Kids: What’s your real name?
Me: My real name is Miss Jenkins.
Kids: No, your REAL name!
Me: My real name is Miss Jenkins.
Kids: Come on, tell us!
Me: My real name is Miss Jenkins.
Kids: If we guess, will you tell us?
Me: …ok but only if you guess it right!
Kids: Elizabeth, Shirley, ….
Me: No, nope, ….
Me: (sighs) Yes. But you may only call me Miss Jenkins.
Kids: Emma! Emma! Miss Emma!
Me: (repeatedly, with scary face) You may ONLY call me Miss Jenkins.
Kids: Yes, Miss Jenkins.
Don’t get me wrong, they are extremely polite and respectful. During roll, they must say “Good Morning, Miss Jenkins” in English or their home language. I get lots of “Ki Ora”s 😉 Manners are a huge deal in my classroom, and disrespect is simply not tolerated. I think that respect and manners should be taken more seriosuly in American classrooms, but that sparks the debate around mutual respect between teacher and student. They are so strict here that I can see it sometimes humiliating the students. Though in America, teachers aren’t as publicly strict in order to save their students dignity, and the kids get away with too much!
I had a long chat with the vice principal about behavior management on Thursday. When bad behavior does occur, they have a good system of fair debriefing. They sit down with all children involved and talk about what really happened, why that happened, how they can work it out, and what choices they should make next time. It’s very mature. Originally, the school had one hour break in the middle of the day, but a lot of incidents would happen in the last fifteen minutes, so they decided to cut down the lunch break and add two short breaks during the day. Apparently this really cut down on bad behavior because the kids would act out after simply having too much time at their discretion, while it still gives them a lot of break time. It’s interesting.
The school’s behavior management system is almost purely antecedent-based (preventing the situations that elicit bad behavior) and from what I can see, it’s very strong. Their motto is “with Respect, Attitude, and Perseverance” and it’s a huge part of their culture. All of the students have been learning about it since Year 1, and any new kids that come in tend to assimilate right away. They are constantly cultivating a positive environment with praise and rewards which are extremely important and honorable to their families.
The school believes that it’s also extremely important to know and understand the families and their cultures by building relationships. The school is so diverse, so there is are definitely some competing ideas about what is polite, acceptable, and appropriate behavior. But the school works to have good relationships and value the diversity, which helps create a safe environment where all the cultures can find common ground and acceptance.
Enough about that crap, let’s get to the good stuff. MATHS! I have third and fourth years who are still working on addition and subtraction. After they chorally practice counting patterns using a number grid, they break up into groups. They group for EVERYTHING here, and the groups are solely based on ability: high, middle, and low levels. The advanced group was working on adding by miltiples of 10 (60 + 30 = ?), but then my teacher unexpected added some trickier ones (20 + 54 = ?). It was cool to see them figure it out without any instruction by using their prior maths knowledge! The middle group worked on adding small numbers to larger numbers (78 + 6) by using a number grid. The low group worked on adding small numbers to 10, then ordering them. (I did one-on-one work with a student here.)
Then reading of course! Those lucky kids, I read a bunch to them this week! I started off by reading a few poems from Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends”
I was surprised that they had never heard of him (he’s so big in America!), but they absolutely LOVED it! They are so expressive and enthusiastic 🙂
I read them three poems: “Hug o’ War” (about playing nice games), “Orchestra” (they were going to see one the next day!) and “The Alligator’s Toothache” (so silly, and a little scary). I then asked them which was their favorite, why, how did each poem make them feel, what their favorite parts were, blagh, blagh, blagh. Just a literature appreciation type of exercise.
Next I read them a lovely book called “Down the Back of the Chair,” a very silly book about what you can find lost behind your furniture. It was full of awesome rhymes and alliterations, and some of the students picked up on them without me even prompting them! They are geniuses, I think 😉
Then we got down to the real work. I honestly don’t know what the rest of the class did because I was busy teaching the low group. We read a little story about “Lost Socks.” In the morning, I had them look through the pictures to make some predictions and personal connections. I wanted to read it aloud together, but sometimes they didn’t read aloud with me. But they assured me they were following along, “inside my body.” Then I did some word work with them. Using the whiteboard, I asked them how to change the word “sock” into “socks” “rock” and “rocks.” Too easy for them. I was so proud 🙂 Then we had fun drawing and cutting out socks 🙂
For handwriting, my teacher tells them to say the “moves” to themselves as they write “down around, over and across.” They were working on “eat” and making words like “meat” and “beat,” but not “feat”! It’s “feet!”
I am beginning to see how hard spelling is for ELL students (English Language Learners). Some keep adding silent “e”s onto the end of every word. How do I explain this concept to a 7 year old who primarily speaks Korean?! I need to study more 🙂
In the afternoon, we chatted about our heritage and ethnicity. Everyone is going to create a flag and a little performance from where where they come from. No two kids have the same ethnicity in my class of 25! It’s amazing. I’m the only American, of course 😉
Then, we had dance! Since they were going to see the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra the next day, my teacher had them working on their classical music appreciation. As she played music, she had the students lie on the floor with their eyes closed, listen carefully, think about how it made them feel (tired, peaceful, relaxed), and paint a picture in their mind (Harry Potter, ballroom dancing). Then, they did little moves with just their arms, then just their legs, then finally, they got up and dancing freely around the room. I joined right in of course! My teacher reminded them that it’s ok to feel silly. Just move the way you feel. I wish I was in third grade again 😉
After school there was a staff meeting. The teachers were learning about a new online program in which to keep a running record of their students’ standardized test scores, which can then be viewed by any teacher for statistical purposes. I liked to see this progress because I’ve noticed here in New Zealand that “meeting the standards” and “test scores” are not anywhere near as stressed about as they are in America. Which is both good and bad thing. It allows them to focus on the individual children more, but I can see instruction falling by the wayside.
On Friday, I was lucky enough to be able to go into school as well! I was allowed to come along for the field trip 🙂
The morning started off with assembly. First, there was a lovely slideshow of photos from the week, accompanied by Justin Beiber’s worldly “Baby.” Then a wonderful performance of the stick game, sort of like what I did at the Noho Marae! After one child from each class won the “Student of the Week Award”–a great honor–for their enthusiasm, improvement, or fast running, the whole school sang their anthem together: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Nope, I’m not kidding.
After morning tea, we lined up to travel into the big city to see the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra! The show was perfect for the kids, just and hour long and we had front row seats! After an overture, they performed a seriosuly cool theatrical piece to Lemony Snicket’s “The Composer is Dead.” So clever. A man dramatically read the story while the symphony played along. The story is about a detective trying to discover the murderer of a composer. First the violins are accused, then the foreign French horns, then each part of the orchestra admits that they’ve ALL butchered composers at one time or another. 😉 It was really silly and the kids loved it.
When we got back to school, we did a short activity to find out how effective the trip was for the students. They drew a graph showing (from 😦 ro :)) how much they enjoyed the concert. Then, on a similar graph, they showed how much they learned. It was so great to see how much the students liked it! However, they didn’t seem to think they learned very much from the day. But the priority about field trips is to have fun while learning a little, right?