As of tomorrow, we have officially completed three weeks of school. Next week is the Eid holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan and school is out! Brad and I will use this time to make our apartment more livable. Most importantly: paint, carpets, hanging Brad’s excellent photos, and getting ready for the school year to start for real (it is almost like we’ve just been dipping our toe into the pool for the first weeks here). I’m viewing the first three weeks as a nice honeymoon-get-to-know-you kind of time. I think the real work will begin when we get back.

My classes are going well. I have 4 small 8th grade bands that will combine into about a 40 member band for the concerts. Mostly trumpet players with a couple woodwind and percussion players. I also have a high school choir that is 12 boys and 4 girls. They are a very interesting group and they have a lot of potential. It is an excellent challenge for me to teach a large number of male singers. My choir experience has been 4th and 5th graders before now. Although I have had boys whose voices were changing . . . now I have basses. It is very interesting indeed. I have excellent administration (yay, my principal’s son is in band and loves it!) and the office staff for the middle school are second to none (and I was definitely spoiled by amazing office staff at Salem Heights ES).

Most of Brad’s duties so far have been making sure that all the fine arts teachers are doing well. He has especially helped me and the other high school band director. He has one band of tenth graders and then a class of students that are working on individual projects in music, some performance, some history.

A fair number of teachers from the US are interested in how the school here compares to US public schools. I think the biggest differences are that it is a private school and that it is not realy set up to service students with disablities. Students who start at AIS after a certain age are tested and generally are not accepted if they have a learning disablity or have trouble in school. This is a major change for me, and it has taken me a while to wrap my brain around not having a “learning resource center.” We definitely have a wide variety of student ablities, and even some students that probably have learning disablities, but the school has no “special education” program. As a private school, the students likely have the money for just about anything they need. If I ask students to bring in a folder for my class and money to put down a deposit on their instrument, the money comes out of the pocket and the folder shows up the next day. In my teaching career so far, both the elementary schools I worked at were Title I schools when I started my job there. That meant there was a very high population of students living below the poverty line. It is a big change.

For manyof the teachers, the other big change is having a lot of students who have English as their second (or third!) language. In band class, I really have only noticed this to a small degree. I’m not sure I believe that music is a universal language, but it is definitely an art form that surpasses language barriers. The bigger shock to me would be if students called the notes “quavers” and “semi-quavers.” That would be WAY crazier that just having a few students searching for the right word in English or mispelling something.

Thanks everyone for reading!

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