A Much Needed Holiday

A week’s holiday could not have come at a better time. This last week I have felt the stress of working in a school that has rules, but no set of consequences for breaking them. After putting up with a whole deal of lack of respect I am finally away from it all.

Once again a long period has gone by without my posting any entries. It’s not that I’ve not had any decent ideas to write about, rather an inability to formulate myself and a feeling of having so little time to do it. I suppose the second explanation of my absence from the blogging world is due to stress, and I hope to rectify that in part over the next few days. I shall, as much as possible, become a single-task being, concentrating on one task at a time until I feel that task is complete.

And with that I shall finish off this entry and go and make the bed. Oh, sweet holiday, how I have longed for you!

I Know How Basil Fawlty Feels

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days that deflated my desire to remain at my current place of employment; it concerns not only a number of pupils, but the school’s policies and routines.

The day started with a half-group English lesson with the six-year olds. I’d had an appalling time the last lesson we had as a whole group, which consisted of shouting again and again at children who refused to listen/sit in a ring/generally get involved. I was determined to keep calm this time, using a smooth tone and a placid temperament to resolve any misbehaviour, to try and attain a closer rapport with them; however, this failed to work, and a continuous volley of reminders was necessary to bring the children back to the lesson (of nine pupils, I’d say one was behaving suitably).

I decided to take action, and went to the teachers’ computer room after the lesson to prepare three “first warning” letters. When I got there I found that the printer was not able to perform my request. Usually it is the photocopier that mangles important documents, requiring time to fix that we don’t have, but today it was the computers’ turn to give me the V’s, so I left frustrated and angry, with another item for my to-do list.

Since I was already thinking about letters to parents I thought I’d try my luck franking two other “first warning” letters I’d been unsuccessfully trying to post for four days. Franking requires access to the headmaster’s office, which is only open to teachers certain times of the day. This routine has been enforced to give Naged and Maria alone time to resolve other issues, but it sadly does not work. Along with the franking machine, the office is host to pencils, glue and other assorted stationery, so any teacher unlucky enough to require these essentials at the wrong time will be left wanting.

As a testament to this system’s failure, I have been on four different occasions in four days, and I have either come at a time when visiting times are over, or at a correct time, but no-one is there to help. I did manage to get in through the sub-rectors side door (with her permission) on one occasion, but when I got to my goal I saw the franking machine requires a code. Foiled again.

A splenetic Jon then goes to his 10.10 lesson with class 1. As usual no-one is there. This is because the member of staff outside at that time hasn’t rung the bell for them to return from their break. Had this have been with one of the higher classes I’d have been a bit pissed off by this, especially class 5, who have their National Test this year, but class 1 coming twenty minutes late was actually pleasing, giving me time to calm down and not have to be concerned that my planning would fall short of a full forty-minute lesson.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon went by without problems. I actually had time to sort out loads of paperwork that had accumulated on my desk, though my last lesson, with one of the class 5’s, was most unproductive, with the children showing a general tiredness and lack of concentration. It is these kind of days that have me believing there must be must less stressful ways of teaching English, and I’ve even been considering writing a C.V. for the next time I become disheartened.

Am I Being Presumptious?

5 weeks after initiating my “say only once” tactics at school, and I think there has been a substantial improvement in the children’s ability to listen. I could, of course, be imagining it, but I’m sure I find myself repeating myself far less. I’m sure I find myself repeating myself far less. I’m sure I find myself repeating myself far less.

Interestingly, very few pupils actually cannot do the exercises I give them, and those who cannot are the pupils that need help in general. I only hope I can continue on this track, and the pupils learn to trust themselves more, and not some authority who sets narrow parameters on them.

Stupid romantic, that I am.

Could You Repeat That, Please?

Earlier this week I tried an experiment with the children whom I teach, to find out how much they actually listen to me.

I asked them, some time during a lesson, to stop what they were doing, put down their pencils, and listen to me. Then I said a simple word or sentence in Swedish, and thereafter ask someone to repeat what I’d just said. If that person did not know I’d ask another, and so on until I was given the correct answer. Nearly all the classes passed the experiment on the 5th or 6th attempt.

In a couple of the classes I changed the word after the 2nd or 3rd failed attempt. I noticed that when they realised they were not listening they appeared to become more attentive, and I wanted to know how much of a bearing this “renewed” attentiveness would have on the test.

I obviously expected a better success rate having given them a second chance, but even then it would require a further two or three attempts on their part.

So, why is it that many of the children pay little or no attention to what we teachers say (this is a problem that many of the other teachers in my school experience, at least in the lower years)? I think it is a reliance on the nature of teachers. We want/must try to make sure that everyone understands the instructions of an exercise, and we are willing to repeat ad infinitum until understood by all. A child who does not listen can simply put up his/her hand and receive a personal explanation. So, why bother to listen when required?

I should like to see if their attentiveness can be increased by a twofold plan. Firstly, I shall continue with the “pop-questions”, which will pressure them into listening; secondly, I shall train them by only issuing instructions once. Those who do not listen (understanding is another matter, and the difference is easily heard in the children) shall have to sit there silently while the others carry out the exercise.

The most difficult part of this plan is to remember not to be the crutch they rely on, and stand fast in my decision to give clear, concise instructions once, and only once.

The Circus Returns

I thought I was being smart when, back in June, I ordered the children’s books for this coming school-year. It meant I avoided the rush of mass-ordering at the beginning of the term, and it also gave me the advantage of receiving everything I wanted.

In August I calmly started work, safe in the knowledge that all my material would be waiting for me. It was not.

I spoke to the accountant whom I had given the original order to, and she apologised, thinking she’d mislaid the paper somewhere. I spent a good half-day recounting and figuring out what it was I’d requested, then redid my order, slightly miffed but secure that the clerical error had been an unlucky incident.

3 weeks on and I had still not received any books, so I spoke to the accountant again. This time she went into the headmistress’s office to poke around, and returned with both of my orders, which had been lying amongst a pile of other papers; neither of the orders had been acted upon.

Now, finally, I’m reasonably sure I’ll soon have something for the children to read/write in, but this is another in a long line of fuck-ups that we encounter on an almost daily basis. I can only imagine what a demanding job it is to run a private school; I do, however, expect certain basic things to be sorted out without the kind of hassle that breeds contempt for my boss.