Student Teaching in London

The Third Week

Thursday, Nov.19

Thursday and Friday, November 19 and 20, were the two days my cooperating teacher had arranged for my observations. She had made a schedule for me which filled all of the two days: starting with class 1 Thursday morning, and ending with class 7 for Friday afternoon.

It was raining all day, a real storm. And I had to walk, because the Piccadilly line was shut down. I wasn't used to walking, so had to try and follow the map, in the pouring rain. But, I made it.

Anna had prepared the following schedule for me:

  Thurs                  Fri
  1 - until playtime     5 until playtime
  2 -   "   lunchtime    6 until lunchtime
  3 - afternoon          7 afternoon

I started Thursday November 19 in class 2 as usual, until after assembly. Then Michelle took me to class 1, upstairs. It was the first time I had been upstairs.

Class 1 has 10-11 years old. It was the only class with a man teacher, Richard Haddow. One of the other student teachers was also in that class.

The classroom is very quiet and organized, much more than anywhere else in the school. There are three rows of desks, one along each wall and one across the back. Unlike my cooperating teacher, he'd take the register by sight, rather than calling out names. He would write assignments on the board, and walk around.

That morning, they had a lesson about clothing during Georgian times from a history textbook. One boy was obvious the smartest in the room, named Toby. Somebody mentioned during the lesson, "Toby knows everything." He did tend to know the answers to whatever question was being asked. They were then going to have to write about it in their own words (and not copied out of the book, Mr Haddow stressed very strongly).

Before doing that, though, they went right to maths. He told me later that he likes to do all the teaching during the first half hour of school. After that, they have the assignments to keep them busy all day.

I took one girl, Anna, to help her with the maths work. We worked on division together. She was going to be 10 years old in May. She thought she was too young to be taking the "tests" (for going on to the next school) soon. She told me she doesn't think the class is smart.

There was one boy who was caught copying. When he found out that Mr Haddow knew about it, he seemed very ashamed of himself, and was sniffing loudly.

Sometimes somebody might start looking around, but when that teacher would say, "If you're looking around, then you don't have enough work," and they'd stop looking around and get back to work in a hurry!

From there, I went to Class 3, which has 8-9 year olds. Class 3 is the room next to my regular room, Class 2.

This classroom does not have the degree of structure of Class 1 or 2. It is more "chaotic". The tables are scattered around the room in no apparent order. There was also a reading corner here. The children also seem "chaotic": climbing up on tables, pencil sharpeners flying across the room, and so on. There was one boy, named Charles, who was up on top of a table trying to tie his shoelaces. Now I could see why we in Class 2 were occasionally disturbed by excessive noise coming through the wall from that room!

The work they were doing at the time of my visit consisted of coloring and writing on ditto papers.

I was disappointed to see my little friend from the playground, Hazel, not behaving very well. Some of the children, on the other hand, were very well-behaved, such as a little boy named Alex.

There were pictures with poems about Autumn up on the wall, and I was looking at them. I noticed one in particular which had a beautiful poem, good rhythm and assonance. The picture had a modern-art look. It was done by a girl named Lucy. Unfortunately, she was not there; she had an ear infection. I never did find out who Lucy was. The teacher there told me that Lucy's father is an artist, and that's probably why Lucy is also so artistic.

The children in that room often write stories. The teacher picked four of the children to go out with me and read me their stories: Daniel, Robert, Samantha, and another boy whose name I can't remember.

Daniel's little book stood out by its lovely maps. They were really amazingly detailed and accurate for an 8-year-old. Daniel said he likes maps, so he puts them into his books.

Samantha had a cute story about a dog and cat.

Robert brought two books with him: one called "Castle Creep" and one called "Doctor Atkinson". They were intended to be funny.

And the other boy also had a funny story, about a flying bed.

The third room I went to that day was Class 4, upstairs, with the 7-8 year olds. This room was much like Class 3, in that the tables were scattered and it was noisy, with a general atmosphere of chaos. I felt very confused in this classroom. This room also, though, had nice artwork up on the walls.

They were drawing pictures of the room they would like when they are older. Some of them got very detailed and fancy.

In this room is a boy named Michael, who has the reputation for being the worst behaved child in the school. The reputation is well-deserved. He doesn't get along with the other children, he talks back to the teacher, he's just a general nightmare. He's also about 2 or 3 inches taller than any of the other children his age.

I went to another room, with a computer, with three of the children: that Michael, a boy named Tommy, and another boy. Tommy was more friendly than the other two, but one of the other boys would hit him. One of the games had to do with finding a rhino; Michael won that game.

It was not enjoyable working there with them. All three of them were a great pain. And then, somebody else who was using that same room started getting mad at me because of how noisy the boys were. I must say I was glad when I was through with them.

Also in this class is a little blonde-haired girl, whose name I never found out. She always likes to take the empty plates from the teachers' table and put them on the tables where the dirty dishes go, after we'd finish. Nobody ever could find out just why she does that. It was certainly an endearing thing for her to do. She was a very quiet, shy girl. When they were drawing the rooms they'd like, hers was noticeably very plain and simple.

After I was finished in Class 4, I decided to return to Class 1 for the remainder of the afternoon. They were rehearsing for their play, "Oliver Twist". A group of them went out into the hall to rehearse. Mr Haddow went out, from time to time, just to glance at what they were doing. It was nice to see how well-behaved they were out there by themselves, working on the play. One of the boys acted as the Director, telling the others what to do. I enjoyed watching that.

Since it was a rainy day, there was no going outside at playtime ("wet play"). After lunch, in the lunchroom, about a half dozen of the kids went up on the stage, to give a "concert". It was fun to listen to. One of the songs the whole lunchroom joined in for was "Found a Peanut".

After school, I stayed in Class 2 to try and work on some of the songs for "Samson".

After I finally did go back to Kent House, I went out to the All Night Shop to get some things. I got a big 1 1/2 litre bottle of Coke for 69p. I bought a box of laundry soap (to avoid a repeat of my problems from last time). And I got my groceries: Irish Cheddar Cheese, bread, cookies, marmalade, etc. I spent £3.30 altogether.

Friday, Nov.20

I walked to school again today. At least it wasn't raining like the day before!

This was my second observation-day. This time, with the three infant classes. Michelle again got me started, taking me to Class 7 in the morning.

Class 7, the 4-5 year olds, is in another, separate building. It is in the same building as the hall/cafeteria.

The teacher there was Mrs Buchanon, who is from New Zealand. She was the head of the school in New Zealand. She is an amazing teacher.

The class is highly organized, and all the children are very well-behaved, well, all but one anyway. Even he was usually fairly good. That was Robert, whom the teacher said is immature; she usually just ignores him.

She starts off with "news" ("show-and-tell"). Much of the day is spent writing. She has heavily modified writing-process teaching, to work with such young children. She has developed several unique teaching tools, which are very effective. She said that she hopes eventually to market them. The main one is a "dictionary", lists of vocabulary words on two-by-three foot laminated cards, with a complex system of use, and also specially-prepared notebooks for writing, in which all the success the child has in writing is meticulously recorded.

The tables are arranged in a clear, neat order. The children sit and work for longer periods of time than I would have thought possible. They call their writing "doing Diaries". Finished works are illustrated and neatly bound, and put on display on shelves. She insists on the children's constant best effort, in writing and in illustrating. She says that she "nags" the children on their drawing.

She is a very strict teacher, but none of the children are afraid of her, or dislike her.

She was not happy with the English system of reading instruction; she much prefers her native New Zealand style (which is more similar to the American style). She said that she would prefer to teach reading in groups because that saves time. Also, it bothers her that there is no established method, so it is difficult to find more than one line of readers which can be used together.

Class 7 had some interesting kids.

The little girl Joanna was in Class 7, the girl who would run up and swing on my arm.

There was a very cute little girl named Selwa, who is half-English and half-Arab. I used to feel sorry for her because she was not one of the real readers, and she wanted so much to be able to read. She probably just needs to be a little older.

Selwa is a very nervous little girl, who worries a lot. But she is very cute, and she tries to be good, a sweet and pleasant little girl.

There were also some excellent readers, like Sally.

Also in this class was Matthew, a little boy who stands out because of his hair: which is high and fluffy and blonde, and looks like a wool hat. Matthew was picked to take the register to the office, but didn't want to go by himself, somebody else had to go with him; Robert went. He tends to be a little bit of a show-off sometimes.

Freddie is the best little one in the class at doing art.

Jessica is a very good girl, and she's a good climber (when they were having gym).

Richard is a good little writer.

Charlene showed me her duck book she had made. She appreciated my saying that it was "lovely".

Joanna felt sick. She came right to me to tell me she was sick. But she felt better at P.E. She said she likes that best. She was late getting finished there; I stayed with her while she put her stockings and shoes on in the gym (hall) to get ready to return to class.

Lee likes to talk about Elvis a lot. He likes working and writing. His shoelaces came open, but he didn't want anyone to know that he couldn't tie his own shoelaces.

After spending some time in Class 7, I went to Class 6. That is the class with 5-6 year olds.

The class is not quite as disciplined and structured as class 7, but nor is it as loose as some of the more chaotic classes. Everything seems to get done, but in a very relaxed way.

There was lesson she was doing with them that I watched. There was a very large book (poster-size) called "My First Wordbook". She read from the book, and had the children point to letters and words and read from it. They were also working on their "Diaries" that day.

Class 6 has some interesting kids too.

This is the only class with an Indian boy who had English-as-a-second-language; his parents couldn't speak any English.

There was also a girl whose parents don't speak English: Fezile. She is from Turkey.

There were also a couple of very cute half-English and half-Indian children, Natalie and Ishan.

Natalie was very surprised when I old her that I had heard of the name Natalie before.

Ishan announced to me that he knew how to spell his name. He felt very proud of himself because of that.

The boy Christopher who had been talking to me out in the schoolyard was in this room. He came over and was saying Hi to me.

Emma and Gary are two especially good children in this class.

There was also a boy named Philippe, who presented something of a problem.

I spent most of my time there working with Philippe. He has a lot of trouble doing his work. Natalie was sitting across the table, and she said, "He tries hard." I used a lot of patience, getting him to do a little bit at a time. They were doing Diaries (this teacher used many of the Class 7 teacher's ideas). Philippe was writing about a time when he stayed home from school because he was sick. All he managed to write was "I was sick yesterday. I didn't go to school." But for him, this was quite an accomplishment! His work was very messy.

In the middle of it, Philippe said to me, "You're nice."

He was also lying around, asking me about witches while I was there (brought to mind from the Oz play no doubt).

Out in the playground, from that day on, Phillippe would always insist that I play with him ("Let's play monstas," he would come up and beg me). That caused some difficulty, later. The Infants have lunch at a different time than the Juniors, and they would be playing outside when the others would be just going in. Often I'd be on my way to have lunch, walking across the playground to the other building, when Philippe would see me and grab my hand to come play with him. Then I'd have to explain to him that I haven't had my lunch yet. And make my way into the other building.

Kelly and Emma were having fun with me out in the playground that day. They had a 2p coin, and they kept insisting that it was a dollar! They were just being silly. I guess they had just heard about American dollars.

There was also a little boy named Robert who was talking with me.

At lunchtime, the Infants have lunch in a different way. There are places already set at the tables. The boys and girls go to a place. Then they say a grace-before-meals. Then, all the adults get in line with 3 plates. The cooks pass out food to each of the 3 plates, and they are brought to where the kids are sitting. When all the kids have their dinners, then the teachers get theirs, and go and eat at the same teachers' table as when the Juniors eat. It's a nice way of doing it.

For dinner there was cod, which was very good, and a new dessert to try: rice pudding. No, rice pudding was nothing new, but the way it was served was something quite different. They eat rice pudding hot!

The last class I had to visit was Class 5, with 6-7 year olds, the room with the third student teacher. This classroom is back in the other building, across the hall from the offices.

The class was writing letters to Father Christmas. They were also doing "triangle-pictures": they'd cut a triangle out, and look through it and draw what they see. They also did it with squares. And there was some maths they were doing.

This is the room with Kelly and Emma. In the classroom, it is necessary to keep those two separated at all times. As long as they're separated, they are manageable.

Emma at least never gave any backtalk, but she was not a well-behaved girl (such as when she pushed another girl down the stairs).

Kelly kept wanting to get help, which was obviously not needed.

There was also a little boy named Gary, very cute and innocent-looking. He was sometimes being punished at dinnertime, being forced to work instead of going out to play. When we'd see that, we'd feel sorry for him. My reaction changed when I saw him in the classroom: he could spend the entire day sitting at his table fooling around, and at the end of the day not getting a single thing done! But a couple times when he was misbehaving, he would immediately stop when he saw me coming. I think it might have been because I knew his name.

Anna did a good job with her triangle picture. She was telling stories too. She started talking to her about Jelly Babies and I told her I knew what jelly babies are because I watch Doctor Who, which she liked (she was the only Dr. Who fan I found at the school). She and Isabella (another girl in the room) are in ballet together.

Sarah (who was noticeable because of her white hair -- not blonde, pure white) kept asking how to spell words. About all she come spell on her own was "it" and "is".

Zoe (a very pretty little girl with brown hair) helped Sarah with a lot of the words.

Tim had a story about an "Upside-Down Man".

And there was a boy named John who drew a beautiful picture.

There were some good, working children in that class, but I was glad I had not been assigned to this classroom! It had some of the laziest kids in the school, and that would get on my nerves after a while.

The regular teacher was out having an operation on her leg, and the supply teacher, Miss Daine, had taken over. One thing I can remember her doing was reading to the class. She was reading from a book called "The BFG" ("Big Friendly Giant"), by Roald Dahl. He seems to be by far the most popular children's author in England. I did not like the BFG, at least not the part she was at when I was there; I thought it was rather crude.

After the end of the day, I returned to Class 2. Next week, I'd be back to teaching there.

Nina was going to be taking the class' pet hamster Goldie home for the weekend (they take turns taking the hamster to their houses for the weekend). While I was sitting down getting something ready, Nina brought the hamster over for me to see again. It was nice having shy little Nina had acted friendly toward me.

I was preparing my unit lessons for Lock Haven University. I went through the tiny classroom library looking for useful books.

The music for the Class 2 play, "Swinging Samson", came today, on tape. The tape of music turned out not to be very good, though!

After having shown my lesson plans for the entire unit, I received the following little note about them:

Plans look very interesting.
Two points:-
a) Plan for children who may need stretching - what do they do when they're finished the work?
b) Practical activities for the yellow table - ?
After I left that evening, I took some bus rides around. I was in no hurry to get on a tube again, and I did want to get to know the busses better. Busses are also a nice way of sightseeing in London. On Seven Sisters (a major road in north London near Manor House), I found a nice big supermarket. The Late Night Shop was nice, but I did want to try more things than I could find there.

There are some items in Kent House which are for common usage: salt, pepper, tea, etc. They're all in a certain part of the kitchen. One thing there was vegemite. I had heard of vegemite (from the Men At Work song "Land Down Under"), and I wanted to try it. It is a fairly popular snack food in England and Australia. I tried some, on a piece of bread. It is one of the most dreadfully horrible-tasting foods I have ever tried in my life! I then had to desperately try to find something, anything, to get that terrible taste out of my mouth. I never did have any more vegemite!

The Cosby Show was on TV that night. Not that I usually watch that show, but something American, and as local as Bill Cosby, is nice every once in a while.

Saturday, Nov.21

I spent most of the day downtown. After a cheese sandwich for breakfast at 10:00, I took off on a bus.

First, I went to Harrod's. I wanted to see what it was like, and also there was a church called Brompton Oratory that I thought was somewhere around Harrod's, that I was hoping to find. I never did find that church the whole time I was in England.

I went into Harrod's. It was very unpleasant there, because it was so crowded. That place is unbelievably huge. I never did figure out my way around inside there. And it was too crowded to be able to figure it out. I could hardly see anything, much less get to a particular department. I didn't get anything there, and I left.

I also went to Hamley's, the world's biggest toy store (6 stories). That was also terribly crowded, but not quite as bad as Harrod's. It is a very nice store. I bought some Christmas presents while I was there. I also bought a book on sale called "The Reluctant Pote" by Rod Hull for £1.97, and a Hamley's catalogue for 75p.

While I was downtown I also bought some stamps, some 29p and some 31p. Somehow I got the postage costs wrong, and wound up with unused stamps when I returned.

There was quite a bit of rain that day, but that's nothing unusual for London.

I took a bus to the English Folkdance and Song Society (Cecil Sharp House) to try and get to the dance that they are supposed to have every Saturday night. The place was closed, and there was no sign of anybody around. That was very disappointing. According to my American Express Guide, the dance is supposed to be every Saturday night.

I got back around 7:30 or 8:00. It was laundry night, and I had to get my wash done before it closes. I put 20p in the drier twice to try and dry my clothes, but to no avail. I was just glad there was the hot radiator in the room to put wet things on!

I also needed some more food. I just got some coke and bread and cheese and mayonnaise, only spending around £2 at the Late Night Shop.

I tried calling home that night, but there was no answer.

Later that night, I watched Columbo on television, at 9:00.

Sunday, Nov.22

Today began with early morning television. There was a programme called PLAYSCHOOL which reminded me of our Romper Room, but with no kids. After that, I watched The CHARLIE BROWN AND SNOOPY SHOW.

Then, I left for the Latin Mass at Corpus Christi, at 11:00. I took the bus there.

Then I had lunch at McDonald's, which is just a couple blocks away. The McDonald's there is 2-stories, like just about all the fast-food restaurants in London. Otherwise, it is very much like an American McDonald's.

I took the 29 bus back, and wound up down in Victoria. I went the wrong way! It's not an easy bus stop to get to know around there, because the bus stops in different places going north and going south. There are signs at many of the bus stops showing the bus route, but I had not yet learned to read them. I wandered around down in Victoria on the other end of England for a while, most of the time looking for a bus to get back again.

That night, I called home again, at around 5:45. This time, I did get through, and talked for a while.

That night I spent writing lesson plans and a letter.

My roommate Charles was not in all that night, which made that night quite pleasant for me!

The Fourth Week

Back up to the beginning