Although we swore in as volunteers a week ago, the EE (English Education) and HE (Health Education) volunteers are still technically in PST (Pre-service training) until this coming week. For the past three weeks, we have been (mostly) taking a break from our technical and language sessions and instead we have had Practice School. Practice School is essentially a summer school in which we get to practice what we have learned all summer with actual students!
Our first week, we direct taught high-school-aged students. Direct teaching means that we taught by ourselves, without a partner teacher. We did, however, have very experienced Moldovan resource teachers who joined us for the week. They helped us with lesson planning, observed all of our lessons, and gave us valuable feedback. My resource teacher, Angela, was such a great resource! I taught 9th form (grade) students. Unfortunately, overall during the first part of practice school (9th-12th forms), we had a very poor student turn-out. Several volunteers had only 1 or 2 students. I was one of the luckier volunteers as I had 4 students, all boys. Despite such a small class, it was a very good experience. The Moldovan Ministry of Education requires us to use the textbooks pretty closely. While some of the textbooks are very good, the upper grades are really quite difficult. The 9th form textbook starts off with a unit on: the Big Bang theory, the origins of life on earth, the stars and constellations, and the universe. It really is pretty complex stuff even if you were a native English speaker. For example, my students had to learn about “red shift”, which I had to research in order to teach (if you’re wondering, it’s the tendency of everything in the universe to move away from the center of the universe over time). But other than that, everything went very smoothly for me.
The second part of Practice School was two weeks and we taught students in forms 3rd through 8th. We had a much better turn-out with the younger students. It was the first time they had allowed 3rd and 4th graders to attend and as a result, those grades were the best represented. For this part of Practice School, we team-taught with a partner. Our actual partner teachers from the schools we will work in for the next 2 years came to Costesti for two weeks to work with us. The first day they arrived, we team-taught with our resource teacher, and the following day we started working with our partner teachers. This experience was even more beneficial, as it gave us a chance to start to figure out how to make the whole partner-teaching thing work in a less stressful environment with students we won’t actually be teaching at site. I taught 4th form this time, which was a LOT of fun! I was the only volunteer that was assigned to 4th form, which meant I had ALL the 4th-formers. There were 24 students (the most of any of the volunteers) on my list, but I ended up with 32 total students! Thankfully, I never had all 32 come on the same day- although I did have 29 one day!! It was exhausting, but a very positive experience all the same.
During Practice School our schedule was: an hour to prep before students arrived (and I still had students arrive before me- they were that eager!), a 45-minute lesson, a 15-minute break, another 45-minute lesson, then students went home and we had the afternoons to plan and prep.
Yesterday was the last day of Practice School and we organized a bit of a fun celebration to end it with. Throughout the past week, we taught our students “American” song and dances, as well as some poems and jokes, and performed them for the other students. There were also some games to play after. My students were very excited to sing (with hand motions) “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. It was a good end to a good 3 weeks of Practice School!