Student Teaching in London

The Third Week

Monday, Nov.16

This day was spent doing autobiographies, and working with modeling clay.

I found out today that one does not use the word "period" for the little dot that goes at the end of a sentence. I used that word a few times, and got giggles from many of them. I asked the co-op about it later, and she explained that "period" in England means a woman's period; that's why I got that reaction when I (incorrectly) used that word!

My job for Autobiographies was to help Joanne, Shuna, Nicholas, and Leyla to write about "My First Day at School".

I made up a list of questions to help stimulate their memories: How did the teacher treat you? How did the classmates treat you? How did you treat the teacher/classmates? Was your seat comfortable? What was the weather like? Were you expecting school to be different than it was? Did you tell people what it was like afterwards? How did you feel about going back the next day: excited, scared, sad?

First I just worked with Nicholas and Leyla, then we were joined by the other two. Nicholas and Shuna at first could remember nothing at all. I started with asking, "What school was it?" Then I did manage to drag a few things out of them.

Nicholas wrote very big, so it would look like he had written more.

Shuna needed a lot of reminding to get back to work, but she was very good out there. She was very glad that I pronounced her name correctly!

Out of the pre-planned questions, the only ones that did any good were the first three and the last, the ones that had to do with feelings. It seems questions to help children remember how they felt about something is the best way to help bring back memories like that.

Again out in the hall, I had Dipash, Leith, David, and Nina to work with in grammar. They were learning about "Full Stops". I wrote two pairs of sentences which dramatically illustrate the importance of full stops, as it the meaning is completely changed depending on where the period is placed:

At midnight he went to bed early the next morning when he woke up he saw the sunrise
This sentence can mean:

At midnight he went to bed. Early the next morning when he woke up he saw the sunrise.
At midnight he went to bed early. The next morning when he woke up he saw the sunrise.

And a couple of less sensible interpretations:

At midnight he went to bed early the next morning. When he woke up he saw the sunrise.
At midnight he went to bed early the next morning when he woke up. He saw the sunrise.

And the double-sentence:

They painted the door red and white wallpaper was used on the walls
Which can mean:

They painted the door. Red and white wallpaper was used on the walls.
They painted the door red. And white wallpaper was used on the walls.
They painted the door red and white. Wallpaper was used on the walls.

Then I had assignments for two pairs of kids:

For David and Nina, they were to copy a paragraph or two from the Bible, and make each full stop a different color (to draw attention to them). Then, they were to try to think up another sentence like my two examples where the full stop can change the meaning.

For Dipash and Leith, they were to write a short story with at least 3 or 4 complete sentences, but without putting in any full stops. Then they exchange papers, and put the full stops in each other's stories, and then exchange them back and see if they agree.

Nina was the only one who was very good throughout the lesson. David was the most trouble; I think this may have been because he didn't think he needed a lesson on full stops. Perhaps he didn't; it should have been made more challenging for him.

Nina had trouble understanding the second part of the assignment, but otherwise it went alright with that group.

The other group, with Dipash and Leith, had a bit more trouble. But then I had them discuss the full stops with each other at the end of the assignment, and that did seem to help them to understand it a bit better.

In maths, I worked with Jamie, Steven, John, and David, introducing the concept of volume.

They have centimeter cubes to work with to help them to visualize volume. I showed them these, and explained volume in terms of size and amount, discussing liquid and solid measure. Liquid volume was the best thing to use to explain how shape can change while volume remains constant. I tried discussing density, but that was too difficult for them at that point.

Then they had a couple pages in the maths book to do. They were easy, but the kids found them interesting.

I had made up a challenge shape for them to try to find the volume, but there wasn't time for it.

Jamie had a lot of trouble understanding about conservation of volume. He just couldn't seem to understand what was meant by the amount of liquid remaining the same in spite of changes in shape. Finally, after showing him, by himself, what it meant, using water in a bottle and in a bowl, and a piece of modeling clay, he finally began to see what conservation of volume meant.

Nicola did a good job with reading today. Her comprehension has gotten a lot better. As it improves, I find I need to ask her questions about what she's reading less and less often.

Leith was a minor problem out in the hall. He kept wanting to play with his watch.

John is doing better. His reading is very slow, but he doesn't have too much trouble with it, and his comprehension is good. he is also slower than the others in maths, but he is doing just fine in that.

Though David wasn't very good in the hall during grammar, he got a lot better during maths, doing his work very fast, but correctly.

Dipash was a slight problem in the hall, but I think that may have been because he was between David and Leith!

Steven was good out in the hall during maths. He seems to be very concerned about being good.

Joanne was pretty good, and got a lot done. She was surprised that I knew her name. By the third week, I ought to know her name!

Michelle finished the story about the badger tea-kettle today. Her reading was quite good.

Juliette also read well today. She remembered the words and parts of the story from last week well.

Lindsay was being very helpful at lunchtime today. She kept wanting to find someone she come help.

Joanne did well with reading today. We talked about how the letter J often sounds like Y in foreign names. After maths, she jumped up out of her seat to help me to get the cubic centimeter blocks back into the bag, which I thought was very nice of her.

Leyla was well-behaved all day, and worked well in the hall. But that's nothing surprising for her!

This was the week that Georgina was absent all week. I don't know why. I really miss her.

We had an English food that was something familiar for school dinner today: Shepherd's Pie.

At dinner play, I got to know the boy with the worst reputation at the school, Michael. He is in Class 4. He's much bigger than the other boys his age, and has a crew cut. He generally makes a constant nuisance of himself, both with the teachers and with the other kids. He kept running to me for help, as 3 or 4 kids were going after him, intent on beating him up. As soon as he'd feel safe, he'd start sticking his tongue out at the other kids. I kept trying to tell him, that if he wouldn't stick his tongue out at the other kids and keep annoying them like he does, then they wouldn't keep trying to beat him up! And also that, if he keeps making kids mad at him, we might be able to keep them from beating him up during school, but he was on his own after school.

At the end of the day, I read the story "Flat Stanley" to the class.

After school, I bought some Irish cheddar cheese and bread and some orange drink at the Late Night Shop for dinner. Then I went out to the Tridentine Mass.

It's possible to take busses to get to Corpus Christi Church, but I'd usually take the tube because that was the fastest way.

I had enough time, though, to go around to some bookstores before Mass. The Strand has a lot of bookstores.

The Tridentine Mass, at 5:45, was lovely. There was a Latin hymn that they always sing at that church:

Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum.
Lauda Deum tuum Sion.
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna Filio David
"Praise the Lord, Jerusalem. Praise your God, Zion. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David", sung three times in a row. It's very pretty. Since I never saw it written down, it took several weeks to learn it by ear well enough to sing along.

I sent a few postcards, from the handy mailbox (I think the English have another name for it, but I can't remember it). I sent one home, one to West Chester University and to the Classical Language teacher and my friends there, and one to my sister Suzy.

I got back just in time for the next episode of Doctor Who, "Delta and the Bannermen". After the Mass, I'd get back to Kent House at 7:30, just in time!

Tuesday, Nov.17

This was an interesting day at school. There was a story read to the class about George Crum and the invention of french fries ("chips"). I was surprised to find out that many of the children did not know that McDonald's was an American restaurant! In the story, it was said that they were originally called "french fries" and that that's what they are called in America, not chips, and that's why they're called "french fries" at McDonald's, even in England. That came as a big surprise to the class.

I had two children to work with out in the hall, for Story (i.e. Creative Writing): Nicholas and Martinique. Originally, it was to have been Simone and Steven, but it was changed for some reason.

This was the theme I had made up for their story:

A brother and sister are playing in the yard outside their house. The boy tries to shove a stick into the ground, but it hits something metal. They clear away the dirt, and are surprised to find a very, very old iron door in the middle of the ground! Working together, they are just barely able to lift it. Pulling on a large ring in the door, they open it up...
That was successful in getting them to start coming up with lots of ideas, especially for Nicholas. He had Tommy and Zoe climb down into a tunnel, and come out on an island of aliens!

Nicholas mentioned that the children in the story couldn't have the name of anyone in the class, or they'd get mad.

Martinique's idea was for them to find gold. The hard part was trying to think of ways to make it difficult to get the gold, to make the story more interesting; she ended up having Mark and Jane have to go through a maze to get the gold.

I was the one who read the story to the class, right after dinner, because the co-op and the supply teacher had both gone. It seems the supply teacher (an Australian), was having some serious problems, that my co-op helped her with, leaving me on my own!

I also told the class a favorite American fairy tale, the "String of Light", and then asked questions about it afterwards. That went extremely well. They really enjoyed hearing an oral fairy tale (i.e. not read to them). I think I had done that in the morning. The story was 15 minutes long, then I asked questions for 5 minutes, about the three main parts of the story, and how it started and ended. It was possible Shelley wasn't paying very close attention; she hasn't seemed very alert all day today.

Nicola seemed to have a little more trouble with reading today. But I think that may have been because she had just been working with the modeling clay, and was anxious to get back to that. Sometimes she doesn't seem to think she has to do what the rest of the class is doing.

David was a slight problem today. He kept flinging erasers with Steven. He wasn't upset or sorry, as Steven was, about it. But he was also the only one in the class who could figure out why the old lady turns into a fairy in "The String of Light".

Michelle started on the next story in her reading book. It had a strange word in it: "kow". Neither of us could figure out how it was supposed to be pronounced.

Joanne got a new reading book today.

Later that afternoon, the other teacher returned. She spent most of the afternoon talking to the class about Australia, and about Australian animals. It was very interesting. Then, she gave out something that she kept saying was "childish" (she was worried that the kids might be upset because it was intended for infants). It was a paper with outlines of some of the Australian animals to be colored in, with the names written on lines beside them. They really like coloring in pictures, though.

At one point while the Australian teacher was talking, she mentioned the word "psychedelic". Nobody knew what she meant by that! I thought that was funny; I mentioned to her afterwards that that sort of thing makes you feel old, doesn't it.

They had also had some work on division in the morning. There are charts across the front of the room of all the multiplication tables. They are instructed to look up at the charts and use those tables to find the answers (e.g. "How many 4's in 24? Look at the 4 times table and find it"). This is simply to discourage the practice of using fingers. But they do anyway.

At play, there are two or three girls who always would bring out a table called "Twopenny Roll": a gambling game. That's something I never saw in America!

Juliette was doing quite a bit of crying that day. She does that a bit. One of the times, it was the result of a fight she got into with Joanne (who is much bigger than she is). Joanne said Juliette called her a name. Juliette kept insisting that she did not call Joanne a b____. I forced them to apologize to each other, and that settled things.

Then, at the end of the day, she got into a fight with Martinique. If I were a more racially-minded person, I might have started getting suspicious, since Martinique and Joanne were two of the black girls in the class, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

Once again, naturally, Juliette was crying. But this time, she did have big scratched down the side of her face. Martinique tried to say that Juliette had somehow managed to scratch herself in the face, while she was trying to hit Martinique on the back! That story was so absurd, it was almost funny.

I saw a new amusing English spellings error: sometimes kids will misspell the word figure as "figer".

Today was Joanne's birthday, and she had brought a birthday cake to school. She cut it and gave out a little piece to everybody, right before dinner.

Since the co-op had to leave, and the other teacher had her emergency around dinner (when we'd usually discuss plans for the next day when she would not be there in the afternoon), I had to call her on the phone to find out what she wanted me to do for the next day! It was the first time I had ever used a pay phone (except to call home, collect). Their pay phones, I discovered, have the convenient feature of showing exactly how much time you have remaining by counting down from the amount you put into the payphone (your "credit"). But, I did get cut off once during the conversation. It ended up costing me 30p altogether to get all the information for the next day.

I took down the following notes from the phone call:

  Float first thing (maths, listen to reading)
  History - cereal
  Div. p. 13
  Geography p. 86
   Art, Rehearsal

For dinner, I had some more of the delicious Irish cheddar cheese.

Late that night, I started feeling a little sick, and continued to feel sick into the following morning.

Wednesday, Nov.18

This morning at assembly the infants read stories that had written about "beautiful things". They had them displayed on a table while they talked about them, and they stayed there for the rest of the day, in the cafeteria. Most of them had a favorite doll or toy. Some of them were fancy though, such as a huge hand-made rosary from Peru. Unfortunately, this was before I had gotten to know any of the infants.

Two things happened that morning. One was a lesson on the brain and nerves given by the teacher. Then they had to draw a picture of a brain inside a person's head and write about the lesson.

Later that morning, Michelle was asking me about the funny bone, and why it has such a strange name.

The other event that morning was that I took over the maths lesson, with the whole class this time. I was to continue explaining division, and have them do a page in their maths books.

They have a different way of writing division problems, but unfortunately I can't show it here.

I started by reviewing simple problems from the day before, such as "How many 2's in 6 tens" (800, 900, etc.). Then went on to examples like 2 into 64, 826, 3 into 936. Then on to problems with regrouping, like 2 into 70. Then, ending up with problems with remainders, such as 2 into 70.

Then I modeled the first question from the maths book up on the board, and then they were to finish the rest in their notebooks.

There was a lot of talking during the lesson, but aside from that it went well. I added an extra activity which was very successful: having the kids go up to the board and make up a problem, then call on somebody to come up and solve it.

Nicola actually had the nerve to call me by my first name today! But then she did apologize.

Nina had a lot of trouble with maths. She worked on it with me by herself after school. Then afterwards, she took out the class hamster, and brought her over to show me. I'm very glad that she's no longer the least bit afraid of me.

Jamie kept wanting to get back to doing volumes in maths (maybe because he liked playing with the centimeter cubes). He made lots of careless mistakes, but otherwise he did well.

John had a little trouble with reading today, but his comprehension wasn't too bad. He seemed very interested in the maths lesson, and kept wanting to contribute during that lesson.

David got a different reading book. He had no problem with it; but then he never does.

Dipash didn't do well in maths; he didn't catch on at all. Neither did Steven.

Michelle and I decided we would pronounce that strange word, kow, in her latest story: "koe".

Shuna was misbehaving a lot during the maths lesson. She didn't have a very good reputation, but she was usually very well-behaved when working with me. Today was an exception.

Simone insists on having a teacher right beside her while she's working. She works very slowly, perhaps to keep the teacher there with her longer.

Jessica didn't seem at all interested in the maths lesson today. But it was probably too easy for her.

Lunch was Irish Stew and milkshakes, which wasn't so great. Dessert was mince pie, though, which was good. The kids get yelled at a lot in the hall at lunchtime.

A new load of computers came in. Unfortunately, the cooperating teacher I had was also the one who had to handle the computers. She was gone after lunch, for the rest of the day. The supply teacher (Miss Daine) came in and took over. They spent the whole afternoon making modeling clay models; they sat with a partner, and each one made a model of the partner's head.

After school, Huseyin came back into the classroom saying that he had forgotten his jumper. At first, I had no idea what he was talking about, but when he got his sweater and left with it, I learned a new word.

As soon as I got back to Kent House, I left immediately to try to get to Cecil Sharp House (English Folkdance and Song Society) before it closed. I didn't make it.

Afterwards, I went for a bus ride around London. I ended up at Tottenham Court Road, and took the tube back.

That night around 7:30 was the disastrous fire at King's Cross Station. And it was on the Piccadilly Line, my line -- the line that goes to Manor House. And King's Cross is between Kent House and anywhere else in London.

After the fire, for over a week I was much too scared to get on a tube anywhere in London. It was a few days before the Piccadilly Line was opened up, but it was a few weeks before I got on that line, and rode through King's Cross (they did not stop there). Before I got up the nerve to ride through King's Cross, I would take the tube when I had to by taking a bus to Camden Town, 3 miles away, and then taking the Northern Line downtown, and I would come back the same way.

I finished up all the dinner food I had that night (the Irish cheese and stuff). And at night before bed I watched a show called "Bergerac", a detective show.

The Third Week: Thursday-Sunday

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