Week 4--Training from the staff room.
Enter employer #3. (Well, actually I don't know my principal yet . . . I hopefully will soon, though!) Last Sunday, all local teachers and LTs (licensed teachers from the 'West') were supposed to report for duty. It was finally time to visit our school!
Now, as you probably know, the beginning of the school year back in the States is a whirlwind of activity. Teachers are cleaning, rearranging, moving, decorating, planning, and doing all that they can to make sure everything is ready for when the students come. The work room is always busy -- from the perspective of the copy machine, it must feel like boot camp after a lazy summer. The school seems to pulse with this anxious, stressed-out type of energy that drives everyone to work in hyper mode. The week before school starts in the USA could be titled 'school scurry'. The week before school starts in the UAE could be titled 'school social'. The approach is COMPLETELY different.
In the UAE, the teachers show up at 9 o'clock and usually leave around 12 o'clock. Then, the time they do spend at school is solely for catching up on all that's happened over the summer. As a shy observer in the corner, I was trained in the new way of gearing up for the school year: hugging, bising (faire la bise), listening, talking, laughing. "Getting ready," as I know it, is not on the agenda. The whole idea of having everything perfectly set up for the students is not part of what happens here.
For example . . .
Classrooms are still sandy and dirty.
Desks are still in huge piles in the center of the rooms.
Walls are bare.
Class lists are blank.
Schedules (class periods, the daily start and end times, specialists, daily assembly agenda, etc.) have yet to be created.
Plans are unmade; the scope and sequence for the year are undetermined. This is partly due to the fact that . . .
Grades and teachers are not assigned yet.
The academic calendar is still being finalized.
I'm sure you get the picture. Please, I'm not trying to pass judgement--I'm just trying to make sense of it all. Exploring the contrast between what I'm accustomed to and what I'm try to adapt to helps me process. From what I've heard from all of the other LTs (licensed teachers from the 'West'), their schools are just like this too.
However, unlike some of the other educators, I think I have a few more puzzle pieces missing: We just found out a few days ago that the school we've been going to for most of the week really isn't "our" school; it's splitting from a grade 1-9 school into 2 schools. There will be a 1-3 school and a 4-9 school. The older kids will be staying in the current building and the younger kids will be going to a new building.
So, let me start with what we know: We know that it's going to be a 1-3 school. We know that it's in another building at a different location. We know that the official start date is Sept. 23rd. Moving on to what we don't know: We still don't know where the school is or if it's even been built. We don't know the staff. This includes the principal, the secretary, the social worker, and most of the other teachers. We don't know the number of students attending. As a result, we don't know classroom assignments, the number of teachers needed for each grade level, etc. Basically we don't know too much!
Trying to plan for who knows what!
Back to training from the staff room: I'm definitely being schooled by these teachers! They are so calm and positive and happy to be back with each other. They truly seem to care about one another and are sincere in their affections. They also don't seem flustered at all by the lack of information.
Their unspoken teaching point is that you either roll with all of the unknowns or you let the unknowns drive you crazy. Some of the other North American teachers I'm working with are really having a hard time. Not knowing any of the basic details (academic calendar, grade level, classroom, student list, etc.) is pushing them to the verge of mental instability. I should probably do some online research about panic attacks so I can play "medic" if things don't get figured out soon . . . I'm serious.
To be honest, a part of me is freaked out; however, another part of me actually likes it. It is almost amusing. Picture this: Right now it's the weekend. Then the next 3 days are a national holiday. Then we start next week, the day right after the holiday! There's not much time left before I'm going to be staring into the little faces of my kiddos! From what I can piece together, the most likely scenario is that I'll be trying to cope with a couple of other teachers in a gym with all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. This might last for the first week or so (or longer?!) until everything is sorted out and settled. It's just so wild to start the school year with so many of the building blocks a bit out of place!!! It's so unreal -- so absolutely different from all of the calculated, policy-governed, pre-planned procedures orchestrated by my school district. The procrastinator in me feels right at home. The perfectionist in me feels like the disorganization on my main employer's part takes the pressure off a bit.
I guess I can sum up my training from the staff room in 2 words: shwayer, shwayer or slowly, slowly. If they're not stressed about the start of the school year, why should I be? It will all get done, it will all fall into place, it will all come together, it will all work out. But above all, it will happen shwayer shwayer!
Happy teacher working on going with the flow.