I did another bunch of workshops on Friday. Increasingly, the teaching is the one part of my activities that I can say is going well, without any reservations or qualifying, bet-hedging comments. In fact, I’m increasingly thinking of making it my main activity.
Friday’s workshops were the regular 1-hour introductory classes for kids in Groups 6-8, i.e. the 9-to-12-year olds that also make up the age range of the readership of my comic for Hello You!, Gang of Four. I’m doing about 11 of those classes this month, bought in bulk by one of Groningen’s Vensterscholen.
The school I taught at on Friday is a Dalton-certified public primary school, housed in a large building that is also home to a community center. It’s a very nice place; I liked the fact that the community center’s bar room also served as the teachers’ room. There’s a meeting room where a bunch of old folks were playing bingo during the school’s afternoon break. A very welcoming, inviting environment – the guy at the bar offered me free sandwiches, which definitely endeared him to me.
Wikipedia has surprisingly little to say about the Dalton Plan. Dalton International has more, some of which I should remember in case I ever teach at a Dalton school again. From teaching at this school, I can at least say that the kids there were very well-behaved, keen and motivated. I liked these classes a lot. Compared to the trouble I had with some of my classes five years ago, it’s like night and day. But then, age and experience are definitely making it easier for me to get a classroom full of children to do what I ask them to.
One thing I noticed was there wasn’t a lot of gender segregation within the class room. In most schools, boys and girls at that age start separating themselves out, choosing to sit in single-gender groups. Here, boys and girls sat in mixed groups. I don’t know whether the schools encourage that or if it’s simply a consequence of the way Dalton schools socialise the kids, but it was a glaring difference compared to the "traditional" schools I’ve taught at. Or maybe it’s the general environment of the school and community center.
And they could draw! I saw a lot of very steady hands at this school.