|Someone built these wonderful cubbies that keep all our supplies organized.|
I know the pioneer girls did it, but I don't know how, so I'm going to just list some of the teaching challenges that I'm facing. If any of you have any ideas at all for this, please feel free to chime in (and pass my questions along to any teachers/homeschoolers who may be willing to help!)
- I have 18 students (and the number may soon increase, because we may be getting some additional older kids). They range in age from 5 to 15. They range in grade level from Pre-K to 3rd grade. There is a pretty even mix of boys and girls.
- None of the kids are fluent in English, although all of them speak some. The longer I am their teacher, the more they will understand, but right now, at the beginning, most of them are struggling to understand basic directions. My job is to teach school in English since they're being adopted to the US and will need to speak English when they arrive.
- I envision myself running the school on a one-room-schoolhouse model like in the old days, where different classes take turns coming up to recite or receive instruction--but how do I keep all the other classes busy and silent when I am not directly interacting with them?
- About 5 of the 18 children know how to read. I have to teach the rest to read in a language that they scarcely understand yet. Teaching a child to read is an all-absorbing task in itself--how do I juggle that with all the other subjects in a day that require knowledge of how to read? So far they know the alphabet but not the sounds of the letters, so we have been doing phonics drills and simple consonant-vowel blends (ba, be, bi, bo, bu). Blending sounds has not yet clicked with any of them.
- I have some "Brain Quest" workbooks and some other little activity booklets that people have donated to the creche, but I have no textbooks. The workbooks and activity books offer educational material, but it's all just a fun, supplementary thing to their regular schoolwork (which, it is assumed, they are getting from another source--like school). So I basically have to come up with every day's lesson from scratch and try to match it appropriately to their level without it deteriorating into too much chaos. I need some good textbooks--even if it's just one math book per grade--but until I get them, I'm going to be struggling to make do.
- Most of the work in the Brain Quest workbooks is geared to someone whose native language is English. A page will say something like, "Circle the pictures that have the short /a/ sound," and then there is a picture of a hat, bed, cat, glove, bat, and mat. It's kind of hard to do when you don't know the English words for those pictures. Or, in the older children's workbooks, several sentences will have blanks that you fill from the options in a word bank in a box at the top of the page. But their English comprehension is not good enough to take a sentence like "The ____ floated quietly across the lake" and pick "boat" instead of "show" or "told." So how do I offer appropriate activities that are doable and also stretch their abilities?
- At practically every moment of every day, there is a screaming baby within earshot...although this is not as much of a distraction as you might think, because the kids are so used to it.
- Time is not a concept here. No one has a clock or a watch. So implementing any sort of routine is a difficult thing to do. Even though I have a watch, there are elements of the schedule that I can't control, like the kids' mealtimes. This is always unpredictable, causing me to have to be flexible enough to stop and start what I am doing at a moment's notice. It also makes recess breaks difficult to control (15 minutes invariably turns into 30, etc.)
- Seating is extremely limited. Look at the two mini picnic tables that are in the classroom and imagine kids crammed together side-by-side in the 90-degree heat and humidity. (We also have a third picnic table not visible in the picture.) So I can't separate people by grade and have boys and girls separated and seat people where they can get along with the person next to them, at the same time. It's a matter of creativity and balancing of priorities when it comes to seating.
- Keeping things nice is a major battle all the time. I have to protect the markers, pencils, erasers, etc.
I will not get daunted. I will not give up at the outset. I will not say to myself, "why bother?" I will prepare for the impossible, and throw myself into it, and ask God for wisdom, and watch something incredible happen, rather than forcing myself to be content with nothing, simply because I never tried.
Impossible life, here I come!