I am now entering my third week of teaching here in England. I am teaching at an independant school called Hymers College, a highly regarded quintessential British preparatory school for students ages eight through eighteen. I have two cooperating teachers, Angelo Irving and Andrew Whittaker. As teachers in the Senior School, my cooperating teachers work with students in Year 7 through Year 13. This would be equivalent to sixth grade through 12th grade by American standards. My EAST supervisor, Michael Cooper, had high praises for Hymers, and it certainly meets his expectations. Mike is planning on visiting this week just to meet me in person and introduce himself to my cooperating teachers.
I was fortunate to start school on a staff inservice day, so I was able to meet fellow faculty members on a quiet day without students. The headmaster gave another EAST student teacher and me a personal tour of the school, which was built in 1893 and has only had seven headmasters since. The main building is absolutely striking. It’s a gorgeous, grand building including classrooms filled with windows that provide views of Hymers’ hundreds of acres of land. The main hall resembles an old cathedral with a tall arched ceiling, beautiful windows and chandeliers, enough benches to seat every student in the school, and a raised stage with a lectern. We have assembly in this hall three mornings every week, during which the students and staff stand as an organ plays and the headmaster arrives in a long black robe before addressing the school. I could go on forever just about this part of my Hymers experience.
After touring the school campus, which is the best way to describe it as it is actually composed of several buildings. I met other teachers who I found to be very warm and welcoming. We stood around and drank tea while I was asked tons of questions about my travels here, my first impressions of the UK, and life back at home. I was nervous about what to expect after touring the grandiose surrounds, but I found that these teachers reminded me of people I had worked with in the US as they discussed not having done nearly as much grading as they should have on holiday and shared personal jokes. I later attended meetings with the English department where we discussed assessment and standards. Standards, shockingly enough, seem to be even more central to instruction here than I have seen at my previous placement.
After the students returned, I got to really experience the school in its entirety. I have gotten to observe English classes for several different levels, and I even observed a Year 7 group through their entire day to get a feel for the schedule. I participated in an array of activities with the students including throwing a javelin, doing a science experiment involving electricity, and creating a coat hook out of steel. As much as this institution values tradition, the curriculum is very innovative and stimulating. Late last week, I was able to begin teaching. With national exams approaching, I have had to teach with a central focus on annotating and analyzing text. My students are remarkably polite, ending every address to me with “miss” and standing at their desks until I instruct them to be seated. Nonetheless, they are kids, and I am building a repertoire of sometimes-funny, sometimes-irritating tales of classroom management as I have in my previous placements.