I’ve had a brilliant week at school this week, and am truly feeling good about teaching and really think I am getting the hang of things at last. I missed my kids last week as I was off with flu, but this week I was back with a vengeance! We are finally over the mid term tests, have marked, given grades, gone over questions, praised, and chastised those who needed a bit of a kick up the backside. So, all in all, it has been a pretty productive week, and to be honest, it has been nice to get back to some proper teaching again, as mid terms were quite boring, just sitting around whilst the students sat in silence communicating only with their test papers, and not with me.
The greatest thing, is that now they are starting to get things a bit more. We have got used to each others’ ways, know the boundaries, expectations, and how far to push each other. They know what I expect of them, and the nicest thing now, is that instead of them expecting 10 out of 10 for everything, they now know that I am a hard marker. So, when I do give them a ten, it means that they did their work perfectly, and are really, really excited about it. That is what is crucial about balancing praise and reward and making them really feel like it is something special and well deserved.
It has been a bit of an eye opener culture wise though, and is something I don’t think I want to experience too much of in the future. Basically, under the old system, it was easy to bribe a teacher, and kids would be given 10 for no other reason than because the teacher was pushed or bribed into it. This isn’t a new thing, and was very common at my school in the village, and I know Co-Teachers in my public Schools who went through hell when parents had their bribes refused by some teachers in favour of honest marks.
It is a tricky one in some ways. Have an easy life with parents, especially those who also teach in your school, or be honest and mark according to effort and quality of work? So many parents try to manipulate or guilt trip teachers into giving their kids good marks, and it really does make a mockery of things and put teachers in an uncomfortable situation, on the whole anyway.
Two parents have approached me about the grades I have given their children, and because they are worried that their child will have problems if they get less than 10/10. They seem to put more effort into tempting the teacher into changing the grades, than they actually do in supporting their child, or finding out why their child isn’t getting a perfect score. And so many parents are desperate to hear from the teacher that their child is some kind of genius or ‘kargi gogo’ or ‘kargi bichi’. Why is that? Are parents really so insecure? Or maybe it just means that they don’t need to worry if the teacher says their child is good? Either way, it is very strange to have a parent throw all sorts of reasons at you to give their child 10 no matter what. Like money, lack of English, emotional problems, they had a bad teacher before, etc, etc. Sometimes there are just so many excuses, and it makes you want to shake the parent and get them to open their goddam eyes, to see what is really going on.
And when you try to explain it to the parent, that it is just not fair for you to give their child a 10 ‘just because’, but not to another child, it is like they have this mental block and just can’t understand it, or that giving their child an undeserved 10 is not in the child’s best interests. At the end of the day, I am training up these kids to take the GCSE Geography exam, and I know that it is better to be hard on marks now, than it is to give a ten each time, only to have the child pay £110 to take the GCSE, only to fail it, and for parents to then complain at you for the child’s low grades. Aside from which, how am I to give your child a 10, when they don’t even bring a notebook or pen to school, are rude, don’t do their homework, or are constantly late? How can a parent not understand that your covering up for their lack of knowledge or skills will not be helpful to that child longer term?
I guess it is just a sign of the change taking place in Georgia, and the reason why change is needed, particularly in terms of educational reform. But, I think that now parents know that I am a tough marker and won’t be bought, the only option left to them is to hassle their child and make sure that their child brings their notebook and pen to school, and does their homework!
My lower grades are learning from the British Curriculum for Geography for Key Stage 2, and I absolutely love teaching them, and trying to come up with new things for them. Already we have learnt about continents, compass points, the countries that make up the UK, and a little about maps, co-ordinates, and aerial photos. I even made them some worksheets:
My whiteboard work is still pretty shoddy, and I really need to improve my handwriting, especially since the kids have English as a second language, and the alphabet and script is totally different from Georgian. But hopefully they will get better over time!!
Now we have moved on to settlements, and I’m also learning lots of interesting things about Britain too!! Basically we have four different kinds of settlements in Britain, hamlets, villages, towns, and cities, and London’s population is about four times larger than the population for the whole of Georgia!!
We are also learning a little bit about some British history, as we are learning about the origins of British place names. For example, did you know that places ending in ‘chester’ come from the Romans, who used ‘chester’ meaning town or fortress! Did you know that places that have ‘ham’, ‘stead’, or ‘bury’ in them, come from the Anglo-Saxons who established those settlements? And did you know that settlements with ‘by’ in them come from the Viking settlers, and that ‘by’ meant farmstead. Or ‘thorpe’ meaning village!
I also came across a funny British expression that we always use, and I was wondering where it came from and how we started to use it in two very different ways. Why do we say ‘pretty careful’, ‘pretty sure’, ‘I’m pretty hungry’. Why do we use the same word for beautiful and for very?? How on earth did that come about?? I would love to know. And what about the word ‘stuff’? Does that exist in other languages too???
English is just such a funny language. How can so many things have the same stem? I mean take this for example:
to settle, settler, settlement. The same stem, but different things related to the same thing. And home come we use the verb ‘settle’ in so many contexts. For example, I might settle into my new house, I might settle an argument, or I might tell my class to settle down. Maybe I feel unsettled, or I need to settle my stomach. I’m just curious, now that I have started to think about the English language.
So, I was trying to think about how to make my classes more fun, and how to involve some creativity in learning. And I came up with a little competition for my younger classes. The idea is that they have to make a model, scrapbook, blog, or website about a place that they know well, and they have until after Christmas to finish it. The winner will get a prize from me. They were so excited when I told them!!! And, so I decided to open it up to my older kids too, and they were even more excited….so we will see what they produce!
In my older classes, I have been teaching them all about tectonics this term. About volcanoes, earthquakes, fold mountains, and tsunamis, and best of all, is that so much of what I am teaching them, can be found all around us. There are underwater volcanoes in the Black Sea, and there was previously a tsunami here, which left much of Georgia underwater, and was the reason for the story about Noah and his ark!! There are often little earthquakes here in Georgia, and even this week, there was a large enough earthquake in neighbouring Turkey, that some people were killed due to collapsed buildings, and it was on our news. So the kids, can really relate to what we are learning. The other thing that I love, is that many of the kids in my classes are also on the Oceans project, and I am seeing such a change in them already. Especially in terms of maturity and behaviour. There is a very definite cross over, and already a big difference in the children who are and who aren’t on the Oceans Project. I especially love that they get to see both sides of me too, the teacher me, and the Saturday me, and perhaps the excursion me too!!
I’m feeling a lot more confident now, and I think my nagging is finally starting to pay off, which is especially rewarding. Here are some of my boards, which I hope are improving as time goes!!!
If you are still reading and following this very long update, then I am very impressed!!!! More stuff to come, but I hope to update properly and more regularly in future, otherwise it’ll all just be dull, dull, dull!!!!
Here are some of my tectonics handouts:
To make the lessons a little more fun, I decided to organise a competition for my older classes…..to make a volcano which could also erupt. I thought the younger guys would enjoy it too, so its now open to all the kids in school. They were all really excited when I told them, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I don’t think they get to do much of this kind of stuff usually, so I hope it will help them to start inquiring about science more and enjoying being creative in their learning.