If you are an English teacher like us, the end of the year for you is not in December, but whenever classes are over some time in the summer. And yes, it’s holiday time!
Also, in less than a month it’ll be a year since we came to live to Kayseri, Turkey. This isn’t the first time either of us lived abroad – I lived in the UK for 6 years, Mike lived in Russia for 6 and we both spent 6 month in New Zealand, but this is the first time we moved to a foreign country together, albeit short-term (we`ll be staying on another couple of years).
It has been an interesting year. I`ve missed home and my family, but was fortunate enough to meet some good people here who’ve become very dear to me (you know who you are). We`ve taken a few trips around Turkey: to Kizkalesi (part 1 and part 2), Istanbul (part 1 and part 2), Capadoccia, Çıralı and Mike also went on a short trip to Germany. I also wrote about Kayseri here and here.
The last time I wrote about work was after end of the first semester.
Since then, we survived another semester, or two quarters – we use quarters in Prep School and semesters with our faculty students.The third quarter went by much easier, as both the instructors and the students settled into familiar routines of classes and quizzes. I had a an Intermediate group that seemed to almost teach itself – you know, the kind of students who don’t need long warm-ups, who enthusiastically launch into every activity and instead of going through a list of speaking questions at the speed of light and shouting, “FINISHED, TEACHER” even before their speaking partner finished uttering their last syllable they actually ask for more time as they have “so much to discuss”. However, with such strong classes I find that your job as a teacher is actually made more difficult in some respects, as it is up to you to challenge the students and shake them out of their complacence and the eyes-rolling-we-know-this-already attitude. At the same time, their proficiency and confidence means that you can definitely have fun with English (not to say this can’t be done at lower levels) and have fun we did. Memorable lessons included a lesson with news reports where students huddled under umbrellas as they pretended to report from a flooded region and job fair where one group of students was trying to find volunteers for medical experiments. With my listening/speaking groups, we started doing presentations and I really enjoyed trying out new ideas for these classes – from using peer-evaluation worksheets for every presentation to introducing a check-list for every group to make sure they know what they are being graded on. Since I wanted students to learn from each other, as well as prevent them from copying entire Wikipedia pages into their presentations, I made it a requirement to include a glossary with each presentations and a list of questions for the audience. This helped ensure that the audience understand the presentation and focus their attention on the presenters instead of going over their own presentations. One group got very creative with their presentation about natural gas and recorded themselves performing a song to the tune of a popular track (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-natural gas) To celebrate the end of the third quarter, all of the Prep School staff went out to breakfast at Kayseri Marina, a water reserve just outside Kayseri. As I`ve mentioned before, breakfast is a popular social occasion here in Turkey and it’s as common for people to go out for breakfast as it is for lunch and dinner in other countries. The breakfast was lovely, as all Turkish breakfasts are, and then we spent an inordinate amount of time taking photos. In this respect, Turkey is just the country for me – people here love taking and sharing photos. Selfies, group portraits, small groups, you name it – we took them all.
The fourth quarter was both easy and difficult. On the one hand, it went by really fast for us instructors, but for the students the last few months must have seemed like eternity. You could see them hopping with impatience at the end of each day, raring to go outside in the spring sunshine.Our campus became greener and the outdoors more inviting with every passing day:
As students became more distracted and less motivated, a lot of selfies also happened. I drew the line at allowing the students to take photos in class but they still managed to sneak in some shots and occasionally wore me down until I agreed to pose with them.
The end of the year was marked by a great event – a student/teacher concert. It featured a performance by a band made up of three of our prep school teachers and two students. Other students were also invited to take part by competing in a singing contest – the winners would get a boost to their final grades. The students rose to the challenge and their enthusiasm almost made up for the lack of singing abilities – many put on a show, or had costumes specially made. In fact, more students than were ever expected signed up and there weren’t enough songs in the band’s repertoire for every group, so several songs had to be repeated. The fourth time we heard, “IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPAAAAAALL”, we were clapping slightly less enthusiastically, but it was still good fun. Yours truly was on the jury and as such we were able to commandeer the front row and look important while doodling on the scoring sheet.
Inspired by my friend CeAnn’s baking genius, I attempted to bake some cookies for such a party but as you`ll see from the photo below, my attempts didn’t immediately pay off. Mike was starting to get worried as he heard increasingly loud shouts of frustration and loud banging coming from the kitchen and came in to find me covered in flour trying to scrape puddles of dough that refused to become cookies off the baking tray. But I persevered and my final batches finally resembled cookies. These teachers are fun teachers:
After a game of Headbandz Speaking of food, I sang many praises to our cafeteria lunches. They continue to be fabulous, except in July when they were serving lunches to a small group on instructors and students who weren’t fasting during Ramadan and the choices mainly consisted of fast food, so my friends and I mostly brought packed lunches and then looked for discreet places to eat them. But even before Ramadan, I started bringing my own food because I’d had some issues with high blood pressure and was told by my doctor literally to not “eat like a Kayserian”. As delicious our school lunches are, they are often very salty and sometimes high in calories, so, I invested in a bunch of containers and, with the help of my friend Jenny, got a lunch box and started packing lunches.
And the fact that Turkish food is so delicious and the Turks are so generous does not make eating healthier easy. On the one hand, we are living in a country with abundant and cheap fresh produce – from peaches to spinach, we have it all. On the other hand, many traditional Turkish dishes are not exactly healthy – as you can see from the photo above. And then there are always events centered around food. For instance, some time in June we (the teachers and professors from our university) were invited to have lunch at a house belonging to the founders of our university. This prominent Kayseri family owns a chain of furniture shops and associated factories and warehouses and in fact has a large market share in the furniture market. They own a large chunk of land adjacent to the industrial estate (most of which they own as well). This land includes a steep hill, on the slopes of which they are growing a forest, and a house at the very top. To get there, you have to endure a rollercoaster-like car ride. The lunch included several scrumptious courses, the best of them being slow-roasted lamb accompanied by roasted baby onions, garlic and tomatoes. We were allowed to bring our spouses so I was happy that Mike could come along and meet some of my colleagues.
By mid-June, most of our classes were over, with the exception of Summer School which is only taught by a handful of instructors and a new half-day schedule was instituted. We started work at 10, broke for lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. and were free to go home at 3 p.m. In these 4 hours, we were expected to work on various projects, the biggest of them being developing materials for next year. I was on the team developing writing materials for B1 (pre-intermediate) level since we won’t be using published materials for some of our courses starting next year, creating our own instead. This schedule was really convenient – plenty of time to do your own things in the morning before work and definitely plenty of time to do things after. We worked in this fashion for the whole of July, and now I am officially on holiday! Unofficially, I still have to study for the DELTA exam I`m planning to take in December so I`ll need to work hard conquering my procrastinating tendencies!