When Lilian introduced us to the whole school during morning assembly, she encouraged everyone to make us feel welcome but also to ask us lots of questions and to utilize our skills during our stay at the school. From that first day, there was one particular teacher who seemed really excited to collaborate with me. Mr. Jack was thrilled when I visited “Class 7”, as they call it, while he was teaching English, and after class he asked for pointers, suggestions, and ideas. We decided to assign a “composition” as homework so that I could read original stories written by these students and find the areas where they needed the most help. It wasn’t until all 34 students turned in their papers that I realized that I had managed to get myself attached to the largest class at Petals!
One student really shocked me with his story because it was about me! I asked him to read it aloud to the class as an example of a great story: he introduced his characters and gave them depth, built suspense by creating a problem and then a moment when a character showed moral courage, and taught a lesson to readers about knowing when a practical joke goes too far. This is Jamlick, the author, as I’m telling the class about what makes his story so interesting and well-written.
While I was grading the papers, I made note of common mistakes in grammar, spelling, verb tenses, and so on. I asked Mr. Jack if I could create a game to play with the class in order to review what they had been learning and what they still needed to practice. The students loved the game of Jeopardy! The class was split into three groups and once it got going, they fought valiantly for their teams to win. This was a great bunch of students and I loved working with them and with Mr. Jack.
I also spent a fair amount of time floating from one classroom to the next because I wanted to look for examples of inspired teaching. Then, Lilian planned a teachers’ meeting where we could talk about their strengths, share ideas, and generate new and exciting ways for them to present concepts to their students. I praised the teachers for specific areas where they are excelling, like the PreK teacher who brings an intense enthusiasm to a room of 20 students all between the ages of 3 and 6! She captures every child’s attention, and they wildly compete to come up to the blackboard and write a lowercase letter or point to the correct answer. Also, one fifth grade Social Studies teacher brought artifacts to his class and effectively connected the past to today as he passed the objects around so the students could touch and hold them. I told the teachers that I think they’re doing an incredible job, that their dedication to the students is inspiring, as many of them stay long after the school day has technically ended in order to help their students. I shared some ideas about how to teach in more hands-on ways (having the students role play, using natural materials as math manipulatives, and bringing community members to the school to address the students on topics of leadership, how hard work pays off, and the ways that an education has helped them to achieve their dreams. We agreed that field trips would be incredibly enriching and helpful for the students to learn about their own country, and I’m determined to help them figure out how to make this possible.