Ah, at last, I am done with teaching. After my year in Kutaisi, Georgia dealing with incredibly under privileged children in really appalling conditions and a much different year in the Czech Republic, I have decided to be done with teaching English to foreign children. At least for a little while.
Kutaisi, Georgia was incredibly difficult for teaching. There were massive cultural differences that needed to be overcome before any thoughts of “teaching” could be entertained. The first cultural difference, that was never overcome, was that women were second. Males, even seven year old men, had command of their sisters and mothers. “satchmeli minda” (I want food) was commonly heard being yelled and demanded by a husband, or son to any female family member. It was not a request and was normally fulfilled, maybe with some yelling back, but it was still done. SOOO, the fact that most teachers are female means that most students don’t take their teacher seriously. FUN!
Yet another insurmountable cultural difference was the structure of the school. Since teachers didn’t have respect, one would hope that there would be rules and support to help the teachers gain that respect or at least keep the students in line. Nope. Nada. Nothing. There were no set of school rules to keep students in line. Since there were no rules, there were no consequences to enforce the rules. An attempt to change that was made, to no success.
The state of the classrooms was also a problem. With my stipend, I was able to purchase some things necessary, but if I classroom didn’t even have an outlet for a light fixture…kinda screwed on that one. Chalk was an issue, chalkboards were an issue, paper was an issue, pencils were an issue, books- Ha I wish.
Teaching style. Oh what a controversial topic for most people. I would like all readers to raise their hands if they think that rote memorization is a good way to learn. All subjects. Anyone? Anyone? Oh yes, there are the Georgians. With this one, I had “fun” trying to bring in games, projects and anything that wasn’t memorizing.
Georgia was the “how not to teach” guide book.
Ok, that was my rant on Georgia. Now for the Czech Republic. Oh wow, what a difference. What a pleasant and exciting surprise to see that my office had supplies. And not just white boards and white board markers, but flashcards! And, oh oh puppets! And crayons! And coloring sheets! I was SO excited to get the job with WattsEnglish in Karlov Vary, Czech Republic. Not only because I would be able to be with my Irishman, but also because it would be such a change from what I had seen before.
Yes, I was frustrated, freaked out and stressed out of my gourd the first few weeks of lessons. I felt that I had been a bit duped. I had been told I would be teaching young children from the Karlovy Vary Center. Well, things change and I was thrown into teaching students from 4-50 in schools in the surrounding 50km. I also had not been told that I was going to be filmed during lessons. Had to get over that one.
The type of teaching was more of entertaining with a bit of English on the side. It took me awhile to get the hang of it, but then it was fun. I loved pulling out “Mr. Crocodile” (a hand puppet) for the kindergarteners and first graders. They loved it too! Would beg for him at the beginning of class and he could stop tears with one bite. I and the kids loved the revision of colors where Mr. Crocodile vomited colored sheets that they had to identify- once the squeals and giggles died down.
Then I really enjoyed my 16-18 year old students. They not only had fantastic English, but they wanted to learn and talk and I think I had their interest and their trust. We covered some very controversial topics and there were always students that had something to say. They also understood humor and sarcasm (oh how I loved being sarcastic with them). Oh what a relief to be able to joke! It is funny how little you realize the importance of being able to have your humor understood and laughed at.
The adult class was also a treat. They were very difficult in many ways. The first being that they were complete beginners. The second was that the entire 6 hours before I had been signing, dancing, playing games and being a general entertainer/clown for little ones. It is a bit hard to switch gears. They were understanding and we got each other by the end.
The formatting and scheduling of WattsEnglish is not what one thinks of when they think “school”, but its methods and ideas were, I think, fantastic to use in language learning and could be easily adapted to the “average” classroom.
Now, I am hoping for a break from teaching. While I had begun to enjoy and really explore the realms of teaching, I am more than ready to be in an English speaking country. And well, it is kind of hard to teach English as a second language to native English speakers.
We will just have to see what the future holds…after a nice break in Ireland and a much needed visit to my family back State Side. And who knows…maybe another stint of teaching is in my cards.