Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Take Everything You Think Is Normal And Throw It Away

So now that I have been teaching for a few months at my new school I am beginning to have greater and greater appreciation for my old school. Sometimes it is just absolute craziness. For one thing, I have less students so therefore, I have less to grade, but I am ten times more overwhelmed. I feel like I am constantly planning, because I teach four different grade levels. However, I am pretty proud of myself when I come up with something that turns out good.

I have never had students that make my blood boil like they do here in Prishtina. I don't know what it is, but since they are a bit spoiled at home, they can be very rude and disrespectful. I have had a few blatantly rude students who will yell at me, which I have never experienced before and it is usually because they were talking through my lesson. The funny thing is that they talk, because they don't understand all the English, yet their English will not improve until they learn to use it. So that can be very frustrating and it truly pushes my buttons. Oh, and I have never met more disconnected parents, sometimes they don't even show up for parent conferences (so no wonder their children don't care about their own growth). Or they act like the one parent whom told me that if his son learns English it will be because I was a good teacher and I had to say, "actually, your son needs to put forth effort, and no matter how hard I work nothing will matter until he works too." As I prepare for parent teacher conferences I am feeling more reason to keep a paper trail to prove why their grades are the way they are.

Breakfast and lunch are always interesting, yet they are starting to become routine. Actually, we go upstairs to our cafeteria (which is a bar in the summer) and the students take seats. Then we call them up one grade at a time to get their food. Most meals are served in a small basket. Breakfast usually consists of bread. Mondays kids get something that looks like a bagel with sesame seeds on top (so plain!) with tea. On Fridays kids eat burek (a meat or cheese filo dough pastry, but there is usually not a lot of meat in the school burek), and other days there might be bread with cheese, soup, or sandwiches with meat or scrambled eggs. Most days they serve herbal tea, which I am thankful for because the school is freezing. And they are offered half of a banana or a quarter of an apple.

Lunch in usually a bowl of bean soup, goulash, stew, or if it is a good day then a chicken leg with cabbage salad and rice. Oh, and almost always they serve a whole loaf of white bread. Unfortunately there never seems to be enough food and when the kids ask for more they are refused any. Hopefully that means I am losing weight. Actually, I have been bringing a piece of fruit each day to supplement my diet.

I take my own attendance, forget about sending it to the office. I have no idea how I am supposed to put together report cards, but I think I have to write them all by hand...thankfully I only have about 48 students. Supplies are coveted in this school and I cherish every piece of white printer paper I can find! There is one copy machine for the school and one man is in charge of making copies, oh and he only speaks Albanian. He is learning though (12 copies, front and back please, with staples).

Bullying is a huge problem and pushing and kicking are a daily routine in the hallways. I am constantly trying to keep kids speaking in English in my classroom, but it is a clear problem when the 8th grade students make rude, inappropriate comments (did I mention it is a class of 9 boys and one girl?). I have one laptop in my room and no computer lab, there are some computers for student use, but it is mostly a high school advantage since it is part of their side of the building. I miss the technology that I had access to last year. Oh what I could do with a LCD projector everyday.

I can leave the school to run errands, which I kind of like. Once a week I go to the coffee shop next door and I drink an herbal tea or hot chocolate while others order coffees. That is a cool way to spend my planning, but since I constantly feel overwhelmed I can only do it once a week. Some days I walk to school with my husband, sometimes he is running later than me.

There is no heat in the school right now and there won't be until November 15th when they plan to turn our building on. Unfortunately the elementary/junior level is located on the side of the building that does not see sun until the afternoon and even then we are blocked by a second floor. It is always cold and I have to wear thick sweaters or my jacket (most teachers wear scarves too). Soon I have a feeling I will be wearing gloves. They may have to buy heaters, and I certainly would love that.

I am starting to get into the routine of things and hopefully things will improve with student behavior, unfortunately it is my experience that they usually get worse as the year progresses. So I don't know what to think! I am just trying to survive. Next post...my daily routine in the city.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Had a Dream!

Lately I have been having some really crazy dreams. I think a lot of them about been surrounded by the stress of teaching at this international school. Last night I had a dream that one of my sweetest 5th grade girls was smoking a cigarette. For some reason I can't seem to get it out of my mind. Remember she is only 10 years old and yet I was staring at her as she made this tough face and puffed out her cigarette smoke!

Too many people smoke in this country and there are moments when I feel like I am going to die of second hand smoke. They smoke on the bus, in the airport, at restaurants, upstairs in our cafeteria....and I just found out that some high school girls were caught smoking in the primary grade's bathroom! Plus, there is great advertisement that smoking is so cool...check out the candy bubble gum package that my 5th grade students shared with me! If you blow on the gum then powdered sugar comes out! What is a straight arrow Mormon girl doing here?

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Teeny Weeny Greek Vacation

This past weekend was a three day weekend for our staff and students so I set out on a short but very sweet trip to Greece and Macedonia. I parted from my husband and then went on a road trip with the principal and kindergarten teacher from my school.

We left right after school at 3:30 in the afternoon and by 9pm we were in Greece. How cool is that? We stopped in ThessalonĂ­ki's, which is in the Northern part of the country but also along the Aegean sea. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner where I tried sardines for the first time. I was also impressed by the large crowds at 11:30 at night with no signs of stopping. Unfortunately I was exhausted after a full day of teaching and a long drive listening to Abba.

We spent a quick morning in the city were I found some great shopping at reasonably prices. Oh, I can't wait to go back. Then we were off on our road trip to look through the countryside for other Greek towns. I must admit, it was not the Greece that you might expect to see, because it was inland but the fall leaves were a nice change from the dirty city of Prishtina. My travel partners were very excited to see water so we stopped in Kastoria for the night. We almost were out of luck until we finally happened upon a hotel with one double room left! It was actually a really nice place, but a reasonably price and the hotel owner could have fit perfectly in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I was also excited to see a wedding at the church in town while we were there.

The next morning we headed off to Lake Ohrid, Macedonia to spend the final night. It is a beautiful tourist town (they also claim to have the oldest lake). I also found some fun shopping here for Christmas presents. We ate a huge meal and I was able to get my own room in the hotel for the night. Then after a short hike in the morning we were heading back home. Below you will see some of the pictures that I took of Greece and shortly I will post some pictures of Lake Ohrid.




Kastoria, Greece is known for their furs. Apparently it used to be an old beaver town, until they killed them all off. Now they import North American furs to see to all us tourists.

















We happened upon this quaint ski lodge and restaurant that looked more Austrian than Greek.




















During our stay in Kastoria we found a desert bar where each of us enjoyed a treat!








































I had Aztez Chile hot chocolate which I chose from a menu of just hot chocolates!















Fall foliage in Greece.




















The warm fireplace in the ski lodge!




















We traveled down some of the smallest streets.




















An old Greek church just nestled in the middle of two houses.




















We saw many of these little prayer spots along the roads. Actually this was one of the largest that we had see on the entire trip.















Can you read this? Greek road signs can be quite tricky when going 110km an hour.















A look at the cute walkways in ThessalonĂ­ki's.
















People must love to eat in Greece, because it was busy when we left at 12:30 at night.















They don't tear down old relics, they just build around them.




















A man made waterfall with a whole park built around it. It was actually quite cool.















Kastoria lake in Greece.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Pictures of Slovenia















Doesn't the baby sheep look so cute?




















They have the tourist thing down with all the autumn leaves growing on the hotels.

















That's our rental car next to a traditional hay stacking rack.















Our first morning there we bought what we thought was cottage cheese at a farmers market, but Joe thinks it was actually Ricotta cheese and I decided I liked it either way.















I collect nativity sets and was excited to see a museum with different nativity displays...this was my favorite, so yummy.




















Joe had fun in the two euro massage machine at the airport.




















We found the toilet in the castle!















Joe and I were both fascinated with this one artist...there was a really large mural outside of a restaurant where we ate so we took a picture of part of it.















Joe wanted to see if he could move this boulder...good luck ol' man!















Joe has this funny face that he always makes and it turns out they made a t-shirt of it!