I’ve noticed that I tend to blog mostly about positive things. I do want to be more positive and less grumpy in general, so I guess that’s a good thing. However, this meant I haven’t felt like blogging for a while. I haven’t had the easiest time teaching in the second quarter of 2014. In fact, it is fair to say I`ve had to deal with some of the most challenging students in my teaching career. The mix of bad attitude and unhealthy group dynamics made every lesson a bit of an uphill struggle (Sisyphus with his enormous rock comes to mind). A colleague of mine used to say that you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, meaning that as a teacher your job is to create the best conditions for language learning but ultimately it is up to the students to actually learn. What she didn’t mention is the horse bucking and kicking as you drag it towards the water, occasionally thwacking you in the face with its tail and stomping on your feet. Yeah, like I said, not the most motivated bunch. But there is a silver lining – the challenges I faced did help me develop as a teacher and forced me to become more inventive and creative. Yet it wasn’t all bad.There were some meaningful connections, the most memorable of which has been dinner with a student and his family, more on which is to follow in a separate post.
This quarter things are both better and worse. I can understand the students’ reluctance to spend 6 hours a day studying something they do not see the usefulness of, especially considering how much more difficult this level’s materials are. At the same time, I think as human being it is important to respect the people around you. I put a lot of effort in preparing for lessons, creating my own materials that are better suited for the students’ level, trying to find ways to engage them, so it is hard not to take things personally when things like this happen
I am especially enjoying teaching my second-year students. The class I have with them is Presentation Skills and a few weeks ago they prepared some wonderful Introduction Speeches, introducing their classmates to the whole class. It was one of the most enjoyable classes I`ve ever had
I`m also enjoying being creative – and helping students do the same. For one of my classes, where students were assigned with group presentations on music styles, I made a very nerdy video of my own about hip hop as a model. My friend Jackie who was recording the video laughed so hard when I was trying to show how rappers dance, she almost dropped the phone.
And this was my favorite project ever – to inspire my students to do an Imitation Speech, I recorder my own, dressed as Effie Trinket from Hunger Games. I kind of wish I could dress like this every day!
Another joyful moment came when a student brought two dogs to the campus. I`ve said many times how few dogs there are here in Kayseri and how much I miss my own puppies, Sharon and Monica. So when I saw these two gorgeous dogs I couldn’t stop loving on them, and, probably sensing my love for them, they responded in earnest. The retriever sort of sat on me, leaning on my heavily, while the pit bull licked my face. A funny story about the pit bull – I asked the student what his name was, and he said, “Chicken”, adding, “because it’s ugly”. I didn’t think of chickens as particularly ugly, nor was the snow-white pit bull by any means ugly, so I was really confused, but oh well. I called the dog Chicken the whole time I was petting it and then told everyone about a dog with a funny name. It was only when I saw an Instagram photo posted by the student that I realized my my mistake. The dog was actually called çirkin, literally translated as ‘ugly’ from Turkish, and it sound a lot like chicken (pronounced chirkin). However, I now think that Chicken is a great name for a dog.
And another thing that unfailingly brings me joy is my colleagues, especially my office mates. I receive so much support from them – from supporting little notes when I`m feeling down, to a happy song meant to cheer me up, to a chocolate bar every Friday, just because. Here are some of my office mates in the cafeteria at lunch. Don’t let their stern faces fool you – they are some of the kindest and warmest people out there.
So, to sum up – what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Every difficulty I face in the classroom makes me a better teacher and if even one student out of twenty is listening and learning, my job is well done.