I visited my school (for real) for the first time today! I’m absolutely in love, and I am so very blessed to be able to work in a school with such friendly staff and such nice facilities. My meeting with my department chair is tomorrow, but I tagged along with Tina (who is teaching chemistry) for her meeting because Jean-Claude (her department chair) said we could meet the headmaster and have a tour of the school, which is exactly what we did.
First we had a short meeting with the assistant director and Jean-Claude, at which point we dropped the little bomb that our Teacher Performance Assessment is due on October 12th, about three weeks after school begins (a project that requires us to teach 3-5 lessons on our own). We talked about how this schedule is very tight, and we’re working on a solution for that, but this was just a little hiccup to the day because everything else was glorious.
The building that we toured is the old building, one of three for the school (this one houses the oldest four grades, and the other two serve like American middle schools, both feeding into this building). The front of the building is original, and apparently housed Russian soldiers at one point. Attached to that, surrounding an indoor courtyard, are five stories of an addition, each level housing regular classrooms as well as subject-specific rooms. In general, teachers move from class to class (so the “normal” classrooms have signs outside indicating which grade level and section have their homeroom in that room), but subjects like chemistry, biology, and physics demand special rooms with special equipment, so the students change rooms for those classes.
Luxembourg’s school system, from what I have learned so far, operates on a tracking basis, where students go to either a lycee classique (like my school) or a lycee technique (more of a technical school) from what we would call middle school on up. The decision for which school to go to is made after a meeting where the student, the parents, and teachers from both schools go over student test results and discuss the best option. I’m not as familiar with the technical route, but the classique students progress through school with a liberal arts frame of mind (a little bit of everything) until they reach third year (grades are counted backwards, so third year students have three years left until they graduate) when they choose a track, lettered A-G. The letters don’t stand for anything, but merely serve as a differentiation between focuses. I can’t remember all of them but, for example, students in the E group are more art focused, so they will take more classes that have to do with art and multimedia (utilizing the school’s art space, dark rooms, film studios, radio lab, etc.). Another letter is for students with a language focus, yet another for students with a science focus, etc. The way I see it, students choose kind of a mini-major, because they are still required to take classes outside of their focus, but they have more intensive classes within their focus.
Anyway, back to the school itself—I mentioned the multi-media resources, which were nicer than any I’ve ever seen. They also have a cinema with movie-theater style plush seats (I don’t know how students don’t fall asleep), several computer labs, and a really nice theater area. Everything about the school was beautiful, clean, and welcoming. I could go on and on with my description of the actual school, but I was more excited about how welcoming and friendly the staff was. When we finished our tour [highlights of the tour: computer/calculator museum with all working machines, visit to the top of the building, the meteorology lab where the army and the airport call for local weather reports, fantastic views from every classroom], we looped back to the administrative offices to meet the headmaster (yes, they call him the headmaster). He welcomed us, talked about how our teacher training works, and then gave us a scarf with the school colors! (In addition to a lanyard and a copy of last year’s yearbook.) I can’t wait to learn more about my school, to meet with my department chair (that’s tomorrow!), to figure out which classes I’ll be teaching, to meet my students, and to wear my school scarf with pride!