Fidgets…

Hello all!

It’s been way too long since my last post for sure. The school year was beyond busy, crazy, emotional, and everything else you could imagine. I’ve been trying to relax this summer as much as I can since I know come August 3rd, I won’t see the light of day until the following June.

Teacher summers are never long enough! Now isn’t that the understatement of the year?

Now, like most teachers, I am not a fan of fidget spinners. They were a huge distraction this year and there were no observable benefits that I saw with the kids who did have them. They mostly just wanted to show them off.

I did, however, find an item that really kept my kids busy this year (or rather a set of items), was this IQ Challenge Set. I swear, even my most fidgety kids could sit for hours trying to get these puzzles together. Especially the cube. It kept their hands busy, and a few were even able to “play” with it during class. It worked for all ages as well. Normally, I teach 3rd grade, but I did tutoring after school and would have 2nd graders in my room. Both grades enjoyed them as well as the other students and siblings that would pop in the room. I even had some middle school siblings who would come in specifically just to try and figure these puzzles out.
I definitely need to order another set of these. This time though, I need to put each one in it’s own baggie labeled with what it is and perhaps how many pieces there should be to it.
I had a few students who figured out the sphere and the metal puzzle as well. Some got close to figuring out the cube, but, alas, they could not. Perhaps this year I will have a student who will be able to figure it out. Check them out for yourself in the link below!

I’ll keep you posted!

IQ Challenge


IQ Set

 
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Who wants to fill up my coffee?

Well, the first month is done. It’s been a whirlwind of a month. Getting to know the students and teachers and constantly changing schedules takes a lot out of you. I’m tired, I need a lot more coffee, but I enjoy the classroom teacher position. It’s nice to just focus on just one class and on just fourteen students as opposed to six classes and over a hundred students like I had last year at the same school. It’s also been a bit of a make-shift beginning of the year, because as per usual here the books came very late and some did not come at all. So, I’ve had to make do with the resources that I have at the school and online resources. For English resources, I have an endless supply because the office has to have thousands of books. I photocopy what I need for the day or week and that’s that. For the other subjects though such as social sciences and math, I’ve had to work a bit harder. Pinterest is a teacher’s best friend for sure; it not only offers crafting ideas, but there are also lesson plans, worksheets, and pretty much anything I could ever need. Teachers are very creative people are love to share with one another. Another great resource that I’m utilizing more is education.com which has some amazing workbooks that go over exactly what we’re doing in our classes. Learning about place value? There’s a workbook for that. Learning about the world, maps, and directions? There’s a workbook for that. Trying to teach about rhymes and sentence structure? There are books for that as well. Absolutely wonderful resource. There are also some games and videos on the site that I need to look through that could be very useful. I’ve found some interactive math sites which are also amazing for my children because they can’t understand everything that I am saying so having something that they can touch and visualize helps immensely.

Behaviorally, of course, there are a few problems, but there will always be problems especially in a school and culture where any sort of discipline / consequence is frowned upon. Even setting up simple routines can be hard to do because of this. Take for example morning reading hour, when the students are supposed to come into the room, put their stuff away, pick out a book, and read silently until breakfast time. Every day we go over the routine, we ask and we tell the children to please get a book, stop fooling around, stop talking, and please read. It doesn’t matter which language it is said in, they have yet to once be able to do this successfully. Then, when all the children actually are quiet and reading, another student comes into the room and the talking starts again. It’s not like we don’t give the children time to talk. We give them plenty of time to talk. Breakfast time is free reign and they can talk as much as they’d like. Their break times between each lesson they are allowed to talk, play, run around, dance, and do pretty much whatever their little hearts want to do.It is something that my co-teacher and I will have to talk about again because I think reading hour is actually very important building both their Turkish skills and their English comprehension. Parent-Teacher meeting is next Sunday I believe, and if the parents ask, I will tell. I do not and have never sugarcoated things and lied to the parents. Ask and you shall receive 🙂 Some may get angry, but the truth is the truth. If the child does not respect his or her friends or teachers, how do you think that they will act when they grow up? I do as much as I can to teach manners and respect in the classroom, but there is only so much a teacher can do. The rest is up to the parents at home because they are their children’s first and forever teachers. I’m not saying all of my children are disrespectful, I’m just saying this as a general statement.

For the most part, the children pay attention and love to participate, though, I do have to encourage some more than others to participate or pay attention. I involve them all and try to be fair to all. I try to liven things up a bit and do some activities because I understand that 2nd grade isn’t easy for them. Now that they finally know how to read and write, the workload is harder and more intense. English especially is hard right now too because it’s time to focus on proper pronunciations and spelling. They get away easy in Turkish because Turkish is a very phonetic language and what they hear is how it is spelled. As we all know, English is not like that at all. So, yes, there is a lot of writing this year in English which I know the children tire of after some time. This is when I try to liven things up a bit with activities or songs or dances or even simple fill in the blanks where they don’t realize that they’re practicing their spelling or sentence structuring. On the subject of gateway activities, my students love to dance. I’m surprised because my class is made of mostly boys, but when the music comes on or the dance video come up the boys are actually in the front row and the first to dance. They’ve certainly got some moves (and a huge surplus of energy that I wish they’d transfer to me)!

All in all, though, I got lucky this year. I have the smallest class in the school, I have students whose English comprehension is pretty decent, I have a wonderful co-teacher who I love, and I have parents who are very involved. I could be in the position of others at the school which would not be fun.There has been a lot of chaos this year in the English department and, well, everywhere else. I won’t go into detail here though. Perhaps at a later date. I just have to think positive thoughts for now.

This upcoming week should be a fun week because even though Halloween was this past weekend, we will be having our Halloween party on Thursday. I, of course, will be doing a few activities and songs throughout the week. If I can, I’ll try to set up a few extra special activities, but that depends if I have the time and can find the resources. The children have been asking me about the Halloween party since the first day of school! They are super excited for it. I think it’s because it’s something unfamiliar to them because it’s not normally celebrated in their culture. It’s fun and the kids get to get dressed up and play games. Who wouldn’t find that fun? It’s the one day a year where you can be anyone or anything that you want. Plus, getting free candy is always awesome as well. I cannot wait until the next big holiday… 😉

People Love to Turn a Blind Eye…

What will you see on the streets when you come to Istanbul? Well, there will be the usual guy on every other corner selling simit (a kind of Turkish bagel), sometimes a guy selling rice, and you’ll also see vendors wherever there is a spare patch of space selling all sorts of knick-knacks such as toys, pens, socks, scarves, black market DVDs. But what else will you see? You’ll see things that may startle you at first, but eventually, just like the rest of the people in this city, you’ll ignore them. You will see the beggars, the cripples, the Romani (gypsies), and, most recently, the Syrians.

When I first came here, I noticed the Romani and I really didn’t think much of them. I had gotten used to them when I was in Italy and, to me, the ones here didn’t seem to be badgering me as much. Yes, they would go and sit on the street constantly saying something about money, food, and God; the usual. In Italy, they’d follow you around and wouldn’t leave you alone. One woman even almost stole my camera out of my buttoned up pocket as I was walking into a church.  One thing that was the same though was the fact that in both countries and probably elsewhere, they always use their children to try and the get the most out of you. But, this is their way of life. This is what they know and the only thing that they have known for generations upon generations. Not to say that it’s the life that they’ve always wanted; these are people who have been persecuted for centuries. The Romani don’t bother me much, though I wish I could take all the children and send them to get proper education and live the lives that children should be living.

Aside from them, the Syrians are becoming more and more unable to be ignored. It started out that you’d see a few here and there, but now? Every time you leave the apartment you can’t go a block or two without seeing at least one whole family of Syrians. Most Turks I know, get angry at the sight of them, curse them out, and want them to go back to their own country. At this point I have to bite my tongue, and sometimes I don’t. They say that it’s the Turkish government’s fault that they are here. Well, these people are not here by choice. These people, these families are here because of war. Because the only home that they have ever known is being destroyed. Their families and their neighbors are being killed. Their houses, markets, and streets, are being blown up. They’ve had no choice. Leave or be killed. But then people like to say, “They have refugee camps. They should stay there. They don’t belong here. They don’t belong on our city, on our streets.” Sure, some of them do stay at these camps. Take a minute here and think. There are probably a little under a million Syrian refugees in Turkey (maybe more now), and there is only room for a about a little over 200,000 of those refugees in the camps that are provided in Turkey. Think about the homelessness problem in America. People often say, why don’t they just go to a shelter? Well, many of those shelters are so bad (theft, deplorable conditions, insane rules, abuse, rape, etc.) that people would rather stay on the streets at night. Now think of it here. These refugees camps are probably even worse. Not enough food or water, not enough space, not enough anything. And it is highly unlikely that they’re safe. Some people say that when they see the Syrians on the streets they give them looks of hatred and disgust to let them know that they are not welcome here. They are probably more than aware of that fact and would much rather be back in their pre-war homes with their pre-war families, friends, and lives. Yes, I am sure that there are plenty of refugees who are taking advantage of the system (there are always those who reinforce the stereotypes), but there are also plenty who are just trying to live. This is not the kind of life that they want for themselves or for their families. It’s not something you wake up one day and think, “Oh, hey. Yeah, you know what will be great? I’m going to go beg on the streets, in a foreign city with a language I barely know, where the people hate me, and  I’ll take my baby too. Let’s sit in this 90 (32C) degree weather all day, rain, shine, dirt, spit… It’ll great! People will glare at us, spit at us, humiliate us, treat us like we’re dirt.. yes, that’s what I want to do.” No, people do not wake up like this. This is something that these people are doing out of desperation. A last resort. Maybe they saw Turkey as a get away from everything. Maybe they saw Istanbul as the the city of dreams (many Turks do as well which is why so many people move here). Maybe they thought how could it get any worse than the hell they’re living in their war torn country? Well, they came, they’re here, and they’re living a whole new kind of hell.

I always say to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and don’t judge. Just imagine being at the very end of you rope. You have nothing except maybe your family if you’re lucky. Other than that? Nothing. But you need to eat. You need to sleep. You are a human being and you have basic needs and you should have basic human rights. And your family too, your babies. Maybe your family is your driving force. But others around you don’t seem to think you should have those rights. Imagine how desperate and finished you would have to be to give in and beg. Some say it’s a matter of pride, but when you’re left with absolutely no other choices and your child is starving in your arms, I don’t think you’d really care about your pride. It could be worse. They could be violent. But they’re not. They sit there, and they ask for money or food, anything that you could spare. They say words in their broken Turkish that can make you feel bad such as, “How can you just walk by? Look at my children!” It makes you feel uncomfortable?  It should! And that angers you? Why does that anger you? Because deep down you actually feel bad, but you don’t want to feel bad. You’re mad at them for being in your city, for wanting your money that you earned; you’re mad at them for making you feel bad. But yet this country talks so highly about its religion and its loving god. Would your god be happy with you for walking by dirty, starving children? You don’t think so? Aren’t they mostly of the same religion as you all are as well? All of these contradictions in this city frustrate me to no end. They are people just trying to live, the same as you and me. Except they seem to have it harder than we do at the moment. Why can’t people see that? It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to be put in these positions. Stop blaming them and maybe aim your anger at the actual source of the problem. The government. Their government. This country’s government. The surrounding countries’ governments. None of them truly want to deal with the problem, so what do they do? They set up a few camps here and there to make it look like they’re doing something when they’re really doing next to nothing. Some of them may even use them as a ploy to win elections or to start a war. I’m not saying I know what to do or how to handle this, I wasn’t a PoliSci major or anything of the sort, but, please, just treat these people as if they’re actual people and do what you can to help. Don’t be part of the problem.

First Year Completed

On 12th June 2014, I did what only six year old Angela thought I would do; I completed my first year of teaching. Though, I don’t think six year old Angela thought that she would be teaching half way across the world. I did it though. And not only did I complete one year of teaching at one place, but, a week and a half later, I completed my first year teaching at another place as well. Yes, you read correctly. I taught five days a week at my main school and I would also teach on Saturdays. I’ll get back to that later though.

It was definitely an experience filled with things I expected and things that I did not expect. As much as I absolutely loved my children (and still do), they beyond wore me out. Let’s get something out of the way here. In America, or in England, when one thinks of a private school automatically strict rules and discipline come to mind, right? Well, not here. A private school here, especially the one that I was teaching at which was a conservative (religious) private school is kind of the opposite. In these schools, the kids (or rather their parents) rule the school. The private schools in this country, for the most part, are nothing but businesses. They advertise and promote constantly creating a false sense of, “Wow! This school is amazing! My child will learn so much!” When, in reality, it’s not so much like that. There is a high turnover rate for teachers; especially for the English teachers. Everyone gets paid very little for the amount of work that they do, especially the Turkish teachers who not only work late every night, but who also must come in on the weekends as well. Aside from the fact that the turnover rate is high, these “schools” are also fairly new which means that they aren’t quite set in their ways. There are no set curriculums or curriculums that work. These are chain schools that could do really well if they focused on the actual education of these students and not when and where they’re going to open up a new school. If they focused their time, energy, and money on a school (and with the amount of money these schools have) the kids would flourish. The children that I taught have so much potential and I hope that it does not go to waste. Aside from all of this, the children are spoiled, never corrected or disciplined, and are free to essentially do whatever they please. In the beginning of the year, I was very close to quitting to be honest. The teachers who are there, though mostly lovely and nice women, don’t know how to handle children how they should. I don’t think they know the proper psychology behind everything and will constantly yell at the children (or certain children that annoy them) and call them names. Apparently though, that is the way that things are done here. When it came time for English class, though, they expected every lesson to be a strict lesson where we drilled English into their heads, but fun at the same time, and not boring, and make the children listen like little angels at the same time. Well, it took me almost half a year to corral the children and have it so they would actually sit down and listen in class. Being that they’re kindergarteners though, I knew that they also need fun time and play time or they get antsy and won’t listen. Why did it take this long? Well, in this school, like I said earlier, the children win. The English teachers are never or are rarely shown any respect by the other teachers or even the teacher assistants for that matter, so the children mimic that behavior. The children are also spoiled brats and we’re essentially not allowed to discipline them. This means that even if a child hits another child or throws toys or a temper tantrum that nothing really happens. There’s never a phone call home about it because then the parents would complain and yell at the teachers or the school because nothing is ever their little angels’ fault. So, yes, it took over half a year of different methods and straining and grief to finally get these children to listen.

Three-quarters of the year passed and we then had the huge problem where most of the English department was let go and all of our lessons were switched around. I no longer had my shared five year old class and I no longer had my 6D class.  Instead, I had 6A and 6C, which had reputations for making the teachers gray-haired. I tried my best though. Remember how long it took to get my other two classes to behave semi-normally and make them teachable? Well, I had half the time to try and do this. At first, they were ok, because, hey new teacher. But then, things became ugly. 6A was split between me and another teacher. They tended to listen to her more because she’s a bit more strict in her manners of teaching (not to mention she’s Turkish so she better at handling them) and I was just the teacher that they could walk all over some classes and other classes, if they felt like it, they’d listen and things would go smoothly. One of the main problems with that class though was that the room was too big. It was hard to get the children to focus in there. 6C was an interesting class. This is the class with the worst reputation. In the beginning, they listened. They knew practically no English whatsoever, but they listened. I was starting to wonder why they were the class that had such a bad reputation. But then, it hit me, and it hit me hard. This class will not listen to a lick of what is said if their homeroom teacher is unable to teach and the longer she is out (and she was out for like two weeks due to meetings and organizing things) the worse the class becomes. They just had a complete disregard for any authority figure (even the assistant teachers had had enough of this class and sat there in a state of utter defeat). So, I would try to teach every time, and I would fail every time. The only thing that seemed to work with this class was busywork. So, I had to have an endless supply of worksheets for these children. When I did, they’d do their work and listen…mostly. It felt like I was at the beginning of the year again with these two classes. And it didn’t get better because, as it was the end of the year, the classes were constantly interrupted for field trips, shows, or practices of some sort. So, there was no real schedule anymore. The children and the teachers all caught the end of the year fever. And then, just as quickly as it began…it finished. It was a sandwich of a year; crazy, hair pulling bread and smooth happiness for the inside.

I know I made a lot of progress with the children though. I am not the kind of teacher who drills phrases into the kids’ heads. I know that the children’s parents want to hear them speak, but they’re not at the age where they need to be learning phrases. They’re at the age that they just need to soak in as much English as they can. The drenched them in vocabulary and by the end of the year, some of them were starting to put things together on their own. Even half way through the year, I was getting some of them to have conversations. Albeit very one-sided conversations, they were understanding the things that I was saying and trying to respond with a few words and lots of gestures.

It was harder with my weekend children to get to this point though as they only had English lessons once a week. Finally, towards the end of the year, they were starting to understand some things and become more confident. The only problem I had with these children was the age differences. I had children from four to seven in this class. This meant that I had kids who could read and write and others who still can’t write numbers. It was a challenge, but three quarters of the year later I started teaching them all the English alphabet and the phonetics that went with it. It made for some more interesting classes and the children really seemed to like learning about it. Big numbers and the alphabet seemed to be a hit in that class.

All in all, it was one hell of a year. I taught and I fought and I taught some more. As much as these children drove me nuts, I love them all. There’s something special and unforgettable about your first students. They and the memories that I made with them will last a lifetime. I wish that I could check up on all of them in ten, fifteen, twenty years and see where life takes them, but only time will tell. This year is finished and new adventures await!

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A Whirl Wind of a Month

Since my last update, there has been a lot that’s happened here. Due to the problems involving my school and the government there have been many unfavorable changes at my school and many others. Because of these problems way too many of our beloved teachers had to leave. We are all trying to wrap our heads around this surreal situation. One day they were here teaching with us, the next they weren’t even allowed to come to the school. Even though we are all still trying to figure this stuff out, fewer teachers means an obvious change in our schedules. Out of the five English kindergarten teachers there are only two of the original including myself and a third who used to be a coordinator. Actually, if you think about it, I am the only original left since the other girl has only been working with us in January. Aside from that, our schedules have been completely switched around. I used to teach 6B, 6D, and have a shared class with 5C. Now, I don’t have my 5 year olds at all, and I have lost 6D. I have added on 6A and 6C. These two classes are drastically different from what I’ve had to teach all year. Keep in mind that 6B and 6D have only had me as their English teacher all year. For 6A and 6C I am their fourth English teacher. They both have severe behavioral problems (6C being the one that is going to give me white hair). I have to go into those classes prepared for the worst, and I never know how I am going to come out. I know all of their names, and the kids somewhat know me, but they’re not used to behaving. For the most part, I have gotten 6B and 6D to behave and respect me. 6A and 6C don’t really know what that is. Luckily, I still have 6B who I’ve always considered my angel class. It is interesting noticing the differences in the dynamics of the classes and even how much English the class as a whole knows. Basic stuff that 6B and 6D know, these classes have no clue about. I used to be able to have conversations with 6B and 6D, but I can’t at all with these two classes. So, I am essentially starting from the beginning with these two classes as their fourth English teacher at the end of the year. One thing that boosted my teaching esteem was when the teacher who now has 6D told me that she loves them because they know so much English. That made me smile. And to think that I used to consider 6D my devil class! They don’t even compare to the new ones I have. I will try to do my best with these classes. I do want them to know what the other classes know, and there are a select few students in each class that really do want to learn and know a decent amount of English. The sad part, though, is that even these students who are smart and want to learn don’t listen that well simply because they haven’t had a stable teaching environment throughout the year. Well, I will have an interesting month and a half left with them. Let’s see what I can do even though the month of May and certainly June are known as the all fun and no work months in the school world.

Experience with Unnamed Teacher

A few weeks ago we had an interesting day and experience for us new kindergarten teachers. We had been told by our agency (not the school) that essentially we are all horrible teachers and are on the verge of being fired; not only did they tell us this, but they said it in a very nasty way. Because of our “horrible” performances, they decided that Unnamed Teacher from the agency needed to come in and show us how to teach the proper way. Now, I must add that in our training sessions we were told that we should pretty much forget everything that the agency told us to do in the classes because it was wrong.

She came in yesterday morning, carrying herself, as usual, with her humungous ego and arrogant, nasty, condescending way of speaking. She jumped in on my lesson first. Well, let me tell you I was not happy at all with the way that things unfolded. Not only did she completely ruin my lesson plans for the day, but the way she treated the children was unacceptable to say the least. I know that I do not have experience in teaching and that at times the children make me want to pull my hair out, but I do know that scaring a child into submission is wrong.
Here is how my two lessons with Unnamed Teacher unfolded (keep in mind that these children don’t know English and are only just learning very basic vocabulary like animals and numbers, etc.):
1. She had all the students come out in the hall at the beginning of the lesson and line-up. Of course she did this very sternly, much too stern for these children. In order to reenter the classroom they all had to say their name. If they did not cooperate, they were sent to the back of the line and not allowed to enter the room until they did as they were told. She was also very handsy with the children; she would physically move the child to the back of the line or block the child from entering the room.
2. Once in the room she then made all the children sit down. Sounds ok, right? Not quite. Again she was physical with the children. If the child did not have his or her feet on the ground, she would grab their feet and put them on the ground. If a child was not sitting or wouldn’t sit down, she’d wrangle them, pick them up and put them in the chair. She was in no way gentle with the children.
3. Certain aspects were ok and doable such as high fiving the children who were sitting the right way, and doing emotions according to how they feeling (making faces for happy, sad, etc…).
4. After she was done (which was half way through my lesson), she looked at me, “Ok, what do you have planned for today?” I responded that we now didn’t have time for everything that I had had originally planned. So we did a partial lesson.
5. One of the misbehaving children was to hand out the books (which is a good point: make the unruly child have a job to do). The books had a video that they could follow along to since the children cannot read.  As I was playing the video, she made me pause the short video every few seconds and have the children say what the new animal was that was introduced and what sound it makes. This is something that we had previously been told not to do unless the video had been watched before. It’d be the same as if you were trying to watch a show and someone kept pausing it and asking you questions. It breaks your concentration and angers you; it’s unfair to the children. If the video had been played again then perhaps it would had been more acceptable to do.
6. After the lesson, one of the children collected the books for me. We then went on to do an animal PowerPoint that I had prepared for the children. Since we’re learning about families and the book that they’re learning from has the adult and baby versions of the animals (cow / calf, cat / kitten…etc). Since the book does cover the pig, the children do learn it but extra time is not to be spent on it. For those of you who are unaware, the school that I am at is slightly conservative, and in the Islamic religion pigs are dirty, filthy animals and these children are taught that from the very beginning. So if a child goes home making pig sounds or faces, the parents are absolutely horrified by it and will and have called the school about it. When it came time to do the pig on the PowerPoint I mentioned this to Unnamed Teacher (and since she’s been in Turkey for awhile she is well aware of this) and we normally just quickly skim over the pig / piglet and move on to the next animal. She then blatantly said that she did not care and that they were doing the pig and the pig sounds.
7. After this, the lesson had ended and we were running into break time. Again she did not care and stated that there had to be an actual end to the class. I told her that I normally had the children do “The Goodbye Song” if there was time, which normally there is time but since we had gone into break time already, and I was going to be in the same classroom after break we should all be allowed to take their break. She wasn’t happy with this. During the break the children are normally allowed to go drink water, go to the bathroom, and so on. But Unnamed Teacher wanted this to be changed as well. She made them all line up again single file and head out to the bathrooms to wash their hands. She then proceeded to smell all of their hands to make sure they washed with soap and if they didn’t she sent them back into the bathroom. They were then all lined up to go back to the room, but before the went into the room they had to say something in English. If they didn’t they weren’t allowed in the room and had to go to the back of the line and sit. Finally, once all the students were back in the room break time was over and none of us (the kids and myself) didn’t even get an actual break.
8. She said she wanted to know how I ran the class and for me to start the lesson. When I went to start the lesson though, she stopped me and had all the kids to stretches. Stretches aren’t bad to do and the kids enjoyed that. The thing that annoyed me was that she was completely took over the lesson and even though she said she wanted to see how I ran the class, she kept taking over before I could have a chance to. The children kept looking at her like she was an alien.
9. We then went over the Animal PowerPoint again that I had made that had the animals from the Farmyard Jamboree on it (cow/calf, cat/kitten…etc), along with the animal sounds. That went over fine, but, again, she wanted to spend more time on the pig/piglet than I felt was necessary.
10. We then moved on to the activity that I had planned out for the day which was a cut and paste sheep/lamb activity. She kept criticizing how I was talking to the students as well. The kids understand me when I tell them to get up and get their pencil cases. They know what I mean, I call that a success. In her opinion, I spoke to quickly. I wasn’t. I was speaking at a normal pace, which is what we had been told and taught to do in the training session at the beginning of the year since when children interact with a native English speaker or watch an English show they’re not going to speak ridiculously slowly like Unnamed did. When she spoke that slowly the kids kept giving her weird looks, then look back over at me as if they were asking me what in the world was wrong with this woman. As the students one-by-one were finishing their projects, they were cleaning up and putting away their pencil cases which is very good and what they have been taught to do. Unnamed didn’t think that this was good enough. Even though the students have been told and taught to clean up their mess and put their stuff away when they’re finished, she wanted them to each raise their hands and ask permission each time they got out of their seats. Ok, so this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but when there are ten students who all need to get out of their seats to throw something out or to put something away every two seconds and you’re trying to help other students with things, it just doesn’t make sense, especially when they’ve been taught to clean up and whatnot all on their own. Unnamed physically sat them back down and raised their hands. My one shy and sensitive little boy had finished his stuff and packed up his pencil case. He went to get up and put it away when Unnamed yelled at him to sit down and ask permission. He obviously didn’t understand, and just sat back down and started crying. When I went to comfort him, she was like, “No, move on to the next child.” I was about to flip out.  It got the point of being ridiculous.
11. The other two English teachers were called out of their lessons to watch this lesson as well so they were sitting on the side.  Some of the students were moving around at this point so she had one of the other English teachers try to make them sit down. Now, keep in mind that this isn’t the other English teacher’s class, so the students don’t know her and she doesn’t know the students. She told them to “Sit down, please,” but they didn’t listen I guess. Unnamed got annoyed at this and was like, “No, you’re not asking them to sit down. Don’t say please. Tell them. Be stern. Be loud.” She then had her essentially angrily yell at the students to sit down.  I felt so bad the kids and the other English teacher at this point. I was talking to the children and Unnamed comes up to me saying that she likes that I was now more involved with the children and that’s how I should always be. By this point, I had to refrain from cursing her out and instead snippily said, “Well, I normally am a lot more involved with the children but it’s hard to do so when you’re here and take over the class.” At the moment though it was time for lunch so she was cut off from whatever she was going to say back to me. We all rushed down to lunch to avoid her.

When I went back to the classroom later on that day, the kids and even the Turkish teacher assistant were happy and relieved that Unnamed wasn’t there. They all thought she was nuts. I wasn’t surprised to hear the next day (and I was actually a bit happy) that parents had called the teachers that night complaining and asking about who this horrible woman was that made their children cry (she had gone into other classrooms as well). She may know some useful things, but when it comes to kindergarten, and especially kindergarten in Turkey, I think she should stay far, far away from it.
As of late, my children have been listening better and I think it mainly has to do with the fact that they’re starting to fall into the school routine. I haven’t had many problems with the students, and if I do, I simply tell the homeroom Turkish teacher after the lesson. The next time I’m in the classroom they behave much better. I’m think I’m starting to grow on them as well, and I think the students are starting to realize that they’re picking up more English than they thought. I may not be all fun and games all the time but I know when they need a break. I’ll turn anything into an English lesson. Even musical chairs. You play English music and say simple commands: “Sit!” “Walk” etc. 
My job may be stressful, but I love it and my children.

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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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