After seven months in Jamaica, and five of them as a volunteer, it is only now that I am able to begin what I came here to do. And because I spent the first three weeks planning, I was able to jump straight into my lessons after ESC.
Regardless of my preparations, I was still swamped under a ridiculous workload. My week consists of meeting with each group twice, taking into account planning between sessions, school-wide schedule changes (like an unexpected early dismissal), and reminding teachers of which students to send and at what times. To top it off, even though I’d made a decent set of activity sheets for each lesson, I didn’t remember to label them properly, and returned to school with a mess of my own making to sort out.
My first week was exhausting. And because every class did the same thing for the first lesson, I felt like a broken record by Thursday. Luckily, my schedule allowed for a Friday without students, so I was able to get some more planning work done, and then spend the weekend on hiatus.
Meanwhile, week two (the week we are currently in) picked up at a great start. Most of my students behave well enough, and lessons, for the most part, are going as planned.
But adjustments always need to be made, so flexibility is a major part of the job. I’ve already scouted out some potential changes to my groups and have had to make some alterations in lesson plans. Additionally, I’ve been able to iron out a couple of small details to help make my life easier, like giving each child a post-it with their days and class times on them, and asking them to help remind their teachers that they need to come see me. This, at least, eliminates my need to constantly remind or come fetch my students, and it provides them with a feeling of responsibility.
This week also marks the beginning of my Reading Club, which is held after school on Thursdays. Due to limited resources, and because asking children to read additional pages might pose as a challenge, the Reading Club consists primarily of games to help reinforce the fundamentals. Some of the materials I’ve made for my students turned out to be perfect for this. Things like Sounding-Out Dominoes or Rhyming Bingo, Matching (or Memory) with uppercase and lowercase letters, and even introducing Hangman was a great success. I’ll continue with this club for a few weeks, and then try something new. I have an idea for a Writing Club, and another idea for a Study Hall, which, if all goes well, has potential to evolve into something bigger and more permanent.
One of the teachers at school has also noticed some of the materials I’ve made, and has requested help with some materials of her own to help her struggling students. She understands the importance of reinforcement through repetition, and hopes that these students (I have six from her class) can continue to improve on their reading even outside my classroom. This teacher and I have partnered together for our Reading Club, and she will lend a tremendous hand with my Library Improvement Project.
Speaking of projects, the school has voiced its desire for a computer lab, and since ESC was partially about secondary projects, I will begin the plans for that as well. I’ll be working with the teachers, ancillary staff, and other members of the community to help establish a functioning computer lab with Internet, as well as incorporating a computer class into the curriculum. Of course, all these things take time, so when there is an update on my projects, I’ll be sure to include it.
All in all, despite how much I am already accomplishing, there still seems to be an endless to-do list, both at school and in my personal life. My bedroom floor is in desperate need of a good sweeping, I’m overdue for a load of laundry, and busy tracking down missing care packages or arranging for those that have arrived to be picked up or delivered. I’m keeping up with friends back at home through Skype, email, Facebook and my blog, and making Halloween plans with PCV friends around the island. Let’s not forget my dedication to lose the weight I put on during the summer. That includes a regular workout routine, and the necessity to stop being lazy and actually cook myself a decent dinner. Which, if we’re being honest, hasn’t happened yet this week.