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.


Happy Villain said...

Wow, that's really interesting. I thought Americans had a bad reputation for rude, undisciplined, spoiled kids. How strange that it's worse elsewhere. Or, maybe not worse so much as just as bad, but in a different way. Hopefully things will normalize more as the year goes on. Just think of how giddy you'll be back in the US in schools that have supplies and the kids speak your language! :)

Travelin' Tracy said...

HV- I know what you mean, I will be so glad to be in a public school at home. Many of the children in this school are spoiled with parents who have gotten rich quickly (usually in an illegal way). Plus there are many that are related to the owner so they also think they should get their way. I didn't know this before coming here, but it is almost leveled society and house cleaning would be below them. Many of the local teachers are afraid to give bad grades, because they think someone might come after them...kids have been known to threaten. Thankfully as an international I don't give a sh-t, you know? Respect is what I expect!

by the way, I like the new picture!

KG said...

this gives me a new perspective on teaching overseas. taylor and i wanted to do that, and still do. i guess everywhere you teach has it's challenges, and you are learning quite a few things there! it'll make you stronger and wiser and give you skills on how to deal with disrespectful kids, especially your own. :)

Update in February

One might think that having several snow days would give me the time to write in my blog, but I have been spending a lot of time working on ...