Journeying to the States: Intro

 

My husband and I met nearly six years ago at college in New York. He was an exchange student and I was a junior trying to figure out if and how I could study abroad. When we started dating, we were both trying to figure out how it would work, I mean I didn’t even have my passport yet! What an ordeal it was for me to get that (that’s another story).

In short, he was just the push I needed to help me pursue my studies abroad. If you’ve been following me for the past few years now, you’ll know that I went to Pisciotta, Italy for a summer semester then visited Istanbul for the first time in the summer of 2012 to stay with my husband (then boyfriend) and his family. After my fall semester in Urbino, Italy we both met up again at our university in New York and graduated together that spring. We were stuck on how to continue seeing each other though. After all, transatlantic relationships and plane trips aren’t exactly cheap and easy.

Then I figured it out. While working a waitressing gig, I also took a TEFL course and powered through it in order to go back to Turkey with him that fall. I started teaching English to kindergartners and preschoolers in August of 2013 in Istanbul. My second year there, I moved to a different school and my husband and I moved in together in our own apartment. We adopted some kitties, got engaged, and then got married. It all just seems peachy-keen, right?

Wrong.

Here comes the hard part. We decided it’d be best for him to get his U.S. citizenship. Now, for anyone currently doing this or who has been through this process, you know this is no walk in the park. It’s a long and grueling, expensive, lonely, stressful, and damn near cruel process. The U.S. does not make it easy for people to immigrate here. In order for him to immigrate here legally, I have to prove domicile (a place to live), a steady job with a certain income, and our relationship. Seems easy enough you say? Just wait. Even once all the items are gathered and double, triple, and quadruple checked, it then takes months  and sometimes and years for everything to be checked over by the government and when you try to call to ask for a status update, no one has any sympathy. I will write about the process in steps to try and help others who are going through the same thing.

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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

 
Don’t forget to check out other back to school needs as well my fellow teacher friends!
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My First PledgeCents

I’ve created my first PledgeCents cause. PledgeCents is similar to gofundme and donorschoose. It’s a way to raise money for my classroom so that I can buy them the necessary materials that we need. This particular one is so that I can afford science equipment so that I can engage my students in the sciences.

Help out my children and donate whatever you can as well as share the link.

https://www.pledgecents.com/cause/svhzjs/building-the-s-in-stem

Any amount helps because it all adds up!

Thank you!

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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… 😉

A New Year is Starting…

The new school year is nearly upon us teachers over here in Turkey. We’re starting a bit later, September 28th, because of how a certain religious holiday falls this year. Though the students get some extra vacation time, we teachers still must come to school. We have meetings and such, most of which are in Turkish so it is hard for us native English teachers to attend. Some teachers are also teaching some summer English classes which I had to do last year, but now that I am a classroom teacher, I do not have to. I’m currently busy decorating my classroom and will continue to do so until the school year starts. I should actually say my shared classroom, since I will have a co-teacher. I’ve met her, and though her English is very little, she seems very nice and I think we’ll get along just fine. I just need to learn how to share. I have to keep in mind that it is not just my classroom; it is our classroom and we both should have an equal share of the space (and the responsibilities!). I don’t want there to be any tension this year. She’s taking English classes apparently, but I’m sure we’ll teach one another more than a class ever could. I have most of my decorations up, now it’s time to help her put up some of hers. We are excited to start the year and get to know our students. classroom start

We’re finally starting to figure out what the first units are that we will be teaching, so I want to start to plan accordingly. As I work at an IB PYP school, I have to plan a certain way. I do like the IB way of thinking, so it should be interesting. This year might be a bit more intense because our school is being evaluated. Our first unit for 2nd grade is, ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’ so it’ll be a bit of a geography unit and history unit. Both things I very much enjoy.

  • Central Idea: Various factors contribute to change within communities over time.
  • Key Concepts: Change, causation, connection
  • Lines of Inquiry: Changes in communities both past and present, How actions impact the future of a community
  • Effects on communities over time

It will definitely be interesting to co-plan lessons with my co-teacher. We’ll have to learn things like how to divide some of the lessons or if we want to do a lesson together, etc. This is a bit of a difficult topic to explain to young learners, especially in a language that isn’t their first. I will definitely need the full cooperation of my co-teacher.

Though I am sure there will be quite a few challenges this year, I think it will be fun and also very educating for the both of us. I’m hoping for a wonderful school year with a wonderful class. I will have about fourteen students… eleven of which will be boys and only three girls. It’ll be interesting to say the least, but I plan on having fun.

I know and will admit that the situation in Turkey isn’t the best financially or the safest, but I am in an area that is away from many of the things that are going on. I’ll try to keep this blog more up to date to let everyone know what is going on. For now, though my financial situation is absolutely horrible because of the exchange rate, I’m safe and in good hands.

I’ll update more as the year unfolds!

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.