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,


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