Monday, 9 February 2009

Work & Leisure


We (that is, Francesca and I) arrive at school at around 7:00 each day, half an hour or so before we're required to be there and an hour before the kids arrive, and our day starts with a mug of coffee (a coffee machine in the classroom makes it, some mornings, a social hub; there is no real staffroom). The classroom is small - maybe 4 meters a side - and much of it is occupied with furniture; the children all have chairs, there're two tables, and 4 children have individual desks, plus Francesca's desk, permanently covered in a rather thick layer of... well... stuff. Everyone's really friendly and helpful, when I've made mistakes, and they're very accomodating.

I'm working in Francesca's class - the children are approximately 5 through 7, kindergarten to first graders, and a mixture of unclassified SEN. Kids here aren't classified (officially) until 8, and none of these children are as severely affected as the ones I was working with in Manchester - they have more self-awareness, and more knowledge of what's appropriate and right (though one of them has the developement of an 18-month-old or less, excluding being potty-trained). There're 9 of them, split 6/3 female/male, and the plurality are Down's Syndrome children (observational diagnosis) and 2 are autistic (and exhibit some of the more obvious characteristics thereof).

All in all it's a lot of fun, and somewhat different from the UK (I keep saying "Put that in the bin" and getting blank looks, because of course the term here is trash); the most noticable difference is the commonality of actually physically moving the children - it's worth bearing in mind that in some states (Georgia, for instance) corporal punishment is still legal - and similar matters. I'm looking forward to working here for a while to come.


Wednesday was a half-day, meaning school let out at about 11:30; I took advantage of the foreshortened day to go and visit the National Cathedral, which is on Mt Vernon (to avoid zoning restrictions). 91 years in construction from 1909, it's a massive gothic edifice in a very light stone providing pretty nearly the only external contrast with an English gothic cathedral, and the interior did little to alter the parallel; massive columns with fan-vaulting, Norman arches, and stained glass windows, all of which were in a more modern style than some cathedrals but in a style similar to that used, for instance, in those whose windows were Blitzed out. There's a memorial window to Apollo 11, as well as various luminaries, and I was told that there's a gargoyle with the head of Darth Vader - an example of the old and the new meeting, I guess. A very enjoyable afternoon.

On the Saturday, I went into central DC to meet Courtney again, and to visit the National Aquarium. Unfortunately, my camera died early in the day and as such the picture here is hers; mine has a penchant for pink, thinking that everything looks better in that colour (I, personally, disagree strongly). Anyway, the DC site is apparently far smaller than that in Baltimore, and is under the Department of Commerce; an interesting range of marine life was on display, including some beautiful tropical frogs, some wonderful sharks, and most enchanting of all, a turtle which seemed to love giving Courtney good shots of it; swimming past the glass, the amphibian kept nigh-literaly posing for the camera. It was a fun hour or so of diversion in there, and then we simply walked and talked for a while; another good day out. Hurray!


  1. Nice post, sorry to hear about the camera; hope you are going to get a new one (or change the batteries?)

    There are plenty of pale cathedrals in England (Salisbury or Ely for instance).

    AND turtles are reptiles not amphibians

  2. Ooh, cathedral sounds nice. Norman arches rather than gothic on the inside? Interesting.
    Oh, Sith-ified gargoyle? :D

  3. Lovely looking cathedral, though you'd think they'd have gone beyond flying buttresses!

    Within my school (SLD) physical contact with children is fairly common - modeling activities/hand on hand help etc sometimes necessitates this. Of course we also have to deal with some very physical behaviour which, if left, could result in injury to themselves, others or damaging property.

    Currently I look as if I have some form of leprosy, my hands are so marked!

    The school you are working in sounds quite interesting. you should give an overview of the school itself. Do they have a website? Are you allowed to give it?