Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Whole New World

I knew from the very beginning that the school I volunteered and worked at in Geneva was exceptional in virtually every way. Tuition for kindergarten started slightly above 15,000 Swiss Franc a year. While not every parent was abundantly wealthy, it was not uncommon to see a handful of Porsche Cayennes in the parking lot. Designer-clad eight-year-olds sporting cell phones were not unusual. But the kids were still kids and, with as many as 18 different mother-tongues in any given classroom, their proper education was a challenge. The teachers were outstanding: respectful, caring, highly skilled and responsive. Support services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education were at the ready. Field trips were a regular occurrence as were invited guests that included theatre troops and published authors. The library was extensive. It was an ideal world I wonder if I'll ever see again.

This week I began my field experience in the public schools of P-town. From now until the end of term I will spend one to two mornings a week at an area high school and two afternoons in kindergarten. The kindergarten class serves an exceptionally poor population. The school itself was established to help the most at-risk families in the area. Most children live at or below the poverty line, therefore qualify to receive breakfast, lunch and two snacks at school. I've been told that, for some, this may be the only food they receive all day. The high school is the institution that these kindergarteners will eventually attend. There I've been assigned to the Behavioral and Emotional Disorders classes: rooms filled with some of the biggest personalities I have ever met. (Considering I worked three years at an inner-city hospital, that's saying something.) It should make for an interesting ten weeks, to say the least.

Stay tuned: I'll share what I can here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Mature Student

When I completed my first degree, I didn't need a computer. I had an electric typewriter with an LCD screen that granted me a fifteen letter lead time to catch mistakes before they were printed. Research was performed at the library; class hand-outs were the norm; and access to professors was limited to their office hours. I shared a landline phone with two roommates and a cat who liked to re-program the answering machine. Perhaps it is needless to say, but twenty years has changed a few things.

For one, a computer is an absolute necessity. Not having an email address is tantamount to living in a cardboard box and hoping for the odd telegram. Research is performed on online databases; handouts are now downloads; and professors dispense their home numbers with strict instructions on when not to call. Cell phones are the bane of every professor's existence: texting during lecture will result in your immediate dismissal. Phones must be turned off, not to silent. And homework is submitted, for the most part, electronically. It's a whole new world.

So how am I liking it? I'm loving it, but it is quite the juggling act. I'm behind in writing to friends and reading their blogs. As it is, I should be sleeping right now, not writing this. I've completed one and half weeks of fourteen. Here's hoping I can keep things together for another twelve and a half!