Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Things Cute Children Say

Hello all,

So I'm still tinkering with my blog look (my mother has complained about the previous pattern, which I thought was adorably Ukrainian, but is apparently hard on the aged eyes : p), but I've put in a temporary generic design.

Anyhow, today's theme is all about the cute children in my life.

First: my relationship with my secondary counterpart's 2 year old daughter is pretty cute. She exclaims "Stepha!" every time she sees me, and hurls herself into my arms. I dutifully repeat her slightly-butchered diminutive name and swing her up for enthusiastic greeting.

The other day, after I returned from Will's village for a training (which I have mixed feelings on - it got cut short and the parts I'd spent hours preparing didn't get used, which made me feel inadequate), I met up with my counterpart, my secondary counterpart and her three children, and a friend who is a secretary/librarian at my school.

We had tea and cake, and spoke a mixture of Ukrainian and English. I got to re-tell (in Ukrainian, it didn't go well) how Hugo almost missed the bus to Will's village Wednesday evening, dashing in the door with literally seconds to spare. We were short a chair, so I served as the 2 year old's.

I walked with my counterpart and the friend to her bus stop, and as we waited my counterpart received a phone call. She laughed and shared the following story, about the car ride home my secondary counterpart had with her children and husband.

2 year old: (suddenly): "Daddy, you love Stepha?"
Father: (caught off guard): "Oh, um, no..."
2 year old: "Mama, you love Stepha?"
Mother: "Yes, I love Stepha"
2 year old: " *sister* , you love Stepha?"
Sister: "Yes, I love Stepha"
2 year old: "*brother*, you love Stepha?"
Brother: "Yes, I love Stepha"
2 year old: "...Daddy, why don't you love Stepha?!"

Ukrainian, of course, has different verbs for different kinds of love, and I got the impression that her question blurred which kind she was asking, so of course her father felt a little awkward answering. I love that she interrogated her entire family over their devotion to me!

However, even this outpouring of love pales in cuteness levels of comparison when looking at last Friday's exchange I had with one of my second form pupils - we'll call her Dasha.

I was walking to the front desk with my co-teacher of the day to return a key. As I went, I passed through a little mob of the 2nd form class that I teach on Mondays with my counterpart. One little girl, shaking with excitement, bounced up to me:

Dasha: HELLO!

Me: Hello! How - are - you?

Dasha: *scrunching up face in adorable concentration* '!'

(with great triumph)

Me: Yes, you are Dasha...And - HOW - are - you?

Dasha: *looking slightly panicked*

Me: I am -great-...are you -great-?

Dasha: *quivering with understanding* 'Great! I am great!'

Me: Great!

Dasha beamed with pride and rushed over to some friends.

I turned and continued on to the classroom - about 15 feet from the group. It wasn't until I turned around to shut the door behind me that I realized I'd been followed - lined up like ducklings, the 2nd form class had decided that I was apparently going to be their teacher. I gently shooed them away, and my co-teacher told them they had to wait for the other teacher to collect them.

It was adorable.

Anyhow, I'll probably post about my recent trip to Lviv and how I've kept busy over fall break this week. But not tonight!

Hope all is well,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Time Slips By - One Training at a Time

Hi all,

It was a full week again.

Monday I was only at half my lessons, as Hugo and I conducted a short two-hour teacher training in a local village. His counterpart was tasked with arranging them once a month for the next three months in different villages and I'd been invited along for the ride.

Now, this meant that on Sunday we were still finalizing touches. The glamorous life of trainers. It's an interesting trade-off, doing co-facilitator. It feels very natural with Hugo, since we started in training two years ago, and so there's a very good sense of each others strengths, mode of operation and cues of requiring a helping hand. This helps to mitigate the worry that the other person won't or can't back you up if you get stuck, and the consolation that you'll go down together if it somehow crashes and burns.

And it didn't crash or burn. It was interesting, because we basically had modified a presentation that I had thrown together for a previous training, and then added a "demo class" to demonstrate the communicative approach. Hugo ended up getting stuck at the same place I had - which is mainly demonstrating the four parts of the communicative approach. Normally, I'd be a bit leery of jumping in on someone, but I felt comfortable slipping in some examples and things continued smoothly.

Our demo lesson was on the theme of Halloween. It went fairly well, but we both agreed afterward that it needed some more updating. So, as we'll be doing this "same" training twice more, we have more opportunities to sort it out. We needed to get the teachers more comfortable with speaking, and get them up and moving a bit more.

Next time, next time.

We also got asked to come in about a month to Uzhgorod to present to another group of teachers. Plus, Will is having a training this Thursday that we're doing part of the communicative approach in and part basic lesson teaching - reading/listening/speaking. We're doing half hour session rotations, so I'll have 30 minutes to hone my skills on teaching reading. I have a ppt and a lesson plan from my organization, that I'll have to cut down. So that'll be my Wednesday.

Anyhow, busy week ahead - lesson planning as usual, special Halloween-themed club fun for Tuesday (as next week is fall break), my first tutoring lesson in Ukrainian on Wednesday in the morning, seminar prep in the afternoon, traveling in the evening. Training on Thursday, and then teaching as usual Friday.

Hope all is well,


Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Address

Hello all,

I got this figured out a while ago, but haven't posted. Apparently the post office will deliver most anything to my door - letters for sure, and a package depending on the carrier (Meest is the best). However, it's pretty cost prohibitive. Should anyone feel like dropping me a postcard or letter, I'd love to get some mail!

Стеф Мунсон

Вул. Данила Галицького 57, Кв. 19
М. Мукачеве, Мукачівcький район
Закарпатська Обл.

Steph Munson
57 Danyla Halytskoho St., Apt. 19
Mukachevo, Mukachevo Region
Zakarpats'ka Oblast

It's probably best to simply cut and paste both addresses onto the mail for the highest probability of successful delivery. And remember - dictionaries and antiquities are prohibited.

Hope all is well,


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Good, The Bad and the Funny

Hi all,

So it's been a rather hectic past two weeks!

The other day I completed my test questions for the Reading portion of the Olympiad - a national competition that is held in Ukraine each year for most academic subjects, including English. So that's about 20 hours of my life gone, but hopefully for an educational cause!

Friday was "Teacher's Day" in Ukraine. This means we once again had a school gathering outside (which was downright chilly - a complete 50 degrees cooler than the first day of school) where the 11th form put on a presentation. There was singing, dancing, skits, jokes and thank yous said. Then, the 11th and 10th forms went around to the classrooms to teach, instead of the teachers. At least, that's what should have happened, but, you know, organization.

So for most of the classes we had a few of the 10/11th formers come in and "teach". They mostly had the kids play charades in English. But, it didn't require me to do any lesson prep, so that was a win. I felt a little left out at first in the festivities, as all the teachers were showered with chocolates and flowers. There's this weird vibe I get about being stuck somewhere in ambiguity as to my official space in the school. I get called a teacher, but I get left out of a lot of loops. (More on that soon...) However, I did have some children come up to me eventually,   I left after my lessons and went home to change with my counterpart. We ended up riding with my back-up counterpart to a local teacher's house. The other teachers had just arrived in a bus, and we all gathered in a covered picnic area (very cool), and ate lots of delicious food while making lots of toasts. Needless to say, I understood very little...but it was a nice atmosphere. A lot of kids were there, and so it was fun to match the child to the teacher.

I also had an awful club last week. I had two boys play scuffling, although I told them to stop, they apparently picked it back up the moment my back was turned helping another student. One kid landed a punch square on the other's mouth. For several panic-stricken moments, it was relayed to me that the kid had lost a tooth. With tears streaming down his face and his refusal to let me see, the matter was only more complicated by the fact that I couldn't get in touch with my teacher counterpart.

Fortunately, it was soon clarified that he had NOT lost a tooth - just was bleeding from where he had lost a tooth recently (and by bleeding, I mean a drop or two). But he was in tears, upset and went home. The second boy stood in stony silence, a look of mild panic and full-on apprehension in his guarded, solemn expression. I dutifully lectured everyone about not fighting in my broken Ukrainian/English. Afterward, I checked in with him, telling him that I knew it was a an accident - only for him to deny it! (Meaning that they both were messing around, not that he meant to actually hurt the other kid.)

So, that was a pretty terrible way to have a club. The matter got worse on Wednesday - although I wasn't at school and no one bothered to call me.

I found out on Thursday that they were going to require another English teacher to come to my club to supervise. This is ridiculous, as none of them are free - they're all tutoring. And, I'm guaranteeing this is an isolated event. If the kids can't handle it, they either can't come or I'll simply cancel the club. Having some Ukrainian English teacher flipping out over the fact that kids are being loud playing games is certainly not going to foster a positive environment.

Apparently both sets of parents came to the school the next morning to complain about the fight, and there was even a bit of a screaming match. (I feel so terrible for that homeroom teacher and still need to give her a massive apology for getting sucked in.) Also, apparently the story was mis-reported, so there were claims of being kicked in the mouth. Luckily, the vice principal's daughter was in the vicinity and quickly clarified that this was NOT true. God forbid they have someone call me.

Anyhow, it was just an overwhelmingly negative and unfortunate experience with some very real repercussions.

Thankfully, when I had club today, no one bothered to actually follow up to make sure it was supervised. My counterpart stopped by, but didn't want to come in to disrupt, when she could hear through the door that no chaos was happening.

Finally, some funny.

So, first there's this: it's from outside an English primary school in Uzhgorod. The volunteer there was doing a teacher's talk last Wednesday, and I tagged along to observe. It was a little stilted, the teachers were surprisingly uncommunicative.
However, as we exited the building, I chuckled as I saw this "planter" - I'm pretty sure it would have saved some trees from my father's mowing - an unfortunate fate that no less than 20 saplings brought home from "Plant a Tree Day"  from various years ins school suffered...

(Sometimes they even paint the tires to make them reach another level of special-ness.)

Another funny thing is that I was giving a vocab mini-lesson (using words they supposedly learned last week to put into sentences) and I was having them translate as they went. (Not that I'm ever sure they're correct, but I count on my co-teacher to be listening). One kid kind of lost it at one point, and my co-teacher wouldn't explain except to mumble that she'd explain later.

The list included: an event, a member, to be keen on something, to practice, to join in, etc.

I discovered later that "a member" has exactly the secondary meaning that it has in English, and apparently that electronic dictionary has it as the primary definition.

Finally, can we just all have a laugh at the absurdity (once more) of the English language?
We worked with sentences today:
You're not mad, are you?
You're mad, aren't you?
She isn't here, is she?
They weren't traveling, were they?


Then we have: I'm your best friend, aren't I?

WTF English. No wonder people came up with "ain't", rather than use aren't (for you) or amn't I?

But really.

Hope all is well,