The differences & unexpecteds

Drifting aimlessly with no map
Not a care in the world now
Just you and the silence within
Avoiding a world that can snap.

from Tossing in the towel, Lynn Batson

id cardYesterday, after a difficult class and not looking forward to today, with a repetition of that class and another challenging class, I was ready to throw in the towel.  Call it quits. Chuck the wastebasket. I’d never make it to the end of the year, let alone to another year. Somehow we got through the most dreaded hour, then Erika stopped by and dragged me to immigration to pick up my card (oh my god what a hideous hideous photo) and she said she’d had trouble with the same class and had yelled at them and she was going to sit in on Szilvia’s class, and Szilvia later related to me that she’d had a blow up with the same class last week, and suddenly we were commiserating and supporting one another and I stepped out into the most glorious afternoon yet of this most glorious spring. Sign me up for another year! But before that the principal stopped by and checked in to see how I was doing, how was I getting along, and he seemed happy that it all seemed to be working out. Oh, and the second class that I was worried about – well, we had a super class and three of the young men stayed after class – after school, mind you – to talk more. They just want to be heard, to have their opinions, their ideas matter. I don’t know about other teachers, but this is one of the reasons I’m teaching.

Most of the job-related surprises have been tech-oriented or infrastructure-oriented. Some of the information I’ve needed has been present, but hadn’t been presented. By that I mean the information is in the system, it’s just not easily visible and no one is shown how to retrieve it.

For example, we need to enter our lesson topics as well as the students who’ve been absent from the class. That was clearly explained.  What I wanted to know was, who previously taught that class and what did they cover? It’s easy enough to dig into the system and find it, but because there is no syllabus, it would have been a handy thing to know right-off, yet no one mentioned the information was there.

The roster of students for each class was never provided, so how does one learn names? I made my own rosters.

In theory – according to some students – there are email addresses at the school. Some teachers say there aren’t.  Whether they exist or not, they would be handy.  As it is, I needed to create a Facebook group and (because not all students use Facebook) a website to distribute information. Neither has been as effective as an email might have been – something sent directly to the student rather than having the student go to the information.

None of this makes the job unpleasant, but having the information would make the job easier.

The biggest challenges are that

1) none of the teachers has a “room” that is his or hers.  A room where equipment can be left in place. Not all rooms have smart whiteboards or projectors or speakers, so we carry speakers to the rooms and we do without projectors.

2) the school uses an international educational online system, which is somewhat reliable.  One never knows when it will become unavailable and I’ve been in the middle of class and had the network disappear for one or two hours.

3) students are grouped by grade, not ability, and so there are significant ability differences in the classes – some students answer everything and want to move on and others hide behind their … silence and don’t progress.  Language learning is different than other types of learning. The school does know the students’ language levels – the students are tested for their ability using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – so like-abled students could be put with their peers.

The experience is somewhere in-between the high-context and low-context ways of doing things.

He makes it his own


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