Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Opportunity verses Difficulty

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein

Ah, vacation. A week to catch my breath, see family, and shop. Also a good time to reflect on my eight weeks in Aruba and the “opportunities” that have presented themselves to me.

First, I am proud to say that I am now a certified diver. We took a class with the Diver Club, which just started at school. My husband and I attended classes and water sessions with six of the high school students. As the PADI book says, “Diving opens a whole new world.” It means confronting fears, relaxing in a foreign environment, and really observing the world. We spent two Saturdays under water, mostly testing skills, but also with some time to visit sites. It is truly beautiful and amazing to see the variety of life and color. I look forward to diving on our own now and discovering more.

This year I’m teaching several classes that I have never taught before – drama, US history, and world cultures. Plus, I’m teaching a science class, which I haven’t done in three years. This has presented many “opportunities” to stretch and challenge my teaching capabilities.

The drama lessons are almost second nature to me though; I’ve always been a “dramatic” person. These students have also taken to it like ducks to water. I’ve introduces several Comedy Sportz-like games and they have willingly done them. They have produced two Readers Theater productions and are now working on storytelling. It is best to have an audience, so I arrange time with the Lower School classes. It will be neat to watch the interaction between the 7th graders and the primary students.

Teaching science, right now, it difficult. I would like to have more hands-on work, but I am lacking in time and equipment. Unlike English, I can’t just whip up lessons in moments, I have to do a lot of prep ahead of time to get the materials and equipment, and in this school, that is a time consuming task. There are books, materials and equipment all over the school and not always in the logical places. I miss the science kits we had in Lithuania – the tote included everything needed for the entire unit: student handouts, teacher background and lesson plans, quizzes and tests, plus the information and materials for every lab experience. All packaged together. As long as the teacher reordered each year, the units were easy to use. They came from Carolina Science http://www.carolina.com/STC/units/STC_units_overview.asp

As for the social studies classes, well, I’m not where I’d like to be. I am relying on too many “traditional” forms of teaching – lecture, textbook reading and quiz, and regurgitation. I asked the director for permission to buy Teacher’s Curriculum Institute’s World Cultures package. http://www.historyalive.com/default.asp I heard about it form my MiddleWeb listserv. Many teachers raved about how the kids are actively involved in the learning and the quality of the materials. After browsing briefly through the newly arrived package, I too am impressed. But, I have to retrain my 8th graders and myself to be more active, reflective, and cooperative in the class. I am hoping to also learn many techniques I can use with the US History class. Right now, they are completing full-body portraits of people of the American Revolution. It is more regurgitation then I would like, but I am teaching the skills of research, note-taking, and bibliography.

My new mantra, “I can’t do everything at once.” Or “Baby steps, baby steps.” I look at all the things that I thing the students should know and be able to do and become frantic with what I need to teach. I need to remember that it took four years in Lithuania to get all these things done.

I’ve also signed up for “PBS Teacherline” http://teacherline.pbs.org/teacherline/welcome.cfm - online professional development for teachers. Unfortunately, we still don’t have Internet at home, so I will have to try to make time at school to do the course work.

Plus, we have signed up for Papiamento lessons, but that took a back burner with the dive course. Once we return, hopefully we can focus more on it. It is a cool language.
Papiamento Words and Phrases You Can Use http://www.arubatourism.com/arubaandpeople/papiamento.html
Amaro's Project Papiamentu papiamentu.donamaro.nl

I really thought that moving to Aruba would mean a slower pace of life. But so far, that hasn’t happened. I feel like I constantly have to do something.

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