Friday, October 29, 2004

Halloween Maddness

Today is the Halloween celebration at school. The various student councils have planned activities for Halloween. First, the students were asked to dress in black and orange. This afternoon the middle and high school students will be allowed to change into costumes. Then the middle schoolers will watch a movie – something Goosebumps. Then a costume contest and finally food. The high schoolers have planned many traditional games – bobbing for apples, pass the orange etc. The elementary students are watching a production made by grade 4/5.

I find this very interesting. In Lithuania, holidays were a touchy subject. Many people objected to Halloween, considering it a Satanic holiday, therefore it was changed to Masquerade Day. Christmas became “Winter Holiday.” There was tension between the parents and teachers about how to celebrate holidays. As international teachers, many believed that the school needed to be more sensitive to our international population. Not all of our students were white-Christian. And even if they were, celebrating Christian holidays to the exclusion of others did not support our mission statement that stated “The school enthusiastically encourages the study and understanding of different cultures so that AISV students will develop into constructive world citizens.”

Well, I jumped on the bandwagon and right now my 6th and 7th grade language arts students are completing a web sampler on Halloween. They read a page about the origins and celebrations of Halloween around the world, then completed a MadLibs. Plus I included other games.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Isolation is one of the hardest aspects to deal with when teaching in a small school. Everyone is always occupied with teaching or supervising, and I don’t have a like-minded, subject area colleague to talk with. In the past, I’ve used Connected University to stay connected with enthusiastic teachers. I’ve enjoyed all the classes I’ve taken with it. Besides learning something new, the Discussion Board allowed me to interact daily with other teachers. Unfortunately, it does cost – about 400USD, and takes a bit of Internet time, which is very short for me lately. However, I have enrolled in the PBS TeacherLine program , which is self-paced. I worked on it over the week of vacation, but haven’t looked at it since. I need to get busy with that.

This week is Drug Awareness week on the island. On Monday grades 6-12 went to see a motivational speaker. He was born with no legs or arms, but did not allow people to “handicap” him – tell him that he couldn’t do something. He was interesting, funny, and thought provoking, yet didn’t speak much about drugs, other than, “Don’t do them.” In the afternoon, the students visited a volunteer drug rehab center. Some of the recovering addicts spoke with the students. The students had a lot of questions, mostly “Is it true…” or “I heard that . . .” types of questions.

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

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. 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” - 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
Amaro's Project Papiamentu

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.