My First Day at School
So – some may have noticed that I have not been posting recently. But I have an excuse or two.
1. We were hoping to go to a soccer game on Saturday, where I have been given permission to photograph the team, but the game was cancelled, so no photos to post.
Last Wednesday, one week ago, I received the names and general overviews of the courses I will be teaching this semester. One is called English Speaking Skills and is an elective for 2nd year degree-seeking students (think a 3 year B.A. program) and the other is called Communication Skills, a mandatory class for all first year diploma (think 2-year Associates) seeking students in the school of English (I may not have that exactly correct, because I do not fully understand the way the university is structured, but it is close enough.)
So I got my classes. YEAH!
And then on Thursday, I got an initial version of the Time Table – the schedule for the semester. But there was a problem. Each of my classes meets twice a week, one 2-hour session and one 1-hour session. But both 2-hour sessions were scheduled for the same exact time on Tuesday. So I contacted the person in charge of scheduling and in response to my request to move one of the classes was told “ok”. And that was it.
I had tried to go to the campus on Thursday to meet with one of the administrators, but he was not available until Monday. So now, my first day ever seeing the campus (about 5 or so miles from where we live) was going to occur on the first day of school. And I still had no idea when my classes would actually meet, because there was no updated Time Table.
So as I read through the course outlines I had three major thought processes.
One, I need to develop a semester’s worth of work for two different classes.
Two, having taught in a Tanzanian university last time we lived in the country, I knew that it was necessary to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of my students before I could truly commit to lesson planning.
Three, the English Speaking Skills course wants me to teach pronunciation skills. That is something I have never even thought of doing before, other than perhaps helping very small children say “lunch”, instead of “yunch”.
So I spent the weekend researching and looking for resources that I would later be able to incorporate in to my lesson planning. For the English Speaking Skills course, I looked at all kinds of ESL (English as a second language) sites to help me understand what would best help my students. For the Communication Skills course I set forth to prioritize the numerous course expectations in hope that I could find a way to combine some items and potentially gloss over those items that might be slightly less essential.
On Monday, Angi and I went to my campus (her campus is a good 40 minute drive in the opposite direction) because she did not have to start until Tuesday.
So we got to campus and it is right on the ocean. YEAH! And there is a historical ruin on campus, a portion of an old palace, so that is kinda cool.
We met with the administrator and it was a great thing that Angi was there. For the administrator admits that his English is not very good. So with my list of questions (office, library, web space, transportation, time table, etc.) Angi was able to translate any questions to Swahili that the administrator was not understanding as I spoke in English.
We got a tour of the campus and although the campus is not large, not all rooms are labeled, so even though I have a class in Lecture Room 7 on Friday and I have asked multiple people where the room is, I still can not find the room. I told my students that if they see me walking in circles they should come rescue me. 🙂
Many of my questions were answered, I was introduced to the Dean. I met with the scheduling person who has changed the schedule so that I teach 4 hours on Tuesday (one from 11-1 and the other class from 2-4) and my other two classes are Friday (9-10 and 10-11).
[But a side note with the Time Table, until a new official Time Table is released, students must rely on word of mouth to know when classes are to meet. In Angi’s case, she was on her campus and ready to teach her students Tuesday afternoon, but none of them showed, because the changes in the schedule had not reached them].
I was given cool white board markers (two colors in one, one end is black, the other is either red or green or blue).
And some of the rest of my questions are still to be answered, but most importantly I knew when to be somewhere.
On Tuesday I went to school and taught from 11-1 and from 2-4.
The first class, Communications Skills, is somewhere around 80-100 students (students can continue to register until the second week of school) and I talked about Listening Skills, which is one of the skills that students are encouraged to become more familiar with in an effort to be more successful students. And then I had them write a short autobiographical essay so that I can get a feel for their general writing ability and can better shape the course to meet their needs.
The afternoon class was English Speaking Skills and by the middle of the period the class size had swelled to 25 or so. This is wonderful, however, part of the purpose of the class is to offer individual feedback to each student. The first class went well, I had them write down to the best of their ability questions I asked (taken from ESL sites) and then they had to first interview me using those questions to make sure that they had multiple opportunities to understand the questions, and then they interviewed each other and when called upon were required to present answers to the class about the person they interviewed. There is a wide range of abilities in the course, so it will take a good bit of effort on my part to make sure no one is left behind.
Overall, I can mark Day 1 as a success. Only 14 and a half more weeks of classes to plan. 🙂