Friday, September 21, 2012

An Unexpected Holiday (Sort of)

Today is Friday and in two days, Saudis will celebrate National Day.  Our schools planned to use tomorrow as a teacher workday, but Wednesday afternoon the King announced that tomorrow would also be a national holiday. For those who have been here awhile, this last minute notice of an additional day off of work came as no surprise.  Apparently, the King can declare a national holiday whenever he chooses!  We may never have days off from school for snow, but we just might might have to miss school for a holiday!  Aw, shucks!

I haven't posted for awhile, so I will quickly catch you up on what the family is doing.  My job as a permanent substitute teacher at the school right across the street has morphed into a job as the receptionist.  The person I am replacing has been transferred to another part of the University, so I will stay working at the front desk for the remainder of my contract.

The kids are really enjoying school here.  In elementary school, all the kids learn Arabic and at the Secondary school they can choose between French and Arabic.  They can be pretty insistent about their rule that places kids in classes based on their ages.  They made an exception for Caitlynn and allowed her to go into 6th grade, but for the rest it is interesting to see how the school meets the kids needs while keeping them in the same grade.  Cici, who has never had a class in French, is placed in a class of students who have completed two years of French just because she is the same age as them.  The teacher then gives her separate assignments and she comes after school occasionally.  The goal is that she will eventually catch up to her same age peers.  In math, she is placed in 8th grade math just because she is the same age as the other 8th grade math students.  The teacher then gives her a 10th grade math book and tells her to work through it at her own pace and to ask him questions when he needs to.  I've asked Cici how she likes this arrangement and she actually doesn't mind.  For her it will be nice to catch up to her friend's level of French and she said they can't really send her to a math class with older kids without really messing up her schedule in all her other classes.  This way, she can do the math at her own pace and still be with her friends. 

For Whitney and Ben, it is a little harder for me to figure out how they adjust the curriculum for kids who are performing above grade level in either some or all of their classes, but it seems they are pretesting each unit and adapting that unit to the needs of the class based on how the kids did on the pretest. 

The concept of "Gifted Education" is not one that crosses international borders and here (as in many places) there is much disagreement about it.  As far as how what they are doing here compares to what gifted advocates such as the NAGC in the US would recommend, there is both good and bad.  In the US, Gifted Education advocates are sometimes very strong in their criticism of US schools that refuse to bend age placement guidelines.  Since they advocate for all gifted kids, they like to keep all options on the table including early entrance into kindergarten, grade acceleration, and dual enrollment in high school/college (among many others).  Most kids, even really smart ones, will never need these options.  But by leaving them on the table schools can use these options when there is a need.  There is no "one size fits all" solution to a child being "bored" at school.  On the good side however, most Gifted Education in the US is built around an enrichment/pullout program philosophy.  Within the pullout program, they attempt to supplement the student's general education with an inquiry based curriculum where the students ask their own questions and learn to discover the answers.  They tend to do more experiments or to create things or learn to solve logic based puzzles.  In an IB program such as ours, this is the standard curriculum for all students, not just the gifted students and not just 1 or 2 days a week.  This actually may be the real reason my kids don't come home asking for "harder math" anymore.  They are enjoying their overall school curriculum a lot more, so there is no longer any reason for them to believe that a harder math class will make school more interesting.


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  2. Great to hear about your family's adventures in the Kingdom. We look forward to the next update. Mark and Julie Shook

    1. Some people you just can't get rid of, and others you are glad that they never go away (I'm glad that you are in the second group ;-) Thanks for checking in my friend.