Today marks the end of my first week back at work. Things are much much different from my previous experience. For one, I am working in a MUCH smaller school and secondly, a different culture.This week was professional development focused in on philosophy, teaching character traits, classroom rules and procedures.
It was refreshing that we spent most the week planning and talking about classroom management. I’ve been able to discern quite a few things from observing and reflecting. It is nice to be in a school that believes and supports using the first 3-4 weeks to go heavy on management and light on academics. It was always SO hard for me to balance the demands of getting right into the academics with setting up classroom management. I never quite figured out how to balance the two in my previous job and felt that my classroom management was not very good because I didn’t have adequate time to teach it.
It feels wonderful to have some pressure off with permission and support to try to teach in a way I’ve believed for a while. The goal of the first month of school is to get the classroom procedures and expectations solidified. Academics will follow. This is, I think, a view that is given a lot of lip service in the States but rarely adhered to because of the high pressure NCLB demands. Or maybe it is a cultural thing?
A lot of this week felt slow and repetitive for me. It isn’t nice to say that but the truth isn’t always nice. Almost everything we addressed or talked about I’ve thought about for years and am still thinking about. It is not that I have learned all I need to learn…far from it, but it was realllllyyyy surprising to me that a lot of the topics we covered were new to the Costa Rican teachers. Doesn’t every teacher think about procedures prior to the school year? I know I didn’t always think about them, and still am not the best at it, but I had a clear understanding that these are the types of things that make or break a classroom.
Ultimately what the week felt like was trying to shift people to a new paradigm of teaching. One which I am very familiar with and employ. So it has been fascinating and perplexing to see/figure out how you get teachers to essentially change their thinking/practices without insulting them. I guess it isn’t all that different from what I left the States for…it is just in a different developmental stage.
Then, considering a specific cultural context, how do you shift paradigms? This week I found out that disagreeing or showing any sort of conflict is not a culturally kosher thing to do here. Apparently avoiding conflict is of utmost importance in this culture. And let’s face it, I came across as a loud mouthed gringa.
So if you have a culture of creating as little waves as possible…the task of changing paradigms has GOT to be much harder. Best practices are, come to find out, not universal.
Though at times I was bored out of my mind, I was able to stop and appreciate the training I’ve had and see other teachers learning and growing. It was a nice week of highlighting what we do know and how to be more strategic and organized in employing it. It was really rewarding to hear my Costa Rican colleagues be appreciative of the time we spent together. And I am also much more organized and solid in my thinking because of the time given and allowed to hone it.