Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Life of a TEFL

Today one of my 5th grade students came in wearing a shirt that said: "Race for Sex". It had a picture of a car on the shirt. English fail- clearly his mother can't read English.

I also was required to become an expert on rabies. When the 6th grade students were learning about "scary things" in the book, there was the word "bat". One child then raised their hand and asked if you would die if you were bitten by a bat. My counterpart turned to me and said, "What does happen Sara?" I guess I look like someone who knows the ins and outs of bats and rabies because after telling them they might get rabies, they had a ton of questions about rabies. Peace Corps Training fail- I was not taught about rabies.

I was just friended by one of my 1st graders on Facebook. Life fail- not mine, but this country's obsession with Facebook just reached an all new high with this friend request.

Our school has been going through Ministry inspections this week. There have been four men from the area in town observing the teachers and writing up notes. In theory this makes sense, however, in practice, I am not really convinced it is the most effective system. I was with one of my counterparts when she got inspected and the man came into class with 10 minutes left. I had been teaching, but my counterpart took over since the man wasn't there to critique me. She switched to talking mostly in Macedonian because she wanted to make sure the guy understood what she was saying. He sat in the back and jotted down a few notes. When the bell rang, he left and didn't provide any feedback. I talked with my counterpart right after and she said she was super confused about whether she should speak English or Macedonian. It is English class, however, if the inspector doesn't speak English, how can he judge her teaching if he doesn't understand what she is saying. My other counterpart said she asked for feedback and the men looked super confused and said that's not what they do. What do these men actually do then? I talked with them both about the English vs Macedonian use in the classroom when the inspectors are there and they were both confused about which language they were supposed to use, so clearly the directions we not made very clear.

Because of the inspections, the teachers all are very diligently writing in the red book (the grade book) at the beginning of class instead of doing it at a later date. This means there is a lot of time when the kids are just sitting there, so I have taken advantage of this time to do some fun activities with my kids. In the 1st grade, I made up a song to help teach them what "how are you?" means since I get a lot of blank stares when I ask them that. Within the song, I also taught them a few adjectives- happy, sad, mad, sleepy, and hungry. They loved it and didn't want to stop when it was time for the actual lesson.

In 6th grade, we reviewed parts of the body and then did heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes, which you would never do with 6th graders in the US, but my kids loved it, especially when we went into hyper-speed. Another day I wrote, "Merry Christmas" on the board and they had to rearrange the letters to see how many words they could spell. Whenever I do this activity with them, I always think back to Mrs. Hughes's Language Arts classes because I am pretty sure that is the first time I did the activity. I promised my kids we would have a competition between the classes the next time we did it.

All-in-all, school is going pretty well now. There have been a few rough spots, but it seems like we have finally figured out a rhythm that works for us, just in time for the holidays and the winter break until the end of January!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mak-17 Swearing In and a Journey to the capital of the former Yugoslavia

After a few angry Facebook messages/emails, I am finally getting around to writing a blog post. It's not that there has been nothing to write about or even that I haven't had time, I just couldn't quite bring myself to write a post (or 10 that could have been written). So we need to travel back in time a little bit.

November 29- The new group of Volunteers (Mak17s) were sworn in and transitioned from being Trainees to official Volunteers. This was a very bittersweet moment as it really signaled the end of the Mak15s. We have a handful of 15s staying around for another year, but most of them had already left and the ceremony made that very clear.
Kaitlin is one of the new Mak-17s and the first Mak-17 I got to know.
Sisters (minus one)- Erika is the Mak-17 who lived with my host family, Bojana my host sister in Lozovo, and I celebrate Erika becoming an official PCV!
That night we celebrated the end of some Mak-15s service and had a good-bye party at the Irish Pub in Skopje. This included saying good-bye to my Minnesota companion, Marlys. She is headed back to the frozen north, but is hoping to meet up with my parents and left me quite a few Minnesota things she had here. Because of all the MN gear I have now, I did put in a request with our Country Director for a Minnesota Mak-18 so I have someone to pass it all onto.
Saying good-bye to Marlys!

After a sad good-bye, we parted ways, some to America, some to Italy, and a group of us headed to Belgrade, Serbia- capital of the former Yugoslavia. We hoped on an overnight bus and after an hour and a half at the border crossing, one bathroom break, and one "sandwich", we arrived in Belgrade early in the morning, ready to find our hostel and dump our gear before exploring the city. Well, finding the hostel turned out to be a little harder than we thought and I think we ended up wandering around a 5 block area (containing our hostel) for close to two hours. Eventually, we found it, had some Serbian rakija, coffee, a quick nap, and were ready to hit the town. As always, pictures show it best, so here is a short photo compilation of our three days in Belgrade.
Supposedly this is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans, however it is unfinished on the inside.
My favourite piece of art from the trip- of course there should be a dinosaur peeking out of the corner of this mountain scene.
Enjoying some coffee and hard cider
The Nikola Tesla Museum
We got to see a bunch of his experiments work- Phil even participated in a couple.
Czar Dushan's tomb- only significant to me because prior to coming, I was working on editing a book for a Macedonian about the local history and Dushan was mentioned a lot.
The parliament building
Anna likes to take artistic shots of the group, but that means she gets left out of the photos.
We went on a free 2 1/2 hour walking tour (that was really good) and got to see the Bohemian quarter. Our guide was great and liked to add in little language lessons, but because Macedonian and Serbian are so similar, we were "those people" answering all of his simple questions before giving the others a chance- good thing he liked the fact we could speak the language!
We got to pass by the Macedonian Embassy in Belgrade and might have broken out into the MK national anthem.
Our guide pointed out the bullet holes above some of the doors from the break up of Yugoslavia in the '90s.
At Kalemegdon- the old fortress
Where the Danube and the Sava Rivers join together as one.
There was a US States photo exhibit going on and of course all of us and the American International teachers from Kosovo had to take pictures in front of our state!
The oldest kafana (bar) in Serbia called "?". They served the BEST honey rakija.
We made a journey to the Yugoslav History Museum and to the grave of Josif Broz Tito- one of Phil and Jason's favourite people- Чичко Тито
Tito's grave
Anna, Jason, Phil, and I decided to take the train back, instead of the bus and we had a grand ole time in our quite dirty and old train cabin. The bathrooms were to be avoided at all costs as it really was a free-for-all, but we played a series of games, got a little sleep, and those who had been to Kosovo got their passports anti-Kosovo-ed at the border crossing (Serbians are not at all in support of Albanian Kosovo and do not recognize it as an independent country).