Friday, September 5, 2008

"Reading and Writing and Arithmetic, Taught to the Tune of a Hickory Stick"

Well, escuela has started (I don't even know the Turkish word yet), and my life has drastically changed from traveler to teacher. We had one week of preparation (no kids), and today I officially completed one week of school with all my students. Above are pictures of happy hour at the local "Uptown Bistro." My colleagues and I took over the place: Friday after the first week of school. You'd think I'd have pictures of the school to post, but not yet.

There have been MANY changes to my schedule, classroom, and class load over the past two weeks. Last night, we had a 2-hour dept. meeting after school which resulted in one more class being added to my schedule. And I think (I hope) this will be the last change, because, man, all these changes are hard to deal with once the school year has begun. I am busy planning in depth discussions about The Heart of Darkness, at the same time that I am receiving my class rosters for the first time, at the same time I am working on yearly plans for all my classes because the Turkish Ministry of Education requires a plan for what you will do every day of the school year in advance, at the same time that I am checking my school email for the first time because internet just got hooked up, at the same time that I am running back and forth with my USB key to the one printer in the whole K-12 school that is working right now. Very chaotic. And everyone around me looks frazzled. All the enthusiasm of the new teachers during orientation has faded into exhausted, overwhelmed looks as we try to figure out what we're actually supposed to teach and where our resources are. I am told that at many international schools, the kickoff is very disorganized due to all the turnover these schools face. In all my TWO years of teaching :) I've never had such a stressful, shaky start off. It's felt a bit overwhelming coupled with the transition of moving to a brand new country.

The culture of the school is very different from anything I've known, and much of it is still hard to grasp at the moment. Bits will come out in my blog a little at a time. Some of these differences, I think, are related to BUPS being an international school, some are related to the Turkish culture, and some are just plain old BUPS culture.

Just to talk IB for a second (for those of you that understand it), I am teaching two sections of English A2 grade 11, one section of English A1 grade 12, and one section of Drama grade 12. So, the big kids. My English A1 is for students whose first language, their strongest language, is English. And I love this class. I was at first very intimidated by it, because these kids are smart, especially this class of 12th graders, and the training I received in Montezuma was not for A1, it was for A2, which is a class designed for students who speak English as a second language and is much less rigorous. Buuuuut, my A1 class may turn out to be my favorite. We are reading Heart of Darkness right now. (It was their summer reading assignment, and since I didn't find out I was teaching this course until a few days before school started, I admit, I had to rely on sparknotes for the first few classes. I know, I'm a total fraud, and I was sure at any moment, they were going to discover me. But they didn't.) Well, we have been having the most amazing classroom discussions this week. The kids are bright, passionate, articulate, and forthcoming; all the things an English teacher dreams of having in her classroom. It's been such a treat.

The students are also very warm, sweet, and polite. Even the male students that I sense will give me trouble as some point, are extremely sweet and polite, greeting me every time they come in and leave the classroom as well as in the hallway. I am used to mere grunts from these boys in the States. Teachers are quite revered in Turkish culture. Education is extremely revered in Turkish culture. When I asked my students how many planned on attending University after high school, they all raised their hands and laughed at me as if I had just asked, "Who wants to become a bum when they grow up?" Also, a very different response from the group of students I am used to in the States.

1 comment:

Ted said...


Sounds like you are in the thick of it now! Hang in there! I'm really curious about how it all goes. It sounds really amazing. What a huge and beautiful place you ended up in.

Montana misses you but there's really nothing going on here and no reason for you to miss us. ;-)

I eamiled you too.

- Ted