I feel like I am finally adjusting to the routine and schedule of the school as well as the workday. Today is Friday and I wrapped up my first week at St. Andrews. I learn something new every day and am growing to love my students and their parents more each day. I actually feel like a part of the school here. My teacher, Ms. Chavari and I get along so well and we have a lot in common. The schedule here for the school is different. Mondays through Thursdays Infant classes I and II attend school from 8:30 to 2:20and on Fridays these classes dismiss at lunch time. However, the teachers have to stay until 3:40 everyday. This week Carly and I have been staying until 5:00 or later.
In the U.S. typically teachers have a planning period at some point throughout each day. This is normally during the students' specials time. Here at St. Andrews there are no related arts classes, these elements are incorporated in the classroom with the teacher. As a result, the teachers do not get a daily planning period. The Infant II teachers utilize the time that they have on Thursdays from 2:20 to 3:40 and Fridays from 12:45 to 3:40 to do the planning for the next week. Each week the teachers are required to turn in a weekly summary lesson plan that outlines what they will do for each subject each day. These lessons must be aligned with the national standards, contain the content addressed, strategy utilized, and the method for assessment. This is similar to what is required in the U.S. at many schools.
One thing that is very different from schools in the U.S. is the lack of technology. None of the classrooms at the school have any form of technology. No computers, iPads, iPods, CD players, radios, etc. There are also no whiteboards, just chalk boards. Sometimes the students have to draw their own lines on their paper for writing. St. Andrews is considered one of the more prestigious schools, so I would love to visit another school that represents the other end of the spectrum. I found out that my teacher just learned how to use a computer this year. She took a course at the University of Belize, as she is currently taking courses to become a licensed teacher. She is working under a provisional license as of now and has 26 years of experience. She is extremely interested in how certification and education works in the U.S. and I am happy to answer her questions. She actually just completed her internship, which would be equivalent to our student teaching and graduates in June. We have bonded over this commonality since I will graduate in May.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how religion is incorporated into the curriculum. Every Thursday all of the classes attend a church service at the local Anglican church down the road from the school. The students sing songs, participate in giving offering, pray, and hear a sermon from the pastor. This was a very neat experience.
I also mentioned before that the school dismisses for an hour for lunch every day. During this time, many parents come in to pick up their children, take them to lunch, and then bring them back. Other students eat at the Cafe, which reminds me of a summer camp canteen or concession stand. They can try all kinds of goodies. I tried what is called an "idele." It is a type of slushie/water popsicle, but about a million times better. Nothing is better than an idele in this 103 degree heat.
I am very impressed with the amount of parent involvement here at St. Andrews. I see almost all of the parents on a daily basis. One of my student's parents brought me a huge piece of chocolate cake, one day just because. Another student brings me a fresh banana each morning. I talked with my teacher about this today because I thought it was so sweet and she said that it is simply the culture here. She said that she gets something from at least one student each day. It is the way that the parents and the students show how much the love and appreciate their teacher. The students must love Ms. Chavari because we got cake, donuts, bananas, and croissants this week. I think that I could really get used to this. So much for trying to watch my weight while I am here.
I had the opportunity to participate in parent teacher conferences and the issuing of report cards today. This was so neat as I was able to talk one on one with each parent about his or her child. I it amazing what one can pick up on in just a week. I can already identify many of the students strengths and some of their weaknesses as well as their interests and quirks. One of the conferences was completely conducted in Spanish. Many of the children and parents here can speak three languages, English, Creole, and Spanish and my teacher can communicate with all of them. I would love to be multilingual or even bilingual for that matter.
One of my student's mom really likes to talk and stays after to talk with me just about every day. We exchanged contact information and she has offered to plan some fun weekend adventure for Carly and I. Her and her husband own a couple of businesses in town and he is also the futbol supervisor for Belize. Another one of my student's mom owns a restaurant and has invited Carly and I to come for a free breakfast one day. Did I mention that I love the people here? Everyone is so welcoming and willing to help!
Carly and I have booked our first adventure for the weekend. We will be going to Pine Ridge where we will see the 1,000 foot waterfall, explore a cave, and hike through the jungle. We will also be visiting Caracol, which is a well known Maya ruin site.
We plan to go downtown tonight, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the cool night weather. We have made it a point to try a new restaurant every night.
At first I was very out of my element in regards to the school, their discipline system, and curriculum, but now I am learning to appreciate what it has to offer and how it is effective in its own way.
I am so glad that it is Friday night and I can't wait for the adventures that await us tomorrow!