Sunday, August 14, 2011

Romania Week - Day Two

The Teaching Experience

Two months before I left for Romania, I honestly wasn't thinking that much about it. It was a pleasant thing sitting somewhere in my future that I knew I would eventually encounter. Two weeks before, I was so excited I couldn't control myself. Inventing little scenarios in my head, obsessively reading weather reports, and endlessly packing and unpacking (mentally of course. Oh God, if I packed my bags for real two weeks before I left for a trip, 90% of my troubles would be solved.)

Two days before, I was a wreck.

The prospect of planning for and teaching a large class of foreign students when you have no training for the task, and nothing to rely on but a little book of suggestions (useless, thank you very much), your own ideas (some useless, some awesome) and your fellow teacher friends (always awesome), is really daunting.

Kids smell fear. FACT.

The first morning. 'Just make sure they can't smell your fear.'

My first two weeks, in Iasi, I was teaching a class of 37 10-12 year olds. THIRTY SEVEN. That was a challenge, to say the least. The ideas I had for projects with this class mostly went down really well. I had them design their own countries (modeled off my own Zongo-Zongo. Capital: Jenny-ville), plan their ideal holidays using brochures I picked up from tourist information, write their own skits using an assigned list of random vocabulary, write their own newspapers, make their own wordearches. We played a looooooot of outdoor games. I organized a music pub-style quiz, complete with soundclips and posters. Several of us planned an elaborate Pirate treasure hunt, a movie day complete with origami popcorn boxes (finally! Vlad's moment to shine!), and we even taught them ceilidh dancing.

Movie Day: Design a movie poster and present to the class.

Basically, with this group, there was no shortage of fun ideas and they loved them all. The problem I did have was discipline. Not about obeying me, I'm pleased to say. The first day I found myself in that classic dilemma: should I start off nice and sweet and get meaner if I have to? Or should I start out mean and scary and get gradually nicer? Much like Ted Mosby in How I met Your Mother, I was confused. [Watch the embedded video at the end if you don't know what I'm talking about.] I went for a balance, and for the most part, they listened to me in class, were quiet(ish) when I wanted (didn't hurt to learn the Romanian for 'silence' - that totally put them in their place), and followed instructions pretty well. But there was a bad case of bullying; a bunch of little turds against this one girl. Get thirty-seven pre-pubescent kids together and I think this is bound to happen. Most of it was outside the classroom but some of it was being brought in and I struggled with that, because it made me resort to mean, 'do your work in total silence' mode.

With my wee kiddies.

Eventually I realized that's a vital part of teaching kids and I became comfortable with my ability to do it when it was needed. I definitely had my class's respect, so I couldn't be prouder of myself.

Handing out certificates on 'graduation'.


The second two weeks, in the small village of Radauti, were different in every way. I was teaching 15-16 year olds and only had 17 on the busiest day, with only one boy. This group was much better-behaved and less rowdy. Their English was much better, but on the flipside they were a little more reserved. At some points the silence in the classroom during 'groupwork' was unnerving to me so I had to remind them they COULD talk amongst themselves. Weird right? But I appreciated their company when a group of them would take us out for drinks or show us around the town.

Pirate Treasure Hunt: the first task was to design and wear their own pirate hats, and create a pirate ship out of uncooked spaghetti and long marshmallows. The clue they got:
But first you must prove you're ready
For this you'll need a hand so steady.
A ship to take you on your quest
And a pirate hat to look your best.

Traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing.

Jen the other teacher and I were able to reuse and adapt a lot of our plans and ideas from the previous two weeks and make them more elaborate. Again we did a treasure hunt, though this one was much better planned and had more interesting clues. There was an old abandoned fountain just off the school grounds that we actually used as our fountain of youth, with treasure hidden inside. We also had a Scottish ceilidh dance and we set up a talent show. Their talents were really impressive!

Radauti's Got Talent!

In the end, I'm glad I had two totally different groups because I gained more experience and learned more about my teaching style. I had sooo much fun with both classes. I learned a lot about myself in the sense of how authoritarian I can be if I have to, and I became comfortable with doing it. I realized I want to get my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate and do this kind of thing again, this time with training and experience under my belt. I learned so much about kids' abilities, interests and skills. And I learned what a pain in the ass I must have been in high school with my constant chattering and drawing doodles and passing notes that I was convinced the teacher couldn't see. But now I know the truth: kids might smell fear, but the teacher can see everything. EVERYTHING.

My slightly less wee kiddies.

The video below sums up my first morning.


Katelyn R. said...

you sound like you had a lot of fun! glad everything went so well for you. i especially enjoy what you learned. it's excellent advice for everyday living!

Kelly's Korner said...

37 KIDS!!!!! WOA!!! Glad you made it back! That's a very cool thing that you did, and those activities sound way cool! I bet you were fantastic!

Corinnea said...

I am totally impressed with how you handled your not so wee kiddies. I have no doubt that you were/will be a very effective instructor.

Beutiful Lie ^^ said...

Jenny , u were the best teacher!maybe a little too scary, but funny. :)
btw : your beach ball ... you left it in Radauti.
I got it as a souvenir from you.
I hope i'll see you someday. Take care, many kisses from Romania.
Zafrina :)

pearlswirl said...


you are sooo sweet! I miss teaching you all so much, and Romania in general! This was one of the best summers of my life and i'll always have such good memories of it!

:) <3

Yash... said...

I'm not at all surprised you could be authoritarian. I recall someone who spent the better part of whatever "game" you orchestrated explaining and enforcing the "rules".

Rembe, BTW

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