Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Am I a teacher?!!

      For the month of May I’ll be filling in for a student tutoring primary age children in English – should be fun!  The ages range from 8years to 13 years and the class size from 1-5, (I can see my teacher friends envious at such a small class!) and they are non-British children, but their English seems to be first class to start with!
     Last Thursday was the first session, with two private lessons of one hour each, one after the other; then two lessons with groups the next day of 1½ hours each; then one group lesson of giggly cute girls on Saturday for one hour.  Of the five groups, two of them are ‘reading’ classes, i.e. the children have read a book – which means I have to read it too! – and we discuss the book generally, and the other three groups are English grammar, spelling etc. Fortunately the grammar worksheets are pre-prepared (but not proofread!!!), but for the reading classes I have to prepare a worksheet!  Remember, I am not a teacher! I have no teaching qualifications or degrees, and the only experience I have had is teaching RE (religious education) to a class of thirty 10 year olds once a week for about a year, and making sure my own children did their homework – and that was a while ago!

     I don’t think I would have been able to carry it if I were working full time; it’s amazing how much time it takes to prepare a reading worksheet, as well as read the books!  (And the marking afterwards!) The children are expected to read a book in two weeks; so they’ve recently finished The Borrowers (fortunately I only have to mark a previous worksheet, because I know little about The Borrowers except snippets of the movie!), Jungle Book (I came in on the second half of the book which I decided was far more interesting than dear old Mowgli, Baloo and the gang!), and Black Beauty. 

     It’s amazing what one picks up from children’s books!  For example, in Jungle Book, the last four ‘books’ after Mowgli (yes, Jungle Book is more than the monkeys and tigers and snakes in the jungle!) have some powerful messages.  The White Seal is about a seal that is white – duh! – which means it is different from the others. It is however treated as one of them, but Kotick (the white seal’s name, probably Russian) has more sense than the others! Kotick sees man drive some of his buddies away from their colony and follows them secretly, only to see them being clubbed to death L.  He runs back and tells everyone what is happening, but they don’t believe him. This is something they have got used to over the years: that man drives some of their colony off ‘somewhere else’ – beyond that they have no knowledge of what happens and are certainly not going to believe the white seal.

     Kotick however, is not stupid and sets out to find a place for his friends and family where man cannot drive them off and kill them. He has little support from anyone, but is determined to find this ‘paradise’.  With a few hints from a wise walrus, he eventually does find the absolutely perfect, man-impenetrable, delightful, beautiful sea and sand! And being the loving and caring seal he is, he goes back to tell the rest and to take them away from danger.  Do they listen? Of course not! Well some do, but the majority don’t. Sound familiar? How often does a preacher warn people of hell and they don’t listen! Firstly they don’t believe the danger is there, then they don’t want to go to a Perfect Paradise – just sounds unbelievable!

     Another story in Jungle Book is His Majesty’s Service. A number of animals were used in old-time war efforts. The horse, mule, bullock, camel and elephants tell each other of their part in the war. It becomes very clear that no one animal is better than the others – they all have a part to play, and it is a part which no-one else can play. So there’s a moral in every story! But the dialogue in this one, showing the interaction was fun! It’s just how I imagine a group of men standing around a BBQ with their beers, strangers to start with, ‘jostling’ with their achievements and status, but eventually all agree that whereas the dustman would not be able to plan their five year tax avoidance strategy, the accountant wouldn’t be able to lift and throw heavy bags and bins all day in all kinds of weather!
     Today I finished reading Black Beauty – I probably read it as a child and know the basic story, but can’t even remember reading it to my girls – I think they probably read it for themselves! In the last few chapters Black Beauty becomes a London cab horse, and since I’m now living in London (and like Black Beauty would prefer the green open countryside!), I found it interesting that the streets were described exactly as they are now!

“I had a very good mouth – that is, I could be guided by the slightest touch of the rein, and that is a great thing in London, amongst carriages, omnibuses, carts, vans, trucks, cabs, and great wagons creeping along at a walking pace; some going one way, some another, some going slowly, others wanting to pass them, omnibuses stopping short every few minutes to take up a passenger, obliging the horse that is coming behind to pull up too, or to pass and get before them; perhaps you try to pass, but just then something else comes dashing in through the narrow opening, and you have to keep in behind the omnibus again; presently you think you see a chance, and manage to get to the front, going so near the wheels on each side that half an inch nearer and they would scrape. (Whew! That’s all one sentence!) Well, you get along for a bit, but soon find yourself in a long train of carts and carriages all obliged to go at a walk; perhaps you come to a regular block-up and have to stand still for minutes together, till something clears out into a side street, or the policeman interferes; you have to be ready for any chance – to dash forward if there be an opening, and be quick as a rat dog to see if there be room, and if there be time, lest you get your own wheels locked, or smashed, or the shaft of some other vehicle run into your chest or shoulder.  All this is what you have to be ready for. If you want to get through London fast in the middle of the day, it wants a deal of patience.”

And believe me, nothing’s changed!! Change the omnibus to bus, the carriages to cars, the carts to scooters and bikes, and the great wagons to lorries, and it's a contemporary description!

Maybe I should read more children’s books!!

Oh and yes, I’m enjoying the teaching!

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