Student Teaching in London

The Second Week

Monday, Nov.9

This was a rainy day. In school that morning, I was told to pick two more children to observe. This time, I picked two boys: Andrew and Jamie.

I again listened to all the 5-days-a-week children reading, now finally knowing what I was doing.

The day began with the words for "spellings" written on the board, which must be copied, and a sentence written for each.

For this segment of the Autobiography project, they were to write what they want to be when they grow up. I was to float and help children with it. I wasn't able to be much help, because of the tremendous difference between English and American society. Something called a "Job Centre" was constantly coming up, and I had no way of knowing what this British institution is or how it works. I was fascinated that my co-op assumed I knew what such things were, as though all countries had them!

In English, they started learning about "speech marks" (quotation marks) and where to put the commas (which, oddly enough, they call "commas").

Mondays they have "games" (physical education). They change into P.E. clothes: shorts and tee-shirts. I was surprised to find that the boys and girls all change their clothes together, in the classroom!

The game was played with a bean bag. It was placed inside a circle. One person from each of two teams would be called out to get the bean bag, without stepping inside the circle drawn around it.

In maths, they were working on long multiplication problems. Besides putting number underneath the columns instead of above, I also noticed that instead of calling it "carrying" they referred to it as "exchanging". And, as I noted before, they call it a "sum" even though it's multiplication.

I looked at some of the programs they do on the computer, in something called a "Development Tray". The ones I was looking at involved filling in missing words in a reading selection. The selections were extremely biased and political (leftist). I also thought they were much too advanced for those children.

For lunch, we had mutton and for dessert, "semalina pudding". We Americans there got a big surprise when we found out what semalina pudding is. It's cream of wheat! We told them there how funny that is, because what they consider a dessert, we consider food for breakfast.

Even though it was raining, the children went outside for play anyway.

I observed Andrew in the morning. He spent the first ten minutes talking about sports with Leith, who sat next to him at the table. He finally did get all the words for spellings copied before assembly. He did tend to be more interested in socializing than in doing his work, but he got it finished, eventually. Then he helped Leith with his work. When they had the speech marks lesson, he seemed bored, as if he already knew it well (which wouldn't be unlikely for him).

In the afternoon, I observed Jamie, Class 2's Class Clown. He's not a bad kid, though. He started out the afternoon complaining about some money being taken. He hit Huseyin. Then he'd push Huseyin, then hit him some more, then start hitting Salah. He'd hit classmates a lot, but not so much as to actually hurt anybody too much. But he would never hit a girl. It's not such a bad idea, then, to keep him in-between girls! He does not sit at a big table, but at a smaller table with only one other person, usually Michelle.

He liked to wander and strut around a lot. He also liked going to the computer, even when he wasn't supposed to!

He would tend to be way behind the others in the class, especially in maths. When I was trying to help him with it, and he kept making dumb mistakes, he said, "Something's wrong with my head." Unlike some other poorer students in that class, such as Leith, his biggest problem seemed to be carelessness.

The co-op today explained an additional project she wanted me to do: keeping "diaries". I was given two of the small, thin notebooks the children use (lined on one side, blank on the other).

One notebook was to be used to record things about each individual student (again, in the spirit of English individualization). I arranged it for simple anecdotal records on one side, and set up a chart to record reading progress on the other side, a pair of pages for each student. Note: that's why you'll be seeing a lot of detail about individual kids.

The other was to be for keeping a diary of all my lessons. My lesson plans were to be written ahead of time on one side. On the other side, I was to evaluate each lesson, plus and minus, for each lesson. This was the format she had written out for me:

  Date              [  General
  Aims/objectives   [  +        -
  Children involved [
  Materials         [
  Proposed Format   [
I heard Nicola read that day. She could read just fine, but she didn't understand what she was reading at all.

John forgot his book that day; I didn't hear him read. He also forgot his outfit for games, and had to borrow a T-shirt from somebody else.

David, John's good friend, also forgot his book that same day. But he read for me from a storybook of his, a very imaginative, and gory, story.

I noticed another boy, Salah, who was always trying to help whoever happened to be working at the computer. He sat at the back of the room, not far from the computer. He is obviously extremely intelligent, but unfortunately when he'd want to help somebody at the computer would usually be when he was supposed to be in his seat doing something else!

Michelle and Simone were both absent this day and also the next day. I was sorry to see Michelle absent; I enjoy working with her very much.

Juliette got in trouble while the teacher was reading the story; she seems to have trouble listening. She often seemed to be getting into trouble. She was a very nice girl to talk to or work with by herself, but she was not nearly so sweet when together with the other children.

Joanne was another one I heard reading this day. She reads quite well. I mainly worked with her on vocabulary development.

The other one I listened to reading was Georgina. She read from her storybook, in which she made up her own stories. The story was very flowing, immediate; she seems to write at the same time she is thinking, which makes her stories more elaborate than most. She is another one who is delightful to work with.

For dinner this evening, I bought a sandwich down in the Manor House tube station, and got some raspberry-flavored milk drink (which I never bought again).

I watched the second episode of "Delta and the Bannermen" on Doctor Who in the lounge, and didn't do much else besides getting the diaries started that evening. I also had my first lesson plan to write: a creative writing lesson for two of the children: David and Georgina.

Tuesday, Nov.10

At the morning assembly, Miss Sagar spent most of the time complaining about the IRA and a bombing attack in Northern Ireland in connection with Poppy Day. For some reason I never did find out about, Poppy Day is highly offensive to many of the Irish people. Assemblies could get rather political at times!

I took Shelley and Georgina out into the hall when we went back to the class, for the lesson I was to do with them. It involved their finishing a story. It was a contest, and they had a choice whether they wanted to submit their creative writing project to be entered officially in the contest or not.

The story was about a sea-serpent found by a little boy. At first, they had some trouble understanding the story. As I read it to them, at the end of each paragraph I tried to point out the meanings of all the words they didn't know, such as flotsam and jetsam, and gale. After that, they were able to understand the story well.

Shelley is a quiet, red-haired girl, and Georgina is also quiet, but also stands out as seeming to be one of the brightest girls, and certainly one of the best behaved.

Georgina's story was fantastically elaborate. She had the boy down in a whole underwater city. I don't know if she ever did finish it.

Shelley was less eager than Georgina about writing a story. She did come up with some ideas, though. She spoke the story out loud as she wrote it. Sometimes she would get ahead of herself and the writing doesn't keep up, and words would be incorrect or completely missing, and she had to be slowed down a couple of times. A few times she hesitated, forgetting what she was going to write next. When that would happen, it would usually help if I'd read to her the last thing she had written.

I heard Nina read today. She is still nervous with me. She didn't have her regular reading book with her, but she read from another book. She had some trouble with comprehension, I think it may have been because she was nervous. I stressed the humorous elements in the book she was reading, which was beginning to make her feel more at ease with me.

I noticed today how eager Nicola is to do reading with me. But she had the same trouble as yesterday.

Leith had some trouble with Andrew today, saying he hit him on the neck. Then he reported that Andrew was hitting Huseyin. Fortunately, this was not a frequent problem. Leith seems to do pretty well with his reading, when I'd hear him reading.

Leith was one of two black boys in the room. The other was an islander, with a difficult accent. He left on a vacation back where he was from after the first week I was there, and had not returned by the time I left. He was not a well-behaved boy, so having him gone was no great loss!

Jamie's having a hard time with maths, trouble figuring out how to carry. He also had some trouble behaving that day.

John has quite a bit of trouble with reading. He forgot his book again. Could it be because he knows he's not a good reader? Every single word he tries to sound out, and often sounds them out incorrectly. He also was having trouble with maths. He started arguing with me when I tried to explain it to him! But eventually he did start catching on to it.

His friend David is a good reader. It is a joy to listen to him read poems, with his beautiful English accent and perfect rhythm. He was reading a passage from Beowulf. In spite of all the very difficult words (such as youth, valorous, unbidden, unheralded, whale-road), his comprehension was astounding. He had previously read the poem El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe with the same perfect rhythm, and had an amazing understanding of the symbolism and meaning of the poem. But in maths he had a little trouble though.

Before dinner (lunch), the teacher has the children do improvisational acting. Huseyin did a very good pantomime of "blind"; he's very good at that. But he can also be somewhat clumsy; twice he lost a marble he was playing with.

Salah, as I would have expected, is probably the top reader. He reads extremely fast, with perfect comprehension.

Steven does pretty well with his reading too. But he was having a little trouble with maths, doing long division. He's a pleasant boy to work with, very polite. He does have a problem with his speech, though, something like a lisp but not really a lisp. It's hard to describe.

I heard Priya reading today. She doesn't have much trouble and her comprehension is good, but for some reason she was constantly mispronouncing the name Sabu in the story!

Juliette was in trouble again for not listening. But she had a better time with reading. She is such a pleasant girl to work with on her own! Her only problem was getting a little careless with small words.

Joanne didn't do badly with her reading. I just had to point out the need for watching out for commas while reading.

I showed them a game I know, called Brussels Sprouts. Georgina seemed to especially like it.

In the afternoon, that other teacher came in and took over again, as my co-op went to her class. She spent the first five or ten minutes screaming and yelling at the class for behaving poorly the week before. Sadly, it seemed the ones most affected by it were the ones who weren't any trouble. One or two of the girls (especially Joanne A.) looked like they were nearly in tears, sniffing and holding back from crying.

Nicholas and Leith were working on a game together. Nicholas was trying to get the rules written down. I had to explain that they'd have to figure out how to play the game before they write down the rules!

This time, after working on their games, they started cleaning up earlier. Then the other teacher played guitar and sang them songs until it was time to go.

This is what was on the note telling me what to prepare for for the next day:

  1 Autobiography   float/readers
  2 Science
  1 Geog: Priya/Esther/Shelley/Juliette
          p. 84-85 Sugar.
          Prepare some questions to be answered
  2 Maths: David/Jamie/John/Steven
           Long multiplication
           Prepare some easy questions to consolidate
            method of multiplication
  Dance -?

After school, I went out to some of the bookstores around Leicester Square. Then I bought fish (cod) and chips for dinner, for £2.45, still not fully realizing how much I was spending!

Wednesday, Nov.11

At assembly, children were called up for congratulations for one reason or another. Joanne and Nicholas were called up from Class 2: Joanne for handwriting improvement, and Nicholas for adapting to a new school. Nicholas is from Ireland.

I gave a geography lesson in the hall, with Priya, Esther, Shelley, and Juliette.

I made up a list of questions from the lesson in their geography book:

  1. Where is sugar cane grown?
  2. How did sugar cane get from New Guinea to Asia, Africa, and Europe?
  3. How did sugar cane get from Europe to the West Indies?
  4. What was done in the West Indies so that more sugar cane could be grown?
  5. Who run many of the sugar cane plantations in the West Indies?
  6. What part of the sugar beet plant is used to make sugar?
  7. What kinds of sugar can we get from sugar beet?
  8. Why isn't sugar cane grown in England?
  9. How many different kinds of food containing sugar can you list?
The questions were written down on a piece of paper. The last question was very successful in preventing anybody from finishing early!

Priya was a bit of a problem in the beginning; she seemed to resent being out in the hall. But saying "I'm going to remember that!" was very effective in getting her under control.

Esther had some problems with finding answers, and she kept wanting to announce answers (they were wrong answers).

Juliette was very good out in the hall, as she always is when she's not with the rest of the class.

Shelley did alright in the morning, but then she seemed to be in a daze all afternoon. Her book was open right in front of her, but wouldn't use it. But she did end up managing to get most of them correct.

They had "wet play" today, because it was raining so hard (they stayed inside).

For the end-of-term play, Class 2 was going to put on something called "Swinging Samson", an old musical version of the story of Samson. I offered to try to play some of the songs on the guitar. I got my hands on a guitar to try out today. I played it during wet play. Georgina stood near and listened to for as long as I played. It was so noisy in that room, I couldn't hear what I was playing, but Georgina said she could hear it. She told me that she plays guitar and recorder.

There was a science lesson about blood and the heart: mostly lecture with questions, and then experiments. In the first experiment, they noted the difference between one arm held straight up and the other straight down for a while. The second experiment consisted of flapping one arm up and down for a while; this was to compare with the constant activity of the heart, which is used to constant activity, while the arm is not. The third experiment involved seeing what happens when the fingernail is depressed for a few seconds and then let go. They then had to draw a heart, and describe any one of the three experiments they had just participated in, in their own words. I noticed two differently-pronounced words in this lesson: centrifugal (accented on the third syllable) and capillaries (accented on the second syllable).

That day I again noticed how much Nicola enjoys doing reading with me. To help her improve her comprehension, I'd ask her questions after every paragraph, or even more often than that. This greatly improved her comprehension. I told her she did a lot better today, and she just giggled. Perhaps that's why she is so eager to do reading with me, she knows she's beginning to understand what she's reading. Or maybe it's because I'm very patient with her. The co-op was surprised by how eager she'd be to do reading with me, in fact that she'd want to do reading at all. That afternoon, she asked me how to spell the word "taught", and she didn't agree! She went and asked the teacher. I think she may have misunderstood me, because she afterwards said I'd spelled it differently.

John forgot his book (again). He complained that his reading book was too hard for him.

David forgot his book too. He went and got another book. It was about vampires. He did alright, but it wasn't as enjoyable for me.

Dipash came across a poem in his reader, about beautiful things. He's not as good at interpreting poetry as David is. He seemed a bit nervous with me, and didn't want to answer my questions.

Nicholas practiced being the narrator for the school play (Samson), and was quite good.

I was inside with Simone during play. She did her reading during that time. She was at a part of her book with riddles. She wouldn't let me look at the answers to the riddles while she was reading them! She did fine. And during geography, she kept asking me how to spell lots of the words, especially while I was conveniently near her, working with Juliette.

Happily, Michelle was back. There was a story in her reading book about a badger that became a tea kettle, and was put on the fire. She found this story very funny, and laughed a lot while she was reading it. That's good, because it shows good comprehension. The only word she had a little trouble with was snout.

Juliette seemed to have a lot of trouble understanding the word "mill" which occurred in the story she was reading. I had to repeat it three or four times.

Shelley forgot her book this time. But she got another book, and she did fine.

Georgina forgot her book too, and had to get another book.

For lunch that day, for dessert, we had something called "eccles cake" (with hot custard, of course). It was something like a cupcake. Any time there was something offered for lunch which I had never heard of, that's what I'd always order.

In the afternoon they went into the hall where there was a professional dancer. She had them take off their shoes and socks and she had them doing various creative dancing, which they enjoyed. Then they asked her questions.

She finished by taking off her jacket and doing some dances for them. There were a few giggles when the children noticed that they could see right through the top of the what she was wearing.

This was what was on the note telling me what to get ready to do tomorrow:

  9-10.30 - Fin. work (Readers etc)
          - Maths
  11.05-12.30  History: Tudor Houses
  pm  Drama/Music
  R.E. David and Goliath.

I was in a terrible rush after school. I had run out of clean clothes, and I had to get laundry done. The laundromat was conveniently right across the street and around the corner. But it was terribly expensive. And I had no laundry soap. I first tried to get some soap from a machine there which didn't work, so I lost some money there. I got some soap from a woman who was there at the same time I was. The washer needs 2 50p coins and 2 10p coins ,and they have to be exactly those coins, which was really a big problem there; 50p coins became quite valuable among us student teachers there for that reason! The drier only cost 20p coins, but takes several spins to get clothes even reasonably dry. Socks and underwear are hopeless: they dry on the radiator in the room at Kent House!

The reason why I was in such a hurry was because that afternoon was scheduled a meeting for all the student teachers!

We all had to meet at the top of the escalator at the Tube at London Bridge at 6:30. Then we all went to a restaurant-pub called THE GRAPES for dinner. I had my usual fish and chips (for only £1.55) and a glass of wine. The seating arrangements there were not very good, and I didn't feel like much had been accomplished at the meeting.

The best part of the meeting was that it gave me a chance to talk with Lorraine for the first time since I had arrived in England. The three of us from West Chester University, Lorraine, Lori, and I, all went home together.

I got a big can of coke for 35p and went to work as soon as I got back, because I still had a lot of preparations to do for the next day. Then, when I was finally finished, I spent half the night listening to my roommate talking in his sleep. He had the strangest way of talking in his sleep: nothing but long numbers and mathematical equations. If somebody's going to keep you up by talking in his sleep, he could at least make it interesting to listen to, and not just keep rattling off numbers and formulas.

The Second Week: Thurday-Sunday

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