Saturday, October 22, 2011

Teaching, one week in

First things first. Teaching is exhausting! I have always heard it and thought I understood, but I was wrong, so very wring. Well, not wrong, but unable to imagine just how tiring it would be. But there are already rewards, so those of you who think I might be warned away from teaching as a profession would be mistaken.
So, how was my first week of school, what did I do, what are the kids like, etc, etc? I had a great time the kids and teachers alike have been very welcoming, and even though I have had the class three times now, I am still asked for my autograph. I told them that I would give them my autograph when I left Georgia in June, by then I hope I am not still such a novelty. When the teachers come into their classes (English teachers travel from classroom to classroom) the children all stand and say “good morning teacher (“teachers” if they remember how to make teacher plural) How are you?” They get very flustered if I answer them “I'm fine thanks, how are you” but some of them are starting to respond. I teach one first grade class, one second grade class, two third grade classes, and one fourth, one fifth, and one sixth. The average class size is about twenty-five, and no, I have NO IDEA what their names are. However, I can tell you the most popular names are Nino, for Saint Nino, the woman who brought orthodoxy to Georgia, and for boys: Luqa, Giorgi, and Duka. I have many of these names in my classes. My first day in almost every class included me introducing myself, and my co-teacher or the students translating what I said into Georgian. Then the questions began. Most popular questions included, “Where are you from?”, “Do you like Georgia (Georgian food)?”, “Do you have brothers or sisters?”, and “Are you married”. I think they were a little thrown by my emphatic answer to that last question, but I am thankful that I do not come from a culture that expects me to be married with children at the age of twenty-three. Oh yes, they asked me my age, and my phone number. I think they asked for my number because they were practicing the numbers when I came, but that one threw me through a loop. The one question I felt a little bad about happened in my fifth grade class (which might be one of my favorite classes). I think Nino told them to have questions ready for me when I got to the class, because some of them had questions written in their notebooks, but who knows. Anyway, one girl raises her hand and asks me “if English students study Georgian.” I pieced together that she was asking if students in America study Georgian in school the way she was studying English. I felt really badly as I told her no, they really don't, but I am, so if she wants to help me with my Georgian, she is welcome to. Some of the teachers told me that on top of the new education measures that start English education in first grade, it is becoming difficult to get any job in Georgia without knowledge of English. It seems to be a big issue for many people here who don't want to lose their own language and culture. I mentioned before that Megrulian culture has already been pushed to the margins, and many are worried that the same with happen to Georgian culture in favor of more western things. I must say, there is a lot to be said for the pride and love that the people have for their very rich and very beautiful traditions. I will write more about that in my next post, because I want to keep this one about teaching.
All three of my co-teachers have very different styles and I like all of them. For now, especially since I still do not have my books and teaching materials, I have been more of an assistant, but I think that in some classes at least, I can see ways to be more than an assistant. In the classes which have less of a command over the English language that will be a little more difficult. As it is, in all my classes, I help correct their homework and classwork, but it is very hard to be sure if the student understands what I am saying or if they are just nodding their head. Also, students will try to ask me questions in Georgian, and it takes a lot of miming on both sides for communication of the question, never mind the answer. But it is so worth it when I see them writing something correctly the next day, or even when I come in and ask them how they are in return and a couple of them nervously say something like “i'm fine thank you”.
When the class ends, I feel like I am Dorathy heading back to Kansas. All I hear is “goodbye, goodbye goodby, goodby”. And they get so excited when I look them in the eye and say goodbye back. The whole lesson we have struggled to understand each other, so it is nice to leave knowing that we communicated something.
Today, I had a fun conversation on the stairs with one of the older students. I am trying to get used to saying “gamajorbat” in greeting instead of “hi” but really, “hi” is so much shorter and easier and it actually makes life easier in the long-run, because it marks me as the English Teacher from America and prevents people from coming up to be and speaking high-speed Georgian. Anyway, I said hi to a whole crowd of students and one of them got excited but couldn't remember what to say back. I smiled and kept walking, but he ran up the stairs to that he could begin again: “Hello, my name is (BLANK I have no idea what his name was), I study English, how are you?”. We didn't get much passed how are you, but it felt good. It reminded me of when my spanish roomate's mother came to visit, and I needed to use my much broken spanish to communicate with her. A whole lot of the time was spent saying something and letting Borja translate, but when we could communicate directly, it felt so good. I have the same feeling when I walk into the teacher's lounge and someone says “good morning” and I respond “dila mshvidobisa”. The whole room smiles, and I don't think it is entirely about my terrible accent. It feels good to understand one another directly.
I think anyway.

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