School has finally started for us, and I am so relieved. Summer was much needed and it was long, filled with packing and goodbyes and purging of belongings. But all good things come to an end, and then other good things rightfully begin.
Tuesday I walked to my school, a 40-minute jaunt out to the periphery of the city. I met the coordinator of the bilingual program who showed me around the school and introduced me to the faculty and staff. John and I are both at elementary schools with bilingual programs, which basically means that the students take at least a third of their classes in English. Any class can be taught in English, except math and Spanish language and history. We are not lead teachers, but instead are there to assist the Spanish teachers with their classes by being the model of pronunciation, reinforcing language concepts with small groups of students, and helping students prepare for their language exams at the end of the year.
Or something like that.
The word John and I have used to describe our first two days is chaotic.
I remember my frustration last year with my eighth graders who would not stop talking. There were days I wanted to cry because it seemed like no matter what tactics I tried or what consequences I attempted to enforce, they kept talking to each other, to me, to themselves, at all the wrong times. (I've actually had a recurring dream this summer that always ends with me crying hot, desperate tears because my students won't listen.) Yeah, it got to me.
The second and third graders I'm working with are very cute, and they have names like Lola, Iker, Javier, and Guillermo. Big, brown eyes stare back at me and little heads nod when I kneel down and whisper, "Do you need help?" very, very slowly. "Teacher, please help!"
But classroom behavior? These kids make last years' eighth graders look like nuns at Sunday mass.
I really like the teachers I'm working with in English, science, arts and crafts, and PE (I'm back in the gym!). But classroom management seems to have a totally different definition here. What that definition is, I don't have a clue. As the teacher conducts a lesson from the front of the class, one child smacks the student next to him over the head with his pencil case, another child is walking to the back of the class to talk to a friend, and two students in the front row are having their own conversation. One little girl is completely turned around in her chair, back to the front of the room, and the kid I'm standing right next to is about to throw a paper airplane. And this continues for the entire forty-five minutes. Everything in me tries to conceal my surprise, shock, and let's be honest, horror.
But the stress really doesn't set in like it did with behavior issues last year, because ultimately, this is not my classroom. I'm there to conduct mock interviews ("Hello, my name is Heather. What is your name? ... It's nice to meet you!"), hand out "Very Good!" stickers, and help those poor little souls who are completely lost in class at least figure out what page we're on.
If you're thinking, Wow, this is so different than what you did last year! you are completely correct. It's different. But I'm looking forward to different, to time spent working on Spanish, to traveling on some of my three day weekends, and to reading to my heart's content. I think it is going to be a good year.