Saturday, 24 October 2009

Teaching in Doha contd

The first practical thing we did was to lock the windows so that the boys would not climb in and out whenever they felt like it. Then the next thing to do was to set a consistent routine- daily schedule on the board each morning. This helped a lot. Then it was simply a game of wait- each day picking away at the classroom rules, English conversation, short, interesting lessons - some of which went down very well and most of which ended up being abandoned by me. I would always prepare several options with a fall back option of drawing in their DEAD book (drop everything and draw) - got this idea from an excellent teacher friend in Australia. In some lessons I would have to just sit and wait while the shouting in Arabic subsided. I would pick up where I had left off - with a count down to 1 for the boy who continually started the Arabic dialogue in his loudest and most annoying voice. Luckily my principal was only a phone call away to come and help in the most difficult situations. I certainly wouldn't have been able to survive without his help and the help of my ukuleles which I used mercilessly as a reward at the end of a lesson. So, I would say, I am expecting this , then this , then that and then when you are done you may choose which colour you would like to play at the end of the lesson. (I had a lovely set of coloured ukuleles with me). Of course, there was no question of actual music teaching going on- rather a hands on experience using rhythm, interesting strums, experimental chords and just a lot of noise really.
Gradually over the period of 3 to 4 weeks, things started to feel a lot more pleasant in the classroom. The boys would arrive early to chat, play me some favourite CD music and ask what we were doing today. They would also ask personal questions like, "when do you pray?" "Why is your hair short- are you a man?"
Eventually I managed to form reading groups, spelling groups and maths groups which worked best when I had some help from others. Because there were no graded readers in the school and no curriculum, we teachers were managing to download reading booklets from the A to Z website, along with Maths lessons. I also had the indispensible help of the Smart Board in my classroom and the Copacabana Public School (Australia) website with links to some excellent lessons at my fingertips (when the internet was working that is).
We plugged along and as the year grew to a close we managed to even have an exam week and write reports. Unfortunately there were other problems connected to this school to do with the owner. We knew it would not continue beyond June so we packed up the little photocopied books, the bits of maths games that had survived, the wonderful Art program and charts and took all of the posters off the walls. How sad for the children - I am not sure where they all are today but I am sure that they think of us often and wish we were all back there together.

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