I can’t really answer the question what the schools are like because I have only been able to go to 1 school so far. I really enjoyed the school, but I know that any one (of anything) is not a full picture. I have been able to attend 2 classes: 1 English and 1 Writing. Both were actually good.
The English class was really interesting. It was grade 11, I believe. She was reviewing past tenses: simple, continuous and perfect. One thing that was good is that the students had a really good rapport with their teacher. It was not a classroom where everyone sat still and dutifully rose their hand, but instead they interacted with her and the subject matter. I did notice that while most of the class was in English, she did repeat the directions and explanation in Arabic. She had told me before the class that there is a range of proficiency.
The class was mixed gender, which I wasn’t sure how common that was. It is a private Christian school, so that probably had a lot to do with it. She patterned her lesson a lot like I would have. She reviewed the grammar structure with the students then had them give a definition (which she wrote on the board). After the students wrote an example on their own paper and volunteered to read them. She critiqued and corrected the sentences as they read them aloud. If a student did not write anything down, they can listen to each other and get one copied in their book. She was not able to wrap up the lesson because it was class picture day and someone came in and told her to take her class outside to get a picture. (Sound familiar American teachers?)
I returned on Monday to see a writing class. The homework being turned in was an essay on bullying. She had given them sources to use and they were to write a 4-5 paragraph essay. They were to type and print the essays and kids had computer problems (Seriously, just the same, right?) and couldn’t print them out. A couple of kids had the handwritten essay with them or a flash drive, but there are no computers in the classroom so there was no way to print it out.
This class had a lot more instruction in Arabic than the one a few days earlier so I assumed that the students were not as proficient in English.
For this essay, she was only grading thesis, topic sentences, paragraph structure and intro/conclusion. She was not going to check grammar or spelling mistakes. I was able to take a glance at what was turned in and the majority of the issues were typos, no capital letters or random capital letters, and 1 sentence paragraphs. They generally had a thesis and the right number of paragraphs though.
To follow up this activity she had a sample essay from the internet and they had to find the thesis and three main topics. I was not impressed with the essay. It was written in British English, so I can forgive a lot of the things, but there were some spelling and non-native English errors in it. The students however, were spot-on in locating the thesis and body paragraph topics.
The continuing activity was to write a persuasive esssay. Their homework was to choose a title for their essay. She had a number of choices or they could come up with their own: books in class vs laptops; boys/girls school vs coed; eating in class; abortion; teaching world religions in school; etc. I actually would be interested in seeing what their opinion about some of those topics are!
All in all a very productive visit. I’m heading back next Monday to see the follow up class and interview the teacher. I hope to interview a few of the students also!
I have some leads on other schools to visit, but the principals need permission from the Ministry of Education. I’m still working on that, but when I tell them which schools I have contacts at everyone says, “Oh yes! You need to go to that school!” So send some good vibes that the Ministry thinks it is worth it for me to visit these schools!