Monday, 29 November 2010

Chapter 21 A day in the life

5:30 am wake ups notwithstanding, the new schedule is pretty hectic. Which, by the way, is why I have been doing such a bad job of keeping up with the blog.

Sorry. I have been thinking about it though!

It’s still pitch dark when I get up. The light in my room at the new place doesn’t work so getting dressed has resulted in some “d’oh” moments once I’ve checked my appearance in the school bathroom.

At 6am the souk is almost deserted; unheard of at any other time of day. It is beautiful. Many of the buildings in Nablus date back to Ottoman times and the architecture is stunning.

I get to school and go immediately to class to set up, write warm up questions on the board and do my printing/photocopying for the day.

The bell rings at about 7:30 – it is rung manually by administration so you couldn’t set your watch by it – and we get in to class for about 7:45. The next two hours are a race against waning concentration levels, well timed games, threats to take away game time and slapping zero breaks on students who forget that the classroom is not, in fact, a zoo.


‘Yes Miss Sara’ sheepishly while sitting back down and dropping the sharpener that was threatening to be thrown across the room.

‘Omar, are we in the playground?’

‘No Miss Sara’ eyes to the ground.

‘Are we perhaps at a party Omar?’

‘No Miss Sara’ squirming in his seat.

‘Where are we Omar?’

‘In class Miss Sara’

‘Good Omar, now what do we not do in class?’

‘Throw things’

‘Excellent, now do you mind if we go on?’

‘No Miss Sara.’

An oft repeated conversation.

We start off each day with the words ‘5 games’ written on the board. Throughout the course of the lesson, often in the first hour, this becomes ‘4 games’, ‘3 games’ continuing all the way down to ‘0 games’ as their many transgressions cause a steady drop in the number of games we are going to play.

‘Uh-oh, one more game down. Children, why have we lost another game?’

Desperate hand waving punctuated by exasperated sighs ‘Because Dina is talking.’

‘Good children. Yes, Dina was talking so now none of us can play.’

Angry sidelong looks directed at Dina as she slouches further down in her seat in embarrassment.

Divide and conquer. A strategy not to be underestimated.

They are lovely kids though.

Pint sized Maya gives me little notes throughout class with detailed drawings of her and me surrounded by hearts and the words: Ilove Mis Srrra.

Much as I enjoy this – I am somewhat concerned that a) she’s scribbling little notes instead of working and b) I’m not catching her at this when she’s meant to be doing page 54 of the phonics book.

There is much points allocation for good behavior.

‘Excellent Waleed, well done Lina, Lana – good work. Points to you all for sitting quietly. Omar! Why are you lying down under your desk?’

Once class is (finally) over and I’ve escorted a line of complaining children down to the zero break detention room, I plop down at my desk and think fondly of grown up offices.

Not for long though, for once break is over I’m supervising the 6th grade for their reading class.


‘Yara, you will almost certainly dislocate your arm if you don’t stop waving it around like that. And dancing around is not going to make me call on you.’

‘Ahmad, is your name Abdullah?’

‘No Miss Sara.’

‘Is your name boywhositsnexttoAbdullah?’

‘No Miss Sara.’

‘Then why in the name of all things holy are you humming along as they are meant to be reading out loud?’

‘I don’t know Miss Sara.’


The bell, eventually, rings. Back to my desk for another bout of nostalgia before putting together prepositions charts featuring foxes in various positions with regards to a tree before heading off to my after school English class.

This one is easy. The girls are motivated, eager to learn and lessons are easy to plan. This is followed by an hour of sports and I get home at about 5:30.

Some experimental cooking with fresh produce – oh the days of ready made meals and chatting with my flatmate about who awarded more zero breaks that day. My current maximum is 12. Out of a class of 21.

Some more planning for the next day before crawling into bed at – yes you heard it – 9 pm.

Speaking of which....

A good night to you all.


  1. but why teach them through collective punishment..

  2. Depends on the thing really. if the class is meant to complete an action as a group, they should be rewarded/punished as a group.

    Also, games, as a rule, are group rewards for good group behavior - which is made up of individual behavior. So the opposite has to be true.

    While still very much learning the ropes, I feel like the classroom contract is an important one. We have a set of rules and a clearly defined punishment and reward system. I think it makes the kids feel safe within a structure while giving them scope to mess around without getting harshly penalized because they know exactly where the line is drawn.

    Well... fingers crossed I'm on the right road. I may come back in a month and totally refute this theory! I do feel like it's been working well though.