Friday, February 19, 2010

First full week

One week of classes teaching is now behind me. Next week I will be upping the amount of teaching some more, though it will not be a full week. That has to wait until a couple of the English teachers are ready for me to do conversation classes with their students.

The curriculum is ambitious for the 5th and 6th grade. I will need to work in the next few weeks on finding a happy balance between satisfying the curriculum and not overwhelming the students with too much science in English. While their confidence in English is not as high as I want it to be, many of them do remember some of the science from the previous years, which is good.

The hardest part will be the students in 6th grade who have moved from other schools, where they received less English or even no English in one case. I will do the best I can and hopefully they will learn a lot this year, even though they will likely not catch up to their peers completely.

My science classes with the younger students begin this coming week. They receive science for 80 minutes in Spanish and then the same material in English for another 80 minutes. This means I teach based off the monthly and weekly lesson plans given to me by the regular teacher. This is challenging because I need to follow the regular teacher's plans and adapt it for myself, but it is less work because I do not grade the students. I hand over the grades I will have to the regular teacher, who gives the students their science grade.

All in all, this was an interesting week which went pretty well. I know I will have challenging weeks, as someone without much training as an elementary school science teacher teaching science in a foreign language for the students.

In a discussion I had with one of the first grade teachers at lunch yesterday, she mentioned a reason I had not even considered why it was good the students were learning science in English. When students wish to continue in the sciences past high school (including engineering) most of the material is in English, and it is a technical English which even the students who did well in high school English struggle with.

While its possible the students will lose the English I help teach them between 7th grade and leaving for college, hopefully they will be able to build off of what I teach them in future years to succeed in college. Ideally anyways, even if it is only a couple of them.

To end one of the longer posts I will write something which I need to remember myself. While this is a high priority school within the Costa Rican public school system, which means it receives extra attention, it is also an experimental bilingual program. These 6th graders will be the first to have fully completed the program, so some kinks still need to be ironed out. This will be a year of taking a deep breath and accepting that which I can't change and doing what I can to make the students better in English.

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