Thanks for Visiting my Blog!

I am curious to learn where the people who are reading my blog are from in the World. I don't know any way to find out except to ask, so I am. I have a Visitor's Poll on the right side. Please take a second to select the best answer. If I don't have your Country listed it is not intended as a Slight (China was suppose to be there; I can't add it now). I quickly realized I could not list every country, so I have continents listed. Feel free to drop me a comment or email as to which Country you reside in if it isn't in the list IN ADDITION to selecting the best answer in the poll. Thanks

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back in Miguel Alemán - another ESL year

I arrived back in Cuidad Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, México yesterday. The 700 plus mile trip was made longer by the torrential rains along the way. I stopped in Houston long enough to shop for posters and other class room materials at Mardel's.

Today I went to Eagle College and learned that there are currently three teachers for the six grades of English (I'm not sure what they have planned for 7th grade). The new teacher Erin will be teaching First and Second grade while I will have Third and Fourth Grades. Melina will again teach Fifth and Sixth Grades.

It is anticipated that I will have a dozen students in Third Grade (8 who were in Second Grade last year at Eagle College and four who will be attending Eagle College for the first time) and a baker's dozen (13) in Fourth Grade all of whom I had last year in Third Grade. Unfortunately two of my better students from last year moved over the summer along with two others. If I am lucky one more will also not show. He shouldn't be in Fourth Grade as he was unable to function in Third Grade. Why the school promoted him is beyong me. He doesn't need to be in a higher grade.

Classes start Monday, but I suspect that will be more of an orientation day. I know going in that the text books will be more advanced English than any of the students have to begin the year. My challenge will be to build their English WHILE also getting them through the text books. Science will be the most difficult for them.

And while they are learning English I hope to be learning Spanish. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's been awhile

It has been awhile since I updated my blogs. So today I hope to update at least a couple - this one and my fantasy sports blog. If you are into fantasy sports be sure and visit by website I am adding content but there is plenty there now for fantasy football enthusiasts.

On other matters, I am back in Three Creeks for now. School at Eagle College (that is an elementary school) in Cuidad Miguel Alemán, México ended July 4 - that is when final grades were available for parents. Classes really ended a week earlier and I left a day earlier so I wouldn't be on the road July 4. When I left, I was not sure if I would return for another year or not. I needed to see how things were at home with my father and mother before deciding. I also needed to decide if I could afford to return. Teaching English at Eagle College isn't something you do for money but I don't want to be in the red either.

Anyway, I plan to return in early August to Miguel Alemán and teach a full year. I hope by starting the year rather than coming in the middle I can help elevate the English of the students to near or above the US levels. It will be a challenge since the students will begin the year below the US level for their grade. I do not yet know which grade or grades I will be teaching. But I know 3rd, 4th and 5th grades will all start behind the US levels.

So I am in 3 Creeks for about another 3 weeks. I have a ton of clean-up work to do in that time and hopefully will start some lesson planning also. Anyone out there who knows of a good test to measure elementary English proficiency, drop me an email or comment. I haven"t been able to find or devise a test that will tell me at what level a student is in their English. I can only tell they are not at the level they need to be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fourth Grade

Here are my fourth graders:

Latest update - 4th grade added; chicken pox - varicella

It's been awhile since I posted on here and I apologize. Eagle College (it still seems weird to me to refer to a k-6 school as college) had its spring break from March 14 through March 31. I returned to South Arkansas for most of that time and then returned via Austin, Texas and Big Bend Texas. My search for blue bonnets around Austin was a bust, but I enjoyed my day in Big Bend. I should have photos online sometime of Big Bend.

Back to Eagle College.

Upon arriving back in Cuidad Miguel Alemán on Sunday, March 30 I discovered that one of the teachers was not returning after the break. On Monday I discovered that another teacher was not returning. The teacher who had been teaching 4th grade had a sister involved in a serious car accident in San Antonio and stayed in San Antonio to be with her. The teacher teaching 2nd grade also had some family problems and, if I understood correctly, is in Florida.

So on April Fool's day, I added 4th grade to my class schedule. I now teach 3rd grade English from 8 until 10:30 every morning and after the 10:30 to 11 am break (recess and brunch) I teach 4th grade from 11 until 2.

There are only 8 students in 4th grade compared to my 17 in third grade but they are in a similar situation to my third grade - they need their vocabulary built up before they can learn 4th grade material in English. Plus I have 1 student who is ADD. His parents have decided they do not want him medicated. To say he is disruptive to the class is an understatement.

Added to this mix is chicken pox and 100 degree weather with no AC - at home or in my car. We do have AC at school thankfully.

This is the first time since my return that I have a sense of not being behind although in truth I am still a little behind. But most of my tardiness now is on projects unrelated to third or fourth grade. In addition to teaching I am also doing video for the local church. That includes funeral services for the Pastor's mother of which I have so far made 50 DVDs. I currently have one " 2 1/2 hour" video to get burned to DVD of a Church dedication (March 14) and this past Sunday's service. Once I have those on DVD, I will finally be caught up on DVDs except for making any copies requested. I am hoping a lot of people want the church dedication since the money from those could pay for my Car's AC.

Back to Chicken Pox or varicella in Spanish. One of the first graders had it when we returned from Spring Break. She did not come to school because of it. Another first grader soon had it. A replacement teacher came down with it and just this past Thursday one of my third grade students left class with it. As I understand from the internet, it takes 10 to 21 days after exposure for chicken pox to manifest itself. A person is contagious beginning 2 days before they show the itchy red welts (in other words before trhey even know they have chicken pox) until all of the welts are scabbed over. Chicken pox can be transmitted by both direct contact and by air. So I may have more students in a couple of weeks with chicken pox. Thew good news is my student had been vacinated for Chicken pox so her case hopefully will be milder than normal. About 2 out of 10 people vacinated once for chicken pox still contract the disease. Now they usually give a double dose of the vaccine - 2 different times - and that seems to be near 100% effective.

Normally a person does not get chicken pox more than once in a lifetime. I had them when I was a baby so hopefully my immunity is still good. Time will tell.

Oh and the Spanish word makes more sense than the English. Chicken pox is from the varicella zoster virus.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New picasa page

A group is coming down from Michigan this month to do some volunteer work at the school. Talking to one of the volunteers who is already here, I thought creating a separate picasa page just for photos of the school or related to the school would be a good idea. Anyone from the group is welcome to post their photos to the page and I'll be posting some of mine. In fact, I posted quite a few tonight and divided them by schol year (more or less).

The new picasa page is:

I'll try to get an updated posting about what is happening here tomorrow. It's late now and I have a test to create and some other work to do. So check back in the next day or two if you are viewing this around the 20th of February.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

104 degrees in February

When I returned from classes today the computer showed that the temperature in Roma, Texas was 104 degrees. That was at about 2:30 P.M. It is now almost 5 P.M. and the same computer shows the temperature outside to be 101. It is only February 5! And if you are thinking that I live in Cuidad Miguel Alemán, Mexico and not Roma, Texas I am not sure that 30 yards across the Rio Grande River makes it any cooler here.

Today is the anniversary of the Constitution of Mexico. Schools and businesses celebrated the holiday yesterday so today was the first day back to classes. Last week I tested my Third Graders on their knowledge of English pronouns. We also began studying 16 words from a list of the most frequently used words in the English Language. I had each students select a word from the list of about 260 words. I did not tell them when they were choosing that they would have to learn those words - learn how to spell them and learn what each word meant. Even my best students often have no idea what the word they spell or read means. For example, today they were learning the Scripture verse "...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved ..." from Acts 16:31. I normally try to use more modern language such as "you" rather than "thou" and "will" rather than "shalt", but this verse was in their school material. Several students had memorized the verse in just a few minutes and could recite it to me very well. When I asked if anyone knew what "believe", "thou" or "shalt" meant, no one had a clue.

That is typical of my class. They can read words and spell words but at the same time have no understanding of the word. So we have began identifying each key word and identifying it. Often this means identifying the Spanish word that has the same or similar meaning. Today we did that with the 12 pronouns - he, she, it, you, me, us, which, I, we, they, her, him - and their 16 chosen vocabulary words. The vocabulary words are: about, be, big, black, color, friend, from, have, next, open, play, present (which can be pronounced 2 different ways and has combined about 4 meanings), run, some, they and under. Not a bad selection to learn first. I will have them chose 16 or 17 more words either tomorrow or Thursday. One student was absent the day they initially selected words, but handles 16 words well but 17 not so well. I may stay with 16.

Back to the 104 degrees. Last Thursday night/Friday morning it was about 36 degrees here. The forecast for tonight is a low of 52 degrees - 50 degrees cooler than the high. And you think the weather where you live is unpredictable? Since it was so hot today, I decided to go ahead and take my VW Jetta into the local dealership to have the AC checked. As my luck would go, it began "acting up" about a week ago. Everytime I switch on the AC there is a loud rumble. I am hoping it is not an expensive repair. If it is too expensive, I will just forego the AC and drive with the windows down. I am old enough to remember when lots of vehicles did not have AC and driving with the windows down was your air.

I'll close with another photo. Ok. Two photos.
I hope to begin adding photos to my picasa album soon - maybe tonight! Feel free to visit and bookmark my album -

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's been 3 weeks, and I'm still learning

It has now been 3 weeks since I began teaching English to students whose native language is Spanish. When I made the 680 mile drive down to Cuidad Migual Alemán, I understood that I would be taking over a class of 10 second grade students. The class was one of two being taught by the other US citizen teaching here, Amy. She was teaching English to both first and second grade but really was having to short both since she was having to split her time. When we arrived for classes on January 7, the plan was that I would help her initially with the second grade class for a day or so just to learn where they were and what they were doing. Then I was to take over. That didn't happen. Both Amy and I learned just before classes commenced at 8 A.M. that I was to be teaching Third grade instead. The former teacher did not continue after the Christmas break. So I found myself suddenly teaching 16 Third Grade students. Talk about being unprepared.

I had no books for Third Grade except 1 planning guide. I was (and am) teaching from 8 A.M. until 10:30 am every morning. Then from 10:30 until 11 A.M. the children have "recess" and more or less lunch. It is not a cafeteria experience as we have in the states but the children can buy tacos and sandwiches and similar foods at this time and most do. From 11 until 12:45 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday they have their Spanish language class. That is not taught by me (obviously since I am slowly learning Spanish). Then they have a recess break from 12:45 until 1 P.M. From 1 until 2 P.M. they are under my tutelage once again. On Tuesday they had Computer lab for 45 minutes carved out of their Spanish time. I say had because my class gained a student about a week ago (up to 17) and when it did, we suddenly had too many students for 1 computer lab. So now half of the students have lab on Tuesday during their Spanish time, and the other half have it on Thursday morning during my morning session. I had the teacher doing the Computer labs split my class so the students who need more help in English will have labs on Tuesday and I will have them on Thursday. That way I can focus some time on helping them learn the basics most of the better students know while those better students are taking Computer lab.

That is a general synopsis of the schedule. During the time I have the students, I am to teach not only English grammar and spelling but also reading, science, art, cursive writing, and science. Yes science falls to the English teacher and it is causing headaches. The students do not have a US Third Grade vocabulary of the English language, but the Abeka course material is designed for US Third Grade English. Many of my students have never had any English before. Suddenly they are presented with Third Grade US English. LOST. I have 6 to 8 students who are able to do the Third Grade spelling. Those students are not able to read and understand the science material. SO where does that leave the poorer English students? And this is a common problem in 4th, 5th and 6th grade also. The material is too advanced for students whose native language is not English.

For 2 weeks I did evaluations. I had no idea what the students knew nor what they had been taught the first half of the year. I did get the books but quickly learned that they were not comprehending them. So I am now going backwards in order to go forward. This week I am testing the students on pronouns such as he, she, it, you, me, us, we, him, her, they and which. The better students all did well on my exploratory spelling test using these words (I gave the class a spelling test without warning on these words). "Which" gave the better students problems, but that was the only word. The poorer students however knew some of the words but not all. So I will be having them learn these words this week rather than the Third Grade spelling words like preached, continually, several, etc.... Even the students who are spelling these words correctly are doing so without any understanding of what the words mean. So I am regressing to basics to build up their vocabulary and reading skills. I am also using Dr Seuss books and others that I brought. Each student had selected 1 book to read at his or her level (supposedly). I figure the weaker students need to experience some success. Hopefully by having them learn words they can learn they will start to gain some confidence.

If you are wondering why I haven't been writing much in the past few weeks it is simply because I had problems getting onto the internet. Initially it was because I needed a stronger wireless card in my computer. My computer was too far from the base router. Then once I got that solved, we lost our DSL service for over a week due to rain and a bad phone line. I finally got the internet back just this weekend.

Here is a photo of my students:

Search this and other sites

by title by author