Sunday, 27 November 2011

What we take for granted

We have reached the end of our second week of teaching at TVED, and between teaching, planning and marking there has been less time for blog post writing ... but there has still been a huge amount to reflect on.

I am not going to start listing all the differences between this teaching job and others I've had, but I have certainly been struck by just how many things I, as a teacher, have always taken for granted. And I'm not just talking about things like interactive whiteboards and computer suites. I'm talking about things as simple as paper.

When it comes to teaching, paper is fairly fundamental; and although comments about how many rainforests have passed through the photocopier that morning are probably familiar in a lot of staffrooms, paper is not exactly rationed.

In the UK, I would not have thought twice about printing off a homework sheet for every child, and probably a few spares. Here, we print one copy per class, and the students have to organise themselves to make sure they copy down the questions.

I have often had students who have reached the end of a school year with a half empty exercise book, but come September are given a new one, leaving the empty pages of the last one unfilled. In my first lessons here I was surprised by the students asking "do we need a whole page, or a half" and it took a while to realise that this was because they didn't want to hand in a whole A4 sheet if they could fit their answers on a half.

Last year when my students handed in homework I expected it to be on a piece of A4 file paper, and if they gave me part of a ripped off sheet, or their homework on the back of a page that had clearly already been used for something else, I would have been thoroughly unimpressed; now I'm having to learn to accept that a torn, pre-used piece of paper is being handed in, because paper is precious.

It has added to the learning curve of teaching in a very different situation and I am having to adapt to using resources in a very different way. For example, there are no reading books for the students here (another thing I have always taken for granted), but my thoughts of printing off sheets of text for them to practice reading have had to go out of the window.

We don't have much involvement with the main fee-paying school here, but even there it seems clear that the resources aren't as good as those we take for granted in UK state schools. In TVED it is an even more stark reality.

It has made me very aware how much we take for granted, and that we have a lot more to be thankful for than we remember to appreciate. In some ways, it is good that we are able to take so many things for granted; but I guess it has also brought home how dangerous a road we travel if we start to allow  those things to be eroded away; if we cut budgets because the value of something can't be counted in economic productivity: the last thing I would want for UK schools (environmental issues aside for a moment) is for them not to be able to take for granted photocopying an interesting resource for thirty children.

1 comment:

  1. How right you are about all we take for granted! Although I agree that it would be a pity if schools here couldn't produce resources etc to enhance pupils' learning, I think reflecting on the prodigious waste that sometimes applies would be no bad thing. (Think 2 single sheets instead of double sided photocopies for instance!)I fear we are all guilty to a greater or lesser extent, not only in teaching. What about all the unneccessary printing of all those emails!!!Just don't get me started on packaging.