So, to start off this blog I should share a story about when I was in Costa Rica...
My team and I were hiking Monteverde for our acclimatization hike, and I was near the end of the line, as all 13 of us had to walk single file down a steep, muddy slope. The people at the front of the line started to scream, but I couldn't determine what it was that was bothering them and the line continued to move. I had assumed that they were just screaming because they were slipping and falling on the mud. Little did I know that I was walking into a swarm of wasps that were clearly very pissed off. Later I found out that they were ground burrowing wasps, so we must have disturbed their nest! Regardless, after being attacked by a swarm of wasps, I am now forever terrified of all bees, wasps, or anything black and yellow that flies. It's quite pathetic actually. When I am at home and my dad asks me to mow the lawn, he now knows that he has to take the mower out of the shed because I won't go near it; there are carpenter bees that burrow in the wood and I literally stand there and cry because I can't bring myself to go near it.
So, why am I telling you this? Well Tuesday was my first of many Tuesdays that I will spend at Weston All Saints Primary School aka W.A.S.P.S. How ironic...
You will all be happy to know that I did not go running from this hive, even when I discovered that the students' uniforms are black and yellow (in some way I think someone knew that I have a phobia of bees and thinks this is some sort of practical joke!).
So, I finally met my cooperating teacher Mr. Williams and he was very welcoming and was happy to have me there, and I am looking forward to working closely with him during the duration of the semester. There was also a training teacher (Student teacher) who is finishing up her last week of with the class.
W.A.S.P.S is a VC school so it is voluntarily controlled by the Church of England, which basically means that the school has a religious affiliation, but that religious affiliation does not give them any money. I'm telling you this because the first thing that struck me as being drastically different from schools in the States was the fact that every morning the students attend an assembly where there is a bible reading and they sing hymns. All students also say grace before they leave to go to lunch. For all intensive purposes W.A.S.P.S is a public school (the definition of public and private is nowhere near as clean cut here as it is at home), so I was really surprised that they were praying in school since this is definitely something that public schools are not allowed to do in the States.
The other thing that I noticed was how arts orientated this particular school is. I do not think that this is the case of all primary schools in England, but here there is artwork everywhere and the students are producing fabulous interpretations of some famous artists' works. There are also portfolios of the school's work in the reception area where people who are waiting can look through them. The students are all also in some sort of musical setting at some point during the day; all the students are taking lessons whether it be guitar, drums, or flute. The emphasis that is placed on art really seemed different than what takes place in elementary schools that I have visited or been a part of. There is not nearly as much art present in the classroom in the States. And, what I find funny, is that unlike in the States the educational system in England has a national curriculum which really limits what teachers can do with their time in the classroom and I'm pretty sure that the arts does not have such a heavy role in the National Curriculum. I will be interested to see how this emphasis on the arts works with the National Curriculum that is in place and whether or not the arts does play a larger role in the National Curriculum than I think it does.
Overall, my first day at W.A.S.P.S was a success. Mr. Williams put me to work right away with helping him organize the art room, and then I got to work one on one (or in small groups) with some of the students who seem to have trouble focusing in the classroom which was nice. I also was given the opportunity to listen to students read out loud and respond back to them on how they were doing, so I was able to really get involved which was really nice.
One other thing that I must bring up is this one little boy who I was completely blown away by! I was warned about him when I got there in the morning, so I was expecting to really see him struggle. He has autism, and from what I witnessed he is fairly high functioning, and according to Mr. Williams he has issues with focusing, stims out on certain things, and is very argumentative. However, what I saw was a boy who sat all day in class with his peers without so much as a drop in from a special educator. I was in awe for the entire day. He was raising his hand, contributing to the class (not always the most dead on answers, but still fairly relevant), and he was never really unfocused to the point that he was not absorbing what was going on around him. Needless to say, I was very impressed! There were tell tale signs that he was definitely on the spectrum, but other than that he was completely present all day.
Looking back, I am a little disappointed about how I was informed about this particular boy. Being someone who works closely with a child who has autism, I have learned that defining that child by what is not quite right about them is disrespectful, for lack of a better word, and there is so much more to them than their disability. Walking into a school that is notorious for its wide range in learning differences I expected to be working with people who realized this as well. This is not to say that the school's philosophy does not speak to the very nature of my point, but it clearly is not at the forefront of all of the staffs’ minds. This particular boy is clearly learning how to cope with what is working against him so that he can be a fully present member of his class, and I have to say that even though I do not know him well I am extremely proud of him.
I am so excited to find out more about I will be doing this semester in the classroom and I look forward to heading back to W.A.S.P.S to work closely with all those buzzing students.
Until next time,
Oh and here is the link to the school's website in case anyone is interested in checking out the school. W.A.S.P.S