Calvert at the Circus: A School Like No Other

When I wake up in the morning, there is a palpable excitement.

Today is the day when I get to work with my second graders on types of sentences.

I remember teaching the first graders complete and incomplete sentences yesterday. Lucas asked me if ‘Sit down’ was a complete sentence. I may actually keep the 3 first graders and 2 second graders together when I do types of sentence.

I am a teacher at an unique school. Very much like the first school that started with the coming of the pilgrims into the new land, I am a teacher for a one room school. I have 14 students – not to mention the eager to-be-school-kids who invite themselves into the school room. I have Kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, 1 fourth grader, 1 seventh grader and 1 eleventh grader. Yes… And all sit in the same room! For all except one, we follow the curriculum offered by Calvert.

On an average we work 5 days a week, but our ‘weekends’ are different from the rest of the world. Have I aroused your curiosity enough?

I am the teacher for the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus (Blue Unit) school. The students are mostly children of performers or other staff.

We are unique in many ways. We travel every week, living with the thrill of anticipation as we walk into an arena to find the school room. We have 2 crates in which we carry all of our books and school supplies. It may surprise you how we manage to run the school with such limited resources. Since working for Ringling, I have become convinced that most of our regular schools spend too much on the unnecessary… But I digress.

As I enter the school room on the first day in a new place, I open the crates and set up the classroom. The computers, printers, a microwave, a refrigerator, and a kettle is set up in one end of the room. Then I bring out all the Calvert Lesson Manuals, Math Manuals and the lesson plan book of every child. We call this book the ‘My-Your-Book.’

It’s mine (the teacher’s) but it’s yours (the student’s), too. In this book I write what the child is expected to do every day. Yes, I write in every single book every day. There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. The manual has detailed lesson plans which are impossible for the child to read and comprehend. So I summarize and word it to suit the child. (Even if you have one child, this may help your child to learn to work independently.)
  2. It makes it possible for me to be prepared for the day’s lesson. Every day I know what lesson, and what assignment each child has to do. It also helps me modify the lesson to suit both a high functioning and low functioning student.

I correct the work of the students every day. In my classroom, when I ask the question, ‘Have you completed your work?’, it means both them completing and me correcting.

It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of reading and preparation. I spend 8 hours teaching and at least 4 hours preparing each day. I am committed and devoted. I do it knowing that most of their parents work so hard, and I cannot expect them to devote much time to the children. Such is their schedule. So I play the dual role of teacher and parent. We all work together and live together and so we all feel responsible for each others’ children.

In a matter of 5 minutes, I may be answering a science question from one child, a math question from another and a reading question from a third. But I love it. I love the curriculum and I love the students!

Mary Kettles and the children in the Blue Unit came to visit the Calvert offices for their yearly visit.