Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Month In

I was able to be "Ms. Roberts" for 3 days last week! What an experience! I was able to try out and practice my classroom management skills, practice making the flow of the class smooth, dealing with discipline issues, and following through on discipline, etc.

Ms. Hodgson gave me some good pointers after her evaluation of my teaching practice over gases. Like I mentioned in my earlier blog, I know my weakness is leading class discussions; Ms. Hodgson suggested tone inflection, walking around the classroom instead of being stationary, and make a clear and definitive end to each activity or topic.

She complimented me on my student's use of vocabulary and scientific terminology, saying that I must have been doing a good job with them thus far because they have a deeper understanding. She commented I had good activities and demonstrations as well. She said I seemed a little nervous, which was very true because it was the first time I had a stranger (not in the classroom on a normal basis) in the room doing a formal assessment of my teaching. I think it went well, and Rachael complimented and thanked Jen and I for all we do and how we do it.

I will start teaching 2 more lessons a week, year 7 maths. I am excited about this because the girls are enthusiastic and they seem to respond well to me already, since I am in their maths lesson and chemistry lesson.

On a totally different note, it snowed again last night, but we have decided to continue our tradition of walking around Denbigh. This time though, we will have a guest, Rosie, the yellow labrador. She belongs Ms. White, who is in charge of boarding. Should be a nice day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I was observed yesterday by Rachael, the head of the school. I think the lesson went mostly well. We were exploring gases, so we talked about the uses of gases, such as inflation, flotation, to create heat to cook, etc. I also brought a fizzy drink so we could talk about carbonation, and the girls love the sparkling raspberry! I also bobbed across the street to the printers and asked the nice man gave me a helium balloon for FREE! We also built our own monorails out of towel rolls, balloons, and string, and discussed how the release of the blown up balloon propels the towel roll, and how different modes of transportation use propeller to move. All of this sounds fine and dandy, but I am really awkward at leading discussions! Oh my word! Its really quite atrocious! I guess realizing it is half the battle. So I will talk to Gill and Rachael and ask for pointers. BUT, all in all, I think the girls enjoyed the lesson and it at least got them thinking a little more about gases.

After my first lesson in Gill Platt's class, I took over Sarah's class again for the rest of the day, which I am happy to do. Luckily, they had math and science yesterday, and I just talked about "is", "are", "were", "was" aka the "being" verbs. So nothing too complicated, and maths and science are my comfort zone. I think the girls are responding well to me being the only teacher in the classroom as well. There is a chance I will get to be Sarah again! Holla!

Monday, January 25, 2010


I went to school this morning, like every other morning, thinking it would be a normal day. Well, it wasn't. One of the prep school teachers was out today, unexpectedly. So since I was already scheduled to be in the prep school half of the day, and my year 11 student is out skiing this week, I just cleared it with Mrs. Scott (my mentor, whose class I was to be in later today) and took Sarah's class for the day. I taught maths, science, and RE (religious education) Luckily, in maths and science they were covering similar topics to what I have been teaching in my other classes. Things went fairly well, the only thing was the girls acted like they had no brains sometimes. They would say, "I'm stuck," or "I'm confused," before they even looked at anything on the page. I then told them they were not allowed to say either of those phrases for the rest of the day, and things went a little better. I think it was a good learning experience, because I had full responsibility of the class for most of the day, and things went fairly smoothly.

Miss Hodgson is coming to observe me tomorrow, so I better finalize my lesson plans....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Denbigh Mornings

One of my favorite things to do is to wake up at 7 (before the sun comes up) come into the kitchen and sit by the window. I either do schoolwork, mark papers, email etc. and wait for the sun to come up as I sip on tea (another one of my favorite things) all before anyone else is stirring. I can hear birds chirping this morning, that means that it isn't raining outside; maybe the sun will peak out today!

We have a full house now. There are 2 equestrian girls, who, you guessed it, take care of the horses and stables, and the 2 housemistresses from George's who only sleep here on their 2 nights off a week. It has been a challenge to be receptive of their moving in here, and loosing the privacy and quiet that Jennifer and I so much enjoyed. Its nice to come home to a quiet empty house after a long day, but that usually isn't the case anymore.

We are going to Manchester with the boarders tomorrow, but since it is an exeat weekend, we don't have any prep girls to take care of! Thank goodness! So we get to explore and do what we like, rather than go to Build-A-Bear, which is a nightmare! Especially when the are having a birthday party on the first weekend of the year where there wasn't snow on the ground so everyone and their dogs where out.

Today should be a little less hectic than yesterday. I just felt tossed about, trying to follow my schedule, and a little unwanted/in the way of a few of the senior school staff. So needless to say I was very irritable by the end of the day. Today should be better.

No more teaching practice until Monday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Second Day of Teaching

Today was a learning experience indeed. I know full well what the meaning of being a flexible teacher means. I started an experiment in my year 5 class, noticed it was taking longer than I had hoped, and that there was really no point to weighing the air displacement in sand when you poured water into it; what was more important was that they made the correct observations about what was happening. Things went very smoothly and the girls made some very insightful observations! I was so proud of them!!

My next lesson was a continuation over 100 pairs with my year 6 class. They didn't quite get it like I had hoped and worked much slower than they should have. Guess I'll have to assign some review work for them next week. The show must go on though!

I also received the scheme for my year 9 Biology class, so I suppose she wants me to start teaching soon! Oh goodness! Guess I'll really have to do my homework on that one. Classroom management will be key for this group, they are very disrespectful and she is constantly telling them to stop talking. Note to self, it's not a popularity contest so I don't necessarily have to be nice. Seat changes may be in order!

Monday, January 18, 2010

First 2 Lessons

I taught my first 2 full blown lessons today! I think they went really well. The first one I taught to year 5 over sequencing, and counting by a certain increment, and to year 6 I taught adding to make 1, 10, and 100. I do believe it is a little easier here than in the states, because the students at this school know they are here because their parents pay for them to be here, so they are better behaved. One thing I observed my mentor in the senior school do, is she doesn't have students raise their hand, she just calls on students. This way the students are more attentive because they know they could be called on at any moment. Luckily for me the 2 teachers whose classes I taught in have effective classroom management strategies in play. I did however make one student cry today!! I know, what an awful, mean teacher Miss Rothrock is! Some of the year 5 girls were fighting over these blocks that they wanted to keep on their desk, and I just didn't want to deal with it so I told all of them to just put them back in the bin, and we weren't using them at all therefore there was no need to have them. Two of the girls were arguing about putting them back in the bin, and so I told the girl who had them on her desk to put it away. I watched her walk to the back and put them away, so I turned around to begin my lesson. The next thing I know, she is bawling!! Ms. Platt had to take her out in the hallway to ask her what was wrong, but was sent back to her seat straight away. Oh boy! What a way to start the day!

Other than that, I think everything went pretty well, I think smoothness of delivery comes with practice, so that is something to work on. I was marking their work this afternoon and most of them did really well; of course there are always a few that just rush through their work and make careless mistakes.

I am teaching a science lesson tomorrow and continuing the lesson in one of the maths classes, so I have to go to school a little early to set up the experiment. Should be a fun day!

Lazy Sundays in Denbigh

Well, Jen and I gave going to church in Denbigh another go. We set out for St. Mary's Anglican Church, and of course arrived during the Welch service, fail number 1. So, we then decided to go to Morrison's (a supermarket) to put up a few things and then we would go back to St. Mary's for the 11 o'clock service; Morrison's wasn't open yet, fail number 2. After wasting about an hour walking around Denbigh, it was finally time to head to St. Mary's, which was much better than St. Tomas', but still not my favorite. I'm glad we will be traveling most weekends.

We then decided to take another walk up the hill to Denbigh Castle, which we love going to, and brought Brighid, the gap-year student, along for the walk since she hasn't been yet. We walked around, speculating what things were we could see in the distance and at the castle. We all then just sort of plopped down on the remains of some walls (well I was sitting IN the wall) and Jennifer and I took little catnaps atop the hill in the ruins of Denbigh castle! What a wonderful lazy Sunday!

PS I am teaching 2 double maths lessons today so I'll blog later about how those went!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now that I have my timetable sorted...

Just to give you a little background on the education system in the UK, grade levels in the states are only one off from the grade levels here. So, if i say I'm in a year 6 lesson, that is the equivalent of 5th grade. Up to year 6 is in the preparatory school and 7 through 11 is in the senior school. After that they call it 6th form which is like being a junior and/or senior in high school, but they get to choose the classes they want to "specialize" in so it is really preparing them for college.

SO, with all that said, this is sort of what I have going on.

Mondays: double maths with year 5, then double maths with year 6 (in which I have full responsibility to teach them the "numbers" section of their maths lessons, Mrs. Lowe teaches the "Shapes, Data, and Measures" portion), then I go over to the senior school to have lessons with my sweet year 11 student, then double maths with year 10 (I really enjoy this class)

Tuesdays: double science with year 5 (which I am now responsible for the next 4 sections of a unit on gasses) double maths again with year 6, 2 planning periods (I love the UK because they think teachers should have almost a full days worth of planning periods through out the week) and lunch, then year 9 biology, another planning period and then for enrichment Jen and I have started a Texas Club where we will teach them about Texas of course!

Wednesdays: year 7 chemistry, year 7 maths, double maths with year 5 (this means back to the prep school), double science with year 6, planning period, back up to senior school for a period of year 9 maths and then during enrichment time, a lesson of year 10 maths.

Thursdays: year 7 maths, year 10 maths, year 9 biology, 2 planning periods and lunch, year 8 maths , a planning period, one lesson of year 11 maths (only observing, took this on only out of pure interest in maybe getting a secondary certification) and then nothing for enrichment time!!

Fridays: late morning!! only joking, I have 2 planning periods to start the day then double science with year 6, 2 planning periods and lunch, year 7 chemistry, year 9 maths, and then during enrichment I will go watch the prep girls play netball because I hear it is great fun!

I am still looking to observe a physics class, no teaching, because if you can't tell, even with all the planning periods, I am going to be a very busy girl. I am very much looking forward to it though. I am teaching 2 lessons on Monday, 2 double maths lessons to my year 5 and 6 classes! Hopefully I don't choke! :)

Extra Curricular Activities

Here is just a taste of what there is to do here in Denbigh (Den-bee). The first day we arrived at Howells, there wasn't much for us to do, so the PA of the head suggested we go explore Denbigh. We thought, what the heck? So we set off the to Vale St, the main road just one block from our Park Street flat, and headed left (sorry Papaw, I don't know if it was NSEorW?). There were shops, including a Co-op (a fair-trade food distributer that is pretty common in the UK, sort of small) a few chemists of pharmacies, a chocolate shop, a Welsh store we have yet to find, two butchers, a farmers mart, and about 10 pubs (typical). But as good teachers do, we had done our research and knew there were castle ruins to be found. We hiked up a few steep roads and finally found it! It was absolutely beautiful!!! The grass was still very green and the walls were sort of mysterious, so we tromped around naming what we thought the rooms were (of course we talked about being princesses), pretended to visit Hagrid, and in honor of Matthew I had to climb something (of course it was the wall that said it probably wasn't a good idea to but that was obviously the one I wanted to climb). So, walking around the town took all of 20 to 30 minutes but Jen and I had a blast at the castle for at least an hour and a half.

Wednesday this evening we went to visit an American teacher from the school, Mrs. Patty Jones (I think she could be a Dunham, G you have a long lost sister I don't know about?). She is the Pshycology teacher in the senior school and told us she had an open door that whenever we wanted to just to pop over, so we did.

Thursday night this week, we were encouraged to visit the quiz night at the local pub, we are learning that all things social revolve around the pub. So Jen and I and an Australian gap student who is working at Howells, all went down to the Hope & Anchor for quiz night and met up with one of the prep school teachers (don't worry we are all caught up on our lesson plans and have 2 planning periods first thing Friday morning). Needless to say, with a 22 year old, a 21 year old, and an 18 year old, we were not the most stacked team, and we were all rookies to the game; not to mention we were at least half the age of 90% of the people there. The quizmaster we found out is the head of a primary school just down the road, so we recruited him for our team next time when he will no longer be the quizmaster. PS he gave us a 20 point bonus for our handicap :) but we were still behind by about 15 points! We all really enjoyed it and plan to go back next week.

Needless to say, there aren't a whole lot of things to do in Denbigh...

What We Eat

As you might guess, the food (names and options) are a little different here. For instance:

Chips = Fries

Crisps = Chips

Pudding = Any Sort of Dessert

Biscuits = Cookies

Just to name a few. Some of the things Jennifer and I have enjoyed eating are: custard (really really tasty, my favorite thing), lots of potatoes, hot cross buns (they are real, not just from the song, to the right), lots of tea, crumble (which is sort of like cobbler, and goes very nice with custard), roasted lamb, broccoli and cauliflower with loads of cheese, rice pudding (also very tasty), veggie patties (here they call vegetarians veggies), and yogurt (not the really sweet kind we are used to, just plain lo' yogurt, and they pronounce it yah-gut). They have also served my personal favorite, PIZZA, which I have very much appreciated. They also serve this item called a flapjack (which we would think oh, a stack of pancakes) which is really a nutty, honey-y granola bar that is very tasty, served with custard!!! Mmmmmm!!

Tony, on of the chefs, was an army cook for about 15 or 20 years. Jennifer and I were thinking, before we got here, that surely Howells would serve really healthy, light meals since it is an all girls boarding school. On the contrary, it is all very heavy and filling. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I guess I'll have to give up now on my new year's resolution if I want to continue to eat yummy, FREE food.

It has been really exciting trying new foods and we have become friends with the chefs and kitchen staff which makes going to dinner (lunch) and tea (dinner/supper) fun indeed.

Week 1 Reflections

Although the snow has proved to be problematic for continuing classes, and the boarders have been bored and feel trapped in the house, Jennifer and I have had the opportunity to get to know everyone better than we would have, had it not snowed; for that, I am thankful. Wednesday and Thursday last week, we spent the day in St. George's House, and played in the snow with the girls. We also had some time to sit with Ms. Chris, a secretary for the preparatory school, supervising in the house, so we had some time to just chat. Everyone has been so helpful and inviting. Many people have invited us over either to just have a change of scenery or what-not, and given us their phone numbers in case we should need anything.

We had a meeting with the Head, Ms. Hodgson, on Friday to discuss how things are going, if we are settling in fine, and to see if we had any questions. Jennifer has her time table figured out already but since I will be floating between the preparatory school and the senior school, it is taking a little more time and effort to figure out. I will have the opportunity to work with a student one-on-one for two math lessons every monday. She is behind; she is an 11th year student (10th grade) and is completing 7th year requirements (6th grade). I think this will be a very good experience for both of us.

On Sunday, we decided to check out a local church, St. Thomas Presbyterian Church, which is literally 2 blocks from our flat. It was very traditional, they sung hymns, had a short sermon, and everyone gathered for tea and biscuits (cookies) afterward. I think we will check out St. Mary's next week.

In case you are interested to know, Howells was actually in the running to be Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. They were in the top 3 and then the producers chose to use a few churches instead. But how cool is that?!?! It really is Hogwarts!!

Jennifer and I will also be working in St. George's House 2 nights a week. We will be putting the prep boarders to bed. Those 3 little girls are so adorable and they are such a handful as well, so we have decided that a tag team method would work best rather than each doing one night solo. One of the prep boarders was at dinner tonight when we were discussing with Ms. White about helping and she was so excited that we would be coming in every week! That just gives you a good feeling!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

another snow day

....which means still no internet in the flat! the next time the technician is scheduled to come to school is Friday, so say a prayer and cross your fingers and toes, maybe we will finally get lucky!

I have almost got my timetable sorted out. I have picked up a year 10 maths class (which will be like a freshman math class) which I am really excited about!! I also now have a year 7 chemistry class and a year 9 biology class, still working on getting a physics lesson. should know by tomorrow. Since this is a 150 year old school, they are still using lots of pen and paper for keeping records which slows the process of making my timetable.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

week 2 day 2

I am working on filling out my timetable (schedule). I have maths and science in the preparatory school and chemistry, biology, and maths in the senior school. I still have a few periods to work out, but it is coming together quite nicely. I have one on one lessons with a student who is working below her levels, but is a pleasure to work with. I will start teaching Monday morning maths and science lessons in the preparatory school.

We are supposed to have a technician come tomorrow during the day so we should have internet by the time we get out of school, as long as it doesn't snow this evening. I have blogs waiting to be posted on my computer at home, and since I am in the junior library at the moment, can't be posted immediately.

More to be posted in the days to come!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First week at Hogwart...I mean Howells

Disclaimer: I won't be able to write too much just yet, as most of you know, we do not have internet at the flat, and I don't have my notes with me. There will be pictures and more details to come.

We arrived on Monday, met some important people, got provisions from the kitchen, and settled into our flat. We explored Denbigh (pronounced Din-bee) a little. The town is very small, and we spent more time at the castle ruins than anywhere else, but let me just is BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL here! Jennifer and I keep saying, "is this really our life?" It is so fantastic!

Day 2, Tuesday: We met with the head, Rachael Hodgson, to go over logistics and assignments. We spent the rest of the morning in the preparatory school. After lunch, the bagan to send students home because it was a blizzard outside (not really, but I've never seen anything like it); I believe there was 4 or 5 inches of snow, but apparently it doesn't snow in Denbigh often, so people sort of freaked. We had 29 extra students that couldn't get home and a few parents that were stranded as well.

Day 3-4: Jennifer and I have spent these 2 days helping out in St. George's Boarding House, where most of the girls are. Mostly we have been with the 3 preparatory boarders (age 7, 8, and 9), and boy, are they a handful! It is really great though because we get to see the girls outside of school and get to know them. Although, most of the girls who attend Howells do not board, at least we get to know the ones that do.

We should be getting internet tomorrow at the flat, so I can load pictures and Skype. More to come soon!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Last Day in London

We started out the day going to East Hill Baptist Church; the church Jennifer's brother attended when he lived here. Following the service, we had tea and cake. One thing I learned about tea, you have to ask for it without milk or you get it with milk. I like mine straight; no milk or sugar. I'm weird!

We then took the bus down to all the attractions again to get some daylight photos. We stopped to grab lunch at this place called Pret. I got a Swedish meatball wrap
and some sweet potato crisps. It was very delicious! So we ate as we walked along St James Park to Buckingham Palace (me at the gates to the left) and then to Westminster Abbey; the photo to the right. It is a very beautiful building, you have to just stand in awe of it for a minute. We hit up most of the same p
laces we did on day 2 to get pictures during the daylight.

The sun started to go down and it became bitterly cold so we decided to come back to the flat and start packing our things because we catch a train from Euston Station to Rhyl Station (in Wales, close to Denbigh) at 8:10 in the morning, but first we have to get to Euston Station from where we are now. We plan on leaving the flat at 6:30 in the morning. We are both becoming anxious and excited to get to Howells, maybe not necessarily to start teaching, we are enjoying playing and exploring far too much!

Day 3 in London was my Favorite!!

In case you haven't deduced it yet...Jennifer and I are trying every avenue we know to get to Hogwarts!! I guess they really don't like muggles right now or something. We searched all over King's Cross Station, and finally found Platform 9 and three quarters!! We decided we would have to settle for our own "Hogwarts" aka Howells.

But at any rate, I'll start from the beginning of the day. We went to this really neat little fair trade bistro called The Pantry. We drank tea with actual lumps of sugar (see facebook for a picture), I always thought they meant spoonfuls, but they are actual lumps. I had toasted foccacia and sausage with onion marmalade, and it was delicious! We then attempted to go to Notting Hill to go to Market Day (if you've seen Notting Hill, you know what I'm talking about. We boarded the correct numbered bus going in the wrong direction, so we literally rode around a corner and hopped off. Then we got on the right bus, and I couldn't find my Oyster Card (transit pass) to get on, so the bus driver just said to get on and I could swipe it when I found it. Well, I couldn't find it, and freaked out because my train ticket to Wales was with it, so we jumped off and started walking back to retrace our steps and then I found it in my purse. Attempt number 3 to Notting Hill was successful. We wondered
around Market Day and Notting Hill for a few hours. It was very very busy.

We then headed to the other side of London to have lunch with my Grandfather's friend, Chuck, from the doctorate program who now lives in London with his wife, Susan. She made shepard's pie, and it was delicious! My uncle Chris would have loved it! We had tea and apple pie afterward and relaxed before heading off to our next thing, which was the search for Platform 9 and three quarters.

We then headed over to Bakers Street to find 221b; Sherlock Holmes' house. We made it too late to go to the museum, but we weren't too bummed. We wanted to go see a show after that, but everything was sold out.

We then decided we were hungry, so we went to the Fish Club (where Jennifer used to work) and the manager gave us free dinner. So we had a shrimp and charizo skewer as an appetizer, and battered fish and sweet chips (sweet potato fries) for dinner and he brought out a brownie with buttered pecan ice cream; that was the best ice cream I have ever had in my life!!! Thanks Harry!

All in all it was a great day: Harry Potter attractions, 2 free meals, spending another day in was great!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 2 Adventures

Well, jet lag set in a little this morning, so we had a late start. We took the train into London and saw Big Ben, House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Eye of London, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Hyde Park Corner, and what we think was the St Peter's Gate. We are getting good at riding the buses and not getting lost, although we were looking for this fish & chips joint last night and ended up walking about a 3 mile circle, needless to say we woke up a little sore after all the walking we did yesterday. I am already used to riding the bus on the "wrong" side of the road. I think it will be weird coming back to the states and driving on the right side of the road!
Next to me in the picture to the left is a phone booth (which I haven't seen one person use) but it's like the one in Harry Potter that is the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic! So cool! We are hoping to make it to King's Cross Station so we can visit Platform 9 and three quarters, I've seen a picture where they have a trolley going into the pillar, and I really want to get a picture! I know, I'm nerdy!

In the picture to the right is of a statue outside Buckingham Palace! It was awesome! There is so much art everywhere and love it! Everything is visually stimulating, and its like that all over London.

London is a really interesting place, and there is so much history here, but it is stinkin' cold and very polluted (it turns your boogers black!) We are staying in zone 2 in a town called Wandsworth (Harry Potter themed, it was meant to be!!) and it is sort of the up and coming young business professionals area, or thats what I have inferred. We have lots of plans for tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll post again tomorrow.

Happy New Year!