I’ve now been in Erbil one week. I probably should’ve written more already but have struggled thus far. There’s really no good reason that this is true; there are tons and tons of things I could be writing about. So much has already happened in my ten full days here. Ultimately, I think it’s more a product of my need/struggle to find some sort of context to write within, to present my writings with, as if I have to gift wrap every blog entry with some sort of comprehensive anecdote, something that ties everything together as if I don’t I would be leave my writing as stand- alone nonsense. It’s good for me to conduct this self reflection of my writing style every once in awhile so I don’t get too caught up in my own traps.
So I’ve now been in Erbil for one full week, and some. I’ve enjoyed almost everything. I’ve also had very little trouble settling into a rhythm quickly. Everything seems natural here. If I have had any troubles, it has been adjusting to the system my school is run by. I’m now employed with SABIS, a for- profit company that runs schools in four different countries and numerous locations. The two biggest clusters of SABIS schools are in the Middle East and the United States. That said, SABIS is by no means a commonality in America, and actually has a very marginalized presence, more often than not in urban schools.
The SABIS schooling system is focused around a rigorous and demanding course structure. I teach four different classes over a total of twenty periods a week. My four classes are 6th grade English and Humanities, as well as 7th grade English and Humanities. My Humanities are actually relatively simple, and I can give very concise and focused lessons with a minimal amount of preparation. English however, is far different. My seventeen English periods are broken into intensive grammar, writing, anthology, and class reader classes. Anthology focuses around short stories and poem, whereas the class reader is a lengthier story that the class studies and works on for the entirety of the term; a total of eleven weeks. In addition to my four different classes within the “English” category, I also have exercise books for each, so I have eight books that I use in rotation JUST for my seventh grade English class. Another eight for my sixth grade English class, two more each for my humanities classes, so yes, in total I have twenty different books for twenty seven different periods in the week. As you could imagine, it’s a little excessive. That’s just one of my complaints, but there are also some irrefutable strengths to the SABIS system, and I enjoy the unnegotiable standard it seems to hold each student to. Students do not receive credit for homework done. In fact, it does not really alter one’s grade at all… as far as I can tell of what I so far understand. Homework is something that all students are expected to complete, and failure to do so results in an infraction. An infraction can be grounds for discipline, or a phone call home, depending on the severity of what it might be. Infractions vary. Some are quite serious, such as bullying or physically harming another student, some are inoffensive, like a one minute tardy or incomplete homework. But each infraction is enough to scare students into showing up in class every day with completed work. I am myself trying to figure out if this is as good a thing as it seems on the surface. Almost all (and by that I mean I’ve given out only three infractions in seven days of instruction for incomplete/missing homework) students always have their homework. Unfortunately with the structure of SABIS period lengths and demands- the most important of which is staying on a pacing schedule that all programs are aligned to- leaves me with almost no time to check homework. Students functioning under the honesty policy of homework answers, swearing to them being uniquely theirs or more than just scribbles, is a method that falls apart a little bit and the fringes of academia where the shaky students, the ones who need the most help actually lie. I’m not saying that this method fosters that kind of environment, but I’m already wondering if there’s any way I could accurately catch it without losing invaluable time that I need just to keep my students on the warp speed pace that I am expected to maintain.