The first few days of school are over, I have a few lessons under my belt, and I’m looking forward to our first full week! Technically I don’t actually have a full week, but this will be the first week where school is in session all week long. The reason I don’t have a full week is because teachers here operate more like college professors do in the States—classes meet two or three times a week, and teachers only report to the building when they have classes to teach. My cooperating teacher is working on finding me a few more classes to work with in order to fill out my schedule a bit, but right now I have Mondays off, therefore not quite a full week of class.
Aside from the different scheduling, the biggest difference in terms of how the school day operates between Luxembourg schools and American schools is that Luxembourgish students are the ones that stay in the same room. I mentioned before that students at the Lycee are working towards university. For their last three years at the Lycee, they choose a sort of mini-major—a track that concentrates on something specific, like languages or multi-media or the sciences. The students within this mini-major (they have assigned letters) in the same year then have all of their classes together for the next three years, so they get to know each other pretty well! Teachers also tend to follow these students through, so jumping in to this community for a few months is a bit of a challenge. There was absolutely no need to establish rules, or introduce people, or do any of those normal first days of school things. I’ve already shown my cultural differences by telling students that I need to collect their papers “before you leave.” I then had to explain to them that students are the ones who change rooms in the States rather than the teachers, and they all kind of looked at me a little funny.
Right now, I have three classes that I’m working with, and my host teacher has been really great in letting me jump right in! Wednesday was my first official day, but we just planned in the morning and then had one class in the afternoon. I helped plan the lesson (we read Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” because they read an editorial involving the Statue of Liberty the next day), but mostly just observed that first day. On Friday, though, I taught two lessons!
My first lesson was with the Premiere class, so this is their last year before graduating. We’re reading To Kill a Mockingbird with this class, so Isabelle (my cooperating teacher) and I decided it would be nice if we gave them some historical context for the book. I put together a powerpoint with pictures to prompt discussion about segregation, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement, hoping to get some discussion out of them and at the same time get an idea of how much they already knew about the South and how much we were going to have to learn as we worked through the book. One of the first things I had them do was to work with a partner and come up with five things they knew about the American South. I wasn’t expecting them to know tons—maybe an event that took place there, or something about the food or the accent or anything, really. What I learned is that one student knew about the existence of the Confederate flag (but not really what it was for) and everyone else’s knowledge was limited to the song “Sweet Home Alabama.” We have a lot to learn!
My second lesson was with the 3e Class, so they have three years left before graduation, the age equivalent of an American high school junior. Isabelle and I had decided that we want to work with them on poetry this semester, doing a poem each day in addition to the other literature we read, so we’re dedicating the first few lessons here to an introduction to poetry. We started off with Shel Silverstein’s “Messy Room,” which they seemed to enjoy. We were going for something that wasn’t too intimidating but still allowed us to talk about a few poetic devices, and it seemed to go over pretty well. I learned that, for some of them, this was the first poem they’d ever read in English!
I’m really excited to work with both of these classes (I haven’t worked directly with the third class yet), especially if I’m able to give them some reading strategies and a chance to write creatively! Because things here are so language-focused, I don’t think they really have a chance to just write for the sake of writing—it’s always to work on a language skill. I know that they’ll be working on their English when they write for me, too, but I want to give them a chance to be creative with it! Tuesday will bring in a batch of poems about rooms, and I can’t wait to read them!