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Monday, September 02, 2013

First Day!

I survived my first day at school! It actually wasn't too bad, although I still felt very unprepared. I was making photocopies and getting myself organized right until the minute the students came into my class. I take a bus to and from school every day, which makes it hard to really complete what I want to do, since I'm working on someone else's schedule. The first week in Dubai, our bus picked us up at 8:30 am. The next week, it moved back to 8:00 am. We had a couple of mornings where it was at 7:30 am (one memorable morning was the day we went to do a blood test at a government clinic...). Now, finally, the bus is set at its standard time: 7:00 a.m. Ahhh!! This means I have to get up at 6:00-6:15 every week day morning! I'm not exactly a morning person, although I am usually pretty good at getting up if I have a reason (in this case, school is the reason). The bus had been leaving from school at 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm for the past two weeks, but now, the bus is also set in its standard schedule: 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm. I can't wait until I get a car, because I'm finding it so hard to co-ordinate my schedule to the bus' schedule! I could always grab a taxi, but that will get expensive.

Anyway, onto my actual day! I had 3 of my 5 classes today - the ones about which I have been feeling confident! I made all three classes fill out surveys for me to let them know about their musical background and a bit about the students. After seeing the answers, I'm really glad I did this. I have quite a range of musical backgrounds for most classes.

Grade 11 IB was up first, and went well! I have 8 students. I was under the impression that they were about half and half mixed between Higher Level (more demanding course load and time) and Standard Level (less), however, to my delight, I found out that they are all apparently taking Higher Level! This will definitely make the class a lot easier to plan, since they all have the same requirements, and some Standard Level options are no longer an option (for example, in HL, students must submit a solo performance portfolio. Group performance is an option in SL, but I was going to discourage it. Now it's completely out of the picture!). I think the Grade 11s were pretty overwhelmed - being bombarded with IB courses and outlines on their first day of Grade 11 must get pretty intense! They seemed really nice and quite quiet, but I'm sure that will change once they warm-up. All of them will be playing guitar or piano for their major instrument - I'm totally okay with that! I have a LOT of planning still to do with this class, but I'm looking forward to it. I think it'll be a good challenge for me. The IB Music course deals a lot with music history and theory, very similar to first-year university music courses. I'm looking forward to going back and reviewing everything I learned in first-year history, and sharing the knowledge! If only I could have brought my notes with me to Dubai :( I tried to scan them but with the vast amount of history notes I have, it would have simply taken hours and hours that I didn't have.

My Grade 7 class also went well. They all seem to be excited about beginning band!!! I'm glad, since my school hasn't had any semblance of a band program in the past year or two. I have 11 students - just the right number for 2 flutes, 2-3 clarinets, 2-3 trumpets OR 2-3 trombones, and 1-2 euphoniums! That's how I'm hoping to structure the band for the first little bit, and then we'll see what happens in the future. I don't have any major percussion equipment, so I probably won't have any dedicated percussionists - perhaps students will be split percussion and another instrument. We do have saxophones, so people may be able to switch partway through the year. We also have a French horn which is broken at the moment, but I would love to have a little horn player next year. We also have 2 brand-new bass clarinets, but I would want to wait until the student was in grade 8. I'm looking forward to this band program! I think it will be something new and exciting again for the school. We have a Holiday and a Year-End Recital already booked, and I can't wait for the Grade 7s to play for the Grade 6s at the end of the year to recruit for next year!  

Grade 8s are the class today that is causing me a bit of stress. I have 20 students, 14 or 15 (I can't remember!) of which are boys. Several of these boys are extremely talkative and outgoing. I'm definitely going to have to work on my classroom management skills with this class, and think of fun, educational, music activities that will appeal to grade 8 boys... and also to girls. Any ideas? Everyone definitely seems exciting by a Stomp unit, but after today's class, I'm certainly not trusting these kids around garbage cans yet! I think we might start with body percussion - they can't slap their body thaaaat loudly, right?! ;)

Tomorrow is another day with the grade 7s and I see the grade 10s for the first time! The grade 7s are doing flute tomorrow :) we're spending one class on each instrument and giving them all a chance to try them out before deciding. I still don't really know what I'm doing with the grade 9s and 10s. My co-teacher disappeared after school today so I didn't have a chance to talk to him about it - it's an adventure, that's for sure!

The kids do seem really sweet, and if talking is my biggest discipline problem, I know I'm very lucky! The kids refer to all female teachers as "Miss" constantly, which is already getting a little grating.

-"Miss! It's cold in here!" (yes, yes it is kids. I made a point of telling them I was from Canada and my room would be cold from here on out). 
-"Miss! Miss! Can I go to the bathroom, Miss?" 
-Perhaps my favourite compliment today: "You are rocking these names, Miss!" after I successfully pronounced some tricky names (soooo many foreign names. You have no idea until you teach in an international school!)

Overall, it was a great first day. I was way more nervous than I expected, but I know that will go away in a few weeks. It's definitely going to be a hard year in terms of planning and preparation, but I'm excited! I'm about to go shopping for groceries and a bunch of school supplies to get organized (that reminds me, I need to post a picture of their two-holed binders. It's honestly one of the things that has made me the most uncomfortable since moving to the Middle East. Seriously.). I'm looking forward to the next few days, and already looking forward to the weekend to relax and long-term plan! 

Also, just a quick shout-out to my colleagues from school who are starting their first jobs in the next few days!!! I'm sending you my best wishes from across the world. We've got this :)

(First day of school picture - awkwardly taken with my self-timer app on my iPhone!) 

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