, but I’m itching to get started.
This week was also a week of getting documents together. Writing a constitution so that we can become a charity in the UK, and looking to get NGO status in Georgia. Also preparing documents for sponsorship, and getting business cards made for our trip to London. We do have flyers now which is good, and we hope to visit different schools to attract new students on the project.
One of the longer term plans is to set up a summer school, and also to take the project to Batumi once a month, and to write a CGP book which could be sold along with the DVD and could be used by schools around the world to promote ocean conservation.
So….it is all pretty hectic right now, but very exciting, and we have a lot of support, both inside Georgia and out now.
This week I gave midterms to all my classes. Last minute since no one told us, but in traditional Georgian style! Sadly that is one of the disadvantages of being a non Georgian speaker working in a Georgian school. It also makes marking the Ministry registers rather challenging, if not impossible as Georgian is hard to read.
Whilst school is still a bit of a battle ground, it feels like a week of breakthroughs this week. Students are finally starting to underline their headings, bring books and pens to class, write their names on papers, and settling down to lesson much quicker. This is the first week that I really felt like a proper teacher of geography and its a nice feeling. I understand the material enough to explain it now, and it also dawned on me this week that I haven’t asked anyone in my classes to read text for a while!! I can’t believe I forgot this as a teaching method, and it is something which we always did in my public school! But it was great to get the kids to read the text, as it helped them to understand it better, and it was almost more like an English lesson than a geography less. I mean, it probably is really an English lesson as much as it is geography, and I often forget that English is not the first language of my class.
But getting them to read made a huge difference, and seeing who did or didn’t do well on the test, also helped to clarify some things. For example, it was a breakthrough moment to discover why I have so much trouble with third grade (although behaviour is slightly better each lesson). Looking at my test results I have one group who are getting the same scores as my best 5th graders, and I have one group who are getting zeroes on the test. It is partly down to English ability, but I think it is mostly down to attitude as one group are headstrong and the others give up easily and don’t even try.
It makes much more sense now and is pretty much what I had suspected, although not to such an extent. The brighter kids are playing up because they are bored and the weaker kids are playing up because it is too hard for them. So, we have to decide now what is best for them?? To split the group into two, or perhaps to give the weaker ones extra English lessons?? Personally, I think it makes more sense to split the class, but it also seems a shame to do that too, and it has logistical implication sin teaching them. Test scores are no where near so black and white as they are in 3rd grade, and I think therein lies the problem with this class and why I find them so hard to teach.
Disappointingly , many students could not answer questions which should have been easy, even though we have covered the material several times. The kids know English really well, and they also know Geography really well, and if you ask them a question they can guess the answer. Yet, on the test, hardly any one has actually ANSWERED the question.
The problem is, that, the children are great at memorizing text and writing down everything they can think of, but they are not able to do critical reasoning or to isolate key words in a question. Stuff that is CRUCIAL to them if they want to pass their GCSE exams. It is probably a reflection of soviet style teaching, where children were expected to learn and recite large chunks of text by memory, but for the British exam, they need to understand it and make links and connections. So, I think the next step is to go through test papers with them and teach them how to actually answer and understand what the question is asking of them. And also to learn how to write an essay. I gave detailed instructions on essay writing, and only one child actually answered the question or did exactly what I asked. All of them did their homework, and some of them wrote pages and pages and lovely information, but because they didn’t answer my question, they got zero, just as they would in the real exam. So its all about technique and the little things at the moment, and back to geography later. It breaks my heart that they can’t do this right now, but I know that by being tough on them at this stage, they will do much better in their exams in the long run.
Behaviour wise, all have greatly improved though, and I lough that buzz that I get when the rapport is going well. The next step is to start planning lessons which are more stimulating, and after London to be in a position to use the smart board to skype with education through expeditions so that they can talk to people live in the field.
But, school is coming along very nicely so far, as is the project, and it was great and amazing to go for dinner this week with our school Director, to an asian fusion place, close to coffee.ge, where the food was really good, especially the chocolate pudding and ice cream. I am really feeling that school is understanding the project more now, and so we have a lot more support, which will hopefully continue.
Falling asleep now, so that means enough blogging for one day. pip pip, cheerio:)