Teacher! Teacher!

So, I know that there’s been quite a gap since now and my last post, but I assure it’s mainly because of how busy I have been.  Teaching these children has been anything but boring and definitely an experience and a half.  Wow.  I’ve had ups and downs and everything in between.

Teaching here in Turkey children is by far one of the hardest jobs I can think of and it mainly has to do with the culture here and the school. This does not mean I don’t like my children, in fact, it is quite the opposite. I love them to death. As frustrated and angry as they can make me, they are also able to melt my heart in two seconds flat. By now, I have gotten to know my children pretty well.  Most of them do not listen to a word that is spoken. They will run around and do whatever they like whenever they like. The first couple of weeks it was a lot harder to corral them all up and have them sit down, but, at least now, I can get them all to sit down. Whether or not they listen and be quiet is a whole other story. We each have a teacher’s assistant in the room. You would think this would be helpful, but, at times, it can create more problems because the assistants (as well as the homeroom teachers) don’t speak a lick of English. They are supposed to be in the room behaving and participating in the lessons just like the students. More often than not, they’re off doing their own thing or something that they were told to do by the Turkish homeroom teacher. They’re also not supposed to speak Turkish, but, ha, that flew out the window the first day. They have grown on me though, and do help out when it is needed. I’m a bit sad because today they’ve all switched homerooms. So, I now have new teacher assistants in my classrooms.

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6B

My 6B class has turned itself around quite a bit. When I first started to try and teach them, it was chaotic, and they didn’t listen whatsoever. Now, though, it seems that they are learning more and are, at times, much better behaved than my other class. I think this may have to do with the seating dynamic as well as the attitude of the homeroom teacher. This classroom arranged in a kind of semi half circle, or rather more like a semi half ellipse. One problem I have with this class is the SmartBoard. The SmartBoard itself will work, but the SmartPen will not. So I can’t do any of the activities that I do with 6D with this class and it’s extremely frustrating. We don’t even have a white board to work with so I just have to make do with what I have. The SmartBoard in this classroom is nothing more than a glorified projector. I have twelve children in this class (my biggest class) and they are all strikingly different.

Child 1: I tend to have problems with this child. It’s not that he is inherently a bad child, but it’s that he is not really interested in anything that is going on in the classroom. He doesn’t like to sing the songs, or color, or anything of the sort. He mimics me a lot though with a bit of an attitude. For example, if I say, “Sit down, please.” He’ll say the exact same thing with a slight attitude. He can be really good at times though. If we’re doing an activity and I show him exactly what to do a couple of times, he’ll get it done. It’s not necessarily the greatest work, but when he does something I consider it success. I know his older brother has some learning difficulties, so I’m thinking that it’s a possibility that he does as well.

Child 2: Now, this child is normally an angel and a bit of charmer. This past week, however, he hasn’t really been listening at all or participating like he used to. I’m trying to figure out if maybe something went on at home or in school. He’s hanging out more with the trouble maker boys so I’m assuming that’s what going on because he has a twin brother, Kaan, in another teacher’s classroom but his brother hasn’t been acting up at all.

Child 3: I love this little girl. She listens to absolutely everything and is the perfect student. It’s not even that she’s like a teacher’s pet or anything of the sort, she just really seems to want to learn. I feel bad at times because I know that if I had one on one time with her she would excel. Not once have I had to tell her off, and I can’t say that for any other student that I have. She’s a brilliant little one and, if given the chance, will go far. I need to figure out a way to give her more activities to do because I feel like she gets bored at the pace that we’re going. She also has one of the programs that I use to teach at home. She likes it because she knows all the words to the songs and such but I feel bad at times because she isn’t learning anything new and I know she wants to. Even when it comes to playing games that the other children love to play, say like musical chairs or something of the sort, she’ll just sit and watch. She really wants to just learn and do school work. It’d be so much easier to teach her if we were allowed to teach them the alphabet, but we’re not allowed to do so.

Child 4: Ah, my little dreamy-eyed, cuddle bug. This little one has a twin as well (in my other class; I’ll get to him later), and the differences between them are like night and day. Sedat loves cuddles and to be right next to me and to hug and be on teacher’s lap, etc. His father is also the vice principal of the kindergarten.  Now, he may be cuddly little sweetheart, but he also has his moments. One day he was not listening at all. It was in the beginning so there was no structure or daily routines established either. The teacher assistant was busy doing something and wasn’t in the room either. He’s was being rotten and when I was telling everyone to sit, he decided to put his chair on top of the table and sit on it there. He wouldn’t listen at all when I told him to get down or that I’d go get his father. Nothing. He only listened when the Turkish teacher came into the room, and even then, he gave her a hard time. There are times when he will downright ignore anything and everything or the teacher assistant says, but then there are also the times when he also really wants to learn. Let’s take for example a while ago we were playing with some Play-Doh. He was making food with it and wanted to know what everything was in English.  So, he’d tell me the Turkish word, and if I knew it I’d tell him what it is in English, and he would then repeat back to me a time or two. Today, we were reviewing some colors and he was teaching me what the colors were in Turkish. “Teacher, teacher pink türkçe pembe…. Teacher, orange türkçe turuncu…” He did this for each color that I showed on the SmartBoard. He’s a smart one who also wants to learn, but does need to learn how to listen a bit more.

Child 5: This little one has been much better. In the beginning she was a little devil, but now she’s one of the few that actually listens the first time I say to do something. Even though she hasn’t been in class that often (combination of sickness and holidays I’m assuming) she’ll pick up pretty quickly what she’s missed.

Child 6: Most of the time, this one behaves pretty well. If he’s getting out of line at all, I usually only have to give him the look or tell him once to sit down. He’s a quiet one, and pretty nervous when I call him. More often than not, he knows the answer but is too nervous to say it so you have to say it with him or do it with him. It’s as if he’s afraid of being wrong, like as if someone embarrassed him in the past or he’ll get in trouble if he’s wrong. I keep encouraging him though so I’m hoping he makes progress.

Child 7: This little girl has an interesting story. When I first came into the classroom, I could tell that something was not quite right. She has a constant head shake, never talks, needs direct one-on-one contact and directions to understand anything (English or Turkish) and a multitude of other problems. I was concerned and asked around about her. Turns out, she does have some learning difficulties (what exactly I still don’t know). I nearly cried when she said some English words for me (with the help of one of the other students), and even the Turkish teacher was surprised. After the week’s holiday that just recently passed, I noticed a difference in her (they changed her medication or something of the sort) She’s been participating more and talking more as well as doing better during the class activities. I get such an overwhelming feeling of happiness and pride whenever I see the progress she’s making, and I like to show off her colorings or drawings that she does to the Turkish teachers because even they get surprised when she does stuff.

Child 8: My little cherub-faced monster. Oh, boy. He’s a handful. He’s smart and loud impossible to get angry at whenever he doesn’t listen (which is quite often) because of his face and dimples and sweetness. He’ll hug me and won’t let go, and when he’s doing something he’s not supposed to he’ll smile the most adorable smile and say, “Teacheerrrrrrrrrr.” AH! Frustrations! I can’t get mad at him because of how ridiculously cute he is and because he really isn’t doing anything all that bad but he causes the other students to follow along and I want to lose my mind some days. There was one day when the students were not listening at all and I was two seconds from bursting. He ran up to me and hugged me saying, “I love you, Teacher.” And the rest of the class followed suit. I was weighed down by twelve six year olds who were all hugging me. There was no way that I could be angry.

Child 9: This little one confuses me. I think he’s confused as well. He can be downright horrible at times and the definition of a little terror. Running around, laying under the table, not doing anything he’s told… But this past week he’s been a bit better. I know he’s smart but he never really applies himself. He did so this week though. When you ask him something, he’ll know the answer. I need to learn how to deal with him. I don’t want to stunt his learning ability but he’s a hard one to figure out.  I need to try and pay more attention to him and give him some more responsibilities around the classroom.

Child 10: I’m not sure how to feel about her. The first few days of school she pretended to be a perfect little angel, which she is anything but. Now she has her good days and her bad days.  Her behavior isn’t consistent at all, and I think just depends on her mood that day. She likes to rock out to whatever music I play, and some days will be a great little teacher’s assistant. Other days though she can be a bit of a bully and not listen at all. Some days she’ll listen, other days there’s no getting through to her. More often than not, it’s the latter. The days that she listens though make up for it. Then again, the days that she does not listen definitely have an effect on her learning.

Child 11: He has way too much energy.  An interesting child. In the beginning he was very good, colored and drew very well, but now it’s as if he eats nothing but sugar and hops around every, scribbles through his drawings and coloring pages, misbehaves and the like. Odd. I don’t know what to make of him because each day he gets worse.

Child 12: The tiniest child that I have in my six year classes. He was an angel who spoke no English whatsoever. He’s picked up on the English that I’ve taught in class (numbers, colors, family) but now he doesn’t listen well. He’ll run around with Kaya, Kerem, and Efe and be a little terror as well. Eventually he’ll do as he’s told. I’m just glad that he’s picking up the English that I’m teaching him, because when I first met at him and would say anything to him, he’d just look at me, smile, then give me a hug. He’s one of the little ones that joined in on the hug-pile and said, “Teacher, seni çok seviyorum!” (I love you lot!)

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6D

Recently, I’ve been having more and more listening problems with this class. I think it mainly has to do with the layout of the classroom. It’s kind of arranged like a rectangle. The girls sit at one end and the boys sit at the other end.  This obviously causes huge problems. I want to rearrange the classroom, but that’s not choice; that’s the homeroom teacher’s choice.  At least the SmartBoard in this classroom works so I can play games in which the students can interact with it. They love this and will often be quiet and good in order to do so. I’ve noticed that there is always a battle between the girls and the boys whenever there is a game going on. This class may be smaller but I have a few more trouble makers in here.

Child 13: At first, this girl was very good. Listened to everything, participated and whatnot. Now, though, she seems to have not a care in the world and does what she wants. If I say we’re doing something, she’ll just be like, “No, Teacher,” walk off, and do her own thing. She can be a bad influence at times as well because she’ll gather the girls (there are only four girls in the classroom) and have them do whatever she wants. It’s hard to deal with because these are the girls that are usually pretty good and pay attention. The problem is though is that she’s smart. She knows her vocabulary but she can be very snooty and has a bit of an air about her, as if she’s too good for the class and what’s going on.

Child 14: This went straight from four years class to six years class. I personally think that it was a mistake. She’s not ready for the six years class and should be in the five years class. She’s great at coloring and drawing, but that’s about it. She’s still behind the others when it comes to counting, animals, colors, and the like. She likes to dance but only to her own beat. She won’t do the specific dances to the songs that are in our routines. She gets offended very easily too, but knows when she’s doing something she’s not supposed to do. Like today, she was standing on her chair; I just looked at her, said her name, and she automatically sat down with coy little, “Tamam, Teacher…” (Ok/Alright, Teacher).

Child 15: She’s a budding little artist for sure. Her drawing skills are way above most of the other students. She’s pretty good with her vocabulary as well, and listens for the most part. She’ll participate but she’s pretty quiet and won’t go out of her way be loud. She’s a cutie though usually doesn’t have to be told twice to do something.

Child 16: She’s Miss Prim and Proper. Always quiet. Always does as she’s told. Always knows the answer, and if she doesn’t she’ll learn it. Always sits with proper posture and hands in her lap. Colors perfectly. Only recently have I had some issues with her listening, but that’s only because she was having issues with the other girls in the classroom. I saw her and older sister walking together one day and it was like I was watching Azra and a taller clone of Azra. Same walk, same braided pigtails, same glasses.

Child 17: Ughhhhh. Oh, Enes, Enes, Enes. Talk about a trouble maker. He knows a lot more English than he lets on. He’s always causing problems and not listening either. Luckily, it’s not just me he doesn’t listen to (I know it’s not good, but it does make me feel better that I’m not the only who can’t control him). Recently though, I’ve found out a way to make him somewhat behavebetter. He’s in love with the Five Little Monkeys song/ video and always asks for it. I’ve been telling him that if he and everyone else is good, I’ll play it at the end of the lesson. Every time he starts to act up, I’ll look at him and tell him, “No monkeys.” He’s then good and tries to get the others to pay attention as well, and since he’s pretty much the class gang leader they usually listen to him. I have problems though with him and another boy in the classroom. They’re constantly fighting, physically. It’s been better as of late, but it’s ridiculous that there aren’t any consequences for this type of behavior.

Child 18: This is the other trouble maker that I have in the class. He’s considerably smaller than Enes, and he’s the one that Enes always gets into it with. Enes will provoke him somehow and they’ll end up punching, kicking, hitting, slapping, whatever they can do. When they are finally pulled apart Baran always has something to say. This is a point when I really wish I knew Turkish because whatever comes out of his mouth like it’s something mean and scary even. He talks up a storm. He hates coloring and does like to learn but never pays attention to anything. It’s strange though because his mother is one of the teachers in the kindergarten (she teaches five years). I could be talking directly to him, and he’ll completely ignore me and avoid eye contact and continue to talk or do whatever he likes in the meantime. I need to find some more ways to get this child more into the lessons. He loved it the other day when I brought some mazes for him to do because I know he doesn’t like to color. He finished them too quickly though and then got angry when I didn’t have any more for him. I’ve realized that he has some anger issues.

Child 19: He’s the twin of my doe-y eyed student in 6B. Everything that Sedat is when it comes to cuddly and such, he is not. Vedat has piercing eyes, sharper feautures, and is more of a “manly man.” He hates the cuddly stuff and will push away the hugs. He has a charming, devilish grin though. He can be rough and has some listening problems as well. He’s smart. He’ll call out the answers and listens only slightly better than Enes and Baran. He’s been getting better though behavior wise, so I’m happy about that.

Child 20: This child is going to be a model when he’s older. We’ve all decided for him. He’s cool, he’s ridiculously pretty, and has eye lashes that any girl would be jealous of. Aside from that, he knows he’s cool. Say we’re doing the morning routine songs / dances… he’ll do his own little body shake / shimmy and show off. When he gets out of hand though, which is pretty often since most of the boys in that class are pretty close, it only takes me one time to say his name and he’ll sit back down. He gets distracted very easily though. The other day, everyone had finished their activity but he was still working on his because Baran kept talking to him and he couldn’t cut and listen at the same time. He finally finished at the very last minute. All in all though, he’s a good kid.

Child 21: The tiniest in the class and the quietest. He often won’t say anything when he’s called on and will just sit down and look at the desk. I can tell he knows what we’re learning though because he’ll participate when the whole class is yelling out answers or when we’re doing a SmartBoard activity; at those times he’ll raise his hand because everyone else is and he doesn’t want to be left out. I encourage him as much as I can. Behavioral wise he’s in between. He’s not too bad, but he’s not angel either. He’s a bit of a perfectionist when he’s drawing, coloring, or cutting so he often finishes things after everyone else. I also apparently cannot for the life of me pronounce his name correctly and Vedat makes fun of how I say his name. One of the first days I was in class with Alp, I was writing their names on their projects that they were working on. Most of the students have two names, first and middle. Alp’s is Mehmet Alp. I didn’t know at the time though that he preferred Alp. I wrote Mehmet on his project and he tried to fix it and change it to Alp, but he could only sort of write the A and an awkward L. I figured it out later. He can now write ALP on his papers and is very proud of it. He must’ve learned this at home though since we’re not allowed to teach them the alphabet.

Child 22: He’s the best behaved in this class, and he’s also a sweetie. He loves to participate and raise his hand even when he doesn’t know the answer at all. He’s another one who loves hugs. When all the boys are causing trouble, he’s normally not involved. Infact, Ahmet and Alp are usually together. They’re the quieter ones in the classroom. It doesn’t help that they look similar as well. In the beginning of the year I couldn’t tell them apart at all and kept getting them confused, but now I’ve got it down. Ahmet can be a bit sensitive as well and will cry if others start to make fun of his coloring / drawing etc. Luckily, he’s usually pretty good, so I don’t have many problems with him.Image

5C

This class is my shared lessons course, meaning the homeroom teacher does the lesson with me. It’s hard to come up with a joint lesson though when I don’t speak Turkish and she doesn’t speak English. Somehow though we manage pretty well. I’m lucky because she’s one of the few Turkish teachers that actually tries with the shared lessons. I’ll talk, she’ll talk, etc. The children in this class are pretty well behaved.

Child 23: Engin is an interesting child. He looks like he could seven or eight but s really only five. This is probably because his mother is probably about 6 feet tall. We refer to him as the one with the “cool” parents because they’re always dressed sharp and in black. He’s an odd one though. Some days he’ll participate and other days he won’t say a thing. It doesn’t help that he’s the biggest in the grade either. He doesn’t quite fit in. If I talk to him one-on-one though he’s pretty good.

Child 24: The tiniest child I have, and he can’t do anything. It’s adorable and kind of sad at the same time. This is a perfect example of how coddled Turkish children are. You should have seen the “scissors” he was first sent to school with. They were the tiniest little plastic scissors that looked like they came out of a doll’s play kit or something. They barely worked. He’s helpless when it comes to doing anything, but he’s just so cute, you can’t help but help him with everything. He’s always asking what to do (in Turkish of course) for every single little thing. He’s so cute though because of how tiny he is. Lately, he’s been getting better at cutting things out (he’s got himself some big boy scissors now) even though it takes him forever.

Child 25: She’s great. I think I’ve only ever had to tell her off once. What smart girl she is! A little too smart for the class though I think. She’s sweet and a teacher’s pet; sometimes I think she’s like to take the teacher’s place. She knows her stuff though, I have no qualms with her and I know she’s going to excel throughout the year. I’m a little afraid that next year she might turn into an Eslem though…

Child 26: She gets a little too excited. She knows a lot and loves to show it off. Anything that she can get her hands on, if she learned the English word for it she’ll say it, and if she doesn’t know it, she’ll ask what it is until she remembers it. I know she gets a little too into it at times, but in ways I wish all my students had her eagerness to learn and show off a bit.

Child 27: He’s another smarty pants, but he doesn’t show it off. He knows his stuff, and is very proud of it. He’s quiet and very well behaved. There was a week or two that he wasn’t in class in the beginning of the year but it didn’t seem to matter because when he was back he still seemed to know more than the other students.

Child 28: He’s a little cheeky monkey. Smart though. He can memorize songs very easily, and has every single word of “Old MacDonald” memorized. I was very surprised when was sang along to the song. Many of the students have a hard enough time just trying to master the E-I-E-I-O part and the animal sounds. He’s cute and he knows it. He can be cheeky and then get away with it because he’s smart. He definitely understands a lot more English then he lets on, because he also rides the service bus that I ride and I was asking him a bunch of questions about emotions the other day and he knew all of them.

Child 29: She’s a quiet one. I think her and Elif used to be good friends but then something happened because they seem to have some issues. She’s also petrified of the cinema / theater room. She actually started crying and would not go in at all. Poor girl. She gets her stuff done though and likes giving hugs as well. She never really causes any problems. If anything, the only thing that I would complain about is that sometimes she doesn’t want to participate.

Child 30: This child I don’t even know how to explain. Very strange child. She’s happy in the morning, but as the day goes on she listens less and less and less. She can be very mean at times too. For no reason she’ll break someone’s crayon or rip their paper, but then other times she’ll be very nice and help Emin cut stuff out. If she decides she’s done she’ll run around, and there is absolutely no getting through to her. You can have an angry face on and be very stern and she’ll just look back at you with a kind of sinister-I-don’t-care-about-anything-you’re-saying smile, dance around some more, and there’s nothing in her eyes. Even when you make eye contact with her it’s like staring into nothing. Very strange. She’ll be happy then all of a sudden if you look at her and ask her to do something or a question she’ll put on the meanest face as if you did something horrible to her. I don’t understand her one bit.

Child 31: This one is an old in a little girl’s body. She knows a lot and wants to learn. She’s gets bored of simple things like coloring and the like and wants to do actual learning. Sometimes though she’ll get into an odd mood and won’t participate at all. It’s pretty odd. She doesn’t want to do “kid” things. She’d prefer to sit and work in a workbook than to sit and play with the toys that all the other five year olds are happily playing with.

Child 32: He is quiet but he also misbehaves. If the Turkish teacher wasn’t in the room with me, I know that he would cause me problems. Once in a while he’ll answer questions, but more often than not he doesn’t pay attention and seem uncomfortable / not to care about the class. He would much rather mess around in the corner than sit at the table and learn stuff it seems.

All in all, I really do love all my children that have. Even though many of them cause me immeasurable amounts of grief and will more than likely be the cause of my first white hair, when they tackle hug me or even just smile I can’t help but love them more and more each day. I love watching them grow everyday too. I’m not talking about physically growing, I mean intellectually. It is interesting to see what they know now as opposed to what they knew the middle of September. I may not see the daily progress that they make, but I definitely see improvements as the weeks go on. I can’t explain to you how happy that makes me.

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Author: Una Vagabonda

ESL teacher in Istanbul. TEFL certified and FTCE Elementary K-6 certified. I absolutely love to teach and to be around children. They always know how to put a smile on your face. Majored in Italian Studies, minoring in Religious Studies focusing on the Middle East. Studied abroad in a little town in Italy called Pisciotta this summer. Best time of my life. Studied Urbino, the town where Rafaello was born, for a fall semester. Learning Turkish. I’m having severe cravings for Long Island bagels and Chinese food.

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