Week One: Feb. 11-19
February 11, 2017
My day started with me having a panic attack over potentially missing my flight connection and ended with me aboard a double decker (!!) airplane drinking free rum&coke. Spoiler alert: we didn’t make our flight connection. But thanks to some awesome employees at the British airways desk in JFK, we were put on to the next flight from London to Athens and I am now sitting in our apartment with myself and all my luggage safe and sound. When we landed, the guy checking passports at immigration looked super confused that I was traveling with an Irish passport while my friend was traveling with a U.S. passport. On the taxi ride from the airport to our apartment, our driver was really nice and told us that we should call America and let them know that we won’t be coming home in 3 months because we won’t want to leave…I have a feeling he’s right. Our apartment is incredible and we each have access to a balcony from our bedroom (what?!) plus a ton of amenities.
February 12, 2017
First day of student teaching at ACS Athens—YAY! We left the apartment around 8:15am, leaving us plenty of time to get to the metro station and make it one subway ride over to the school. But of course, we got lost. We had to break out the gps apps on our phones and reorient ourselves only once before we were back on track headed in the direction of the metro station, and from there everything was a lot simpler. When we got to the school, I was really interested to see that the layout was this very open campus, with the elementary, middle, and high school all near each other and doors to classrooms were accessed from directly outside rather than within particular buildings—kind of like Kirkbride lecture hall. Walking around and passing some high school students, I realized there was a pretty good chance that at some point this semester I’m going to be mistaken for a high schooler and it’s going to be pretty awkward. While I can’t speak for Lauren’s specific experiences, we both had awesome first days. I started my day in the junior kindergarten class with Ms. Mentes and her aide Ms. Georgia, and their 15 incredible students. Most of the students speak a surprisingly good amount of English, considering nearly all of them are from various countries other than the USA. I spent my day kind of observing and getting to know the classroom, but everyone was so welcoming and it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable with the kids and start getting to know them. I spent the second half of my day in the optimal learning program with Ms. Sarah, which is basically the school’s special education program. There were only 4 students receiving services throughout the time I was there today, but each day there are different students at different times, so it was a nice introduction to what the rest of the week will be like for me. Luckily for us, there’s a supermarket right across the street from the metro station closest to our apartment, so on the way home we picked up some necessities and walked home, exhausted but excited for the next 12 weeks.
Day 1 (of student teaching): February 13, 2017
I do not know what I thought my first day of student teaching would look like in an international school, but it certainly did not come to mind as it did to fruition. On my first day of school, I was greeted with smiles, hugs and welcomes from students and staff alike. I was surprised how they all welcomed me so quickly and calmly, almost as if I had been there since the beginning. They were also intrigued by their new teacher, my accent and my role in the classroom. While I had to answer several questions about the far-off place of America and teach them about the significance about the “Fightin’ Blue Hens,” it showed off the genuine curiosity and hospitable nature Greeks are known for.
To top off my day of firsts, the first day was brought with a 100th Day of School party. As such, the students dressed up as 100 year old men and women. The afternoon was filled with giggles and celebration as they were just 80 days away from summer.
Day 2: February 14, 2017
Day 2 was another fun-filled day at ACS Athens. The classroom was in a positive mood with Valentine’s Day and yet another party. The students loved to exchange valentines and well wishes to one another. One student even hand-cut all of his valentines (stars for the boys, hearts for the girls, of course) with individual notes. The students prided themselves on their hard work and the amount of chocolate they received. Despite even being there for only a day, one student made me a valentine because, “I thought you would be sad without one.”
I also met some of the mothers (and one ya-ya) during the Valentine’s Day party. They set up the room exquisitely and would not stop feeding me (not that I am complaining). Everything was delicious and the students certainly enjoyed the sweet treats.
Day 3: February 15, 2017
Today was one crazy day! I feel that I hardly saw the students! There were multiple transitions for the students. From computers to foreign language to P.E. on top of having a half day, we met with the students for about one hour. This day certainly put into perspective how much the school focuses on the whole child through specials, such as gym, art, foreign language, or science laboratory. The school appears to genuinely care about ensuring the students grows to their maximum potential linguistically, athletically, musically, etc. I also appreciate on how they see a variety of professionals during the course of their day, each one an expert in their subject area. I can only imagine how stressful my lead weeks would be with teaching them gym in-house.
This emphasis on specials and the wide variety of them is one that I have not seen yet in the United States. At my other placement in Delaware, the students went to one special a day and would switch, depending on the day of the week. This is certainly not the case at ACS Athens. While this new schedule and change of pace may seem chaotic at times, I ultimately believe the students are getting the most out of their education. Hearing their stories of what they learned in another class is very enriching and an excellent change of pace.
First weekend plans:
This weekend, Fiona and I hope to venture outside of our little bubble of Agia Paraskevi and our metro stop of Nomismatokopio (say that five times fast) (side note to the side note: I mastered the pronunciation today!!). I am hoping that we will be visiting the famous Acropolis or at least stop by Monosthraki to dine and shop around. Regardless, I am sure that we will find an adventure.