My (not nearly long enough) Getaway to Kaş

Last week, my boyfriend and I, finally were able to take our vacation. We didn’t even know if we were going to be able to go. This mostly had to do with him being able to get time off. You see, unlike back in America where most big person jobs allow you advanced notice of vacation time, here we don’t know until literally the last minute. So we were sitting in our apartment that we had just recently moved into and using up all the data on our phones to look for last minute hotel deals and buses to a vacation spot for the following Monday. It wasn’t easy, but we found a nice hotel and splurged a little more than we should have. The next problem was finding bus tickets as most seemed to all be sold out. Awhile later we were able to find some tickets (though more than likely we were overcharged as it was last minute). We were excited for our trip to Kaş, but not so much for our twelve or so hour upcoming bus ride. 

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The view from our hotel room window. Greek island of Meis in the distance

After we packed up our vacation bags and dropped off our kitten with his sister, we headed to the bus station. As usual, we were early and check-in was easy enough. We waited upstairs for a bit using up all the free internet that we could get. We went downstairs to board our bus, but, after frantically looking all around the terminal, we could not find it. We soon found out that like nearly every other bus at this company’s terminal, the bus was delayed because it could not get in. Two hours of waiting later, we were finally able to board and were on our way. We kept stopping every fifteen minutes or so for about ten minutes at what I can only guess were mini bus stops. When we made our first actual pit stop on the road for the bathroom and food we realized that we were way behind schedule. Not only had the bus been late, but now it was going slower than it should have. To make matters worse, toward the last leg of the trip, the bus started to overheat, so instead of stopping for a few hours to let it cool down the bus driver just kept stopping at every gas station along the way to soak it. The last two hours of hour trip were hot, long, and smelly. Finally, we arrived in Fetihye and to rush to catch a minibus to Kaş. We ended up getting the last two seats on the bus (my seat wasn’t even a real seat! I had to sit in the hostess seat), and reached Kaş about two hours later. The next step was finding our hotel. It should have been easy enough, but we were hot, sweaty, exhausted…you get the picture. The bus station is only about ten minutes or so from the location we needed to walk to…but we walked up a giant hill, got told to go another way, walked back down, were called back and told to walk back up and keep going just a little further. Eventually, we reached our hotel, Sea View Otel. It was amazing. The service was wonderful. Everyone there was beyond nice and I would go back there in a heartbeat. They were so helpful and nice from he time that we booked the hotel to when we got there to when we left. A bit pricey for my age group but if you’re looking for a nice place to stay in Kaş that has a beautiful view of the sea (and the Greek island of Meis), very friendly and accommodating service, comfortable rooms, etc. this is your place!

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Jumped from here a few times

After we showered and changed, we went back into town to stock up on a few items. Even though it was already at least six it was still scorching hot, so when we returned again we sat in the beautifully air-conditioned room a few more minutes. We decided to try out the hotel’s dinner since it had really good reviews all around. We were not let down. We had a stuffed calamari appetizer (not fried) that was delicious, crabbed stuffed chicken, and a shrimp risotto. Their food was wonderful as was the view. It was night time and the restaurant part of the hotel is situated on a deck overlooking the sea. Even at night we could see how clear the sea water was. My boyfriend was very eager for the next day to come so he could jump in. We went back to the room, had a few drinks that we had previously bought (because we all know how expensive it is to have even one drink when going out especially in a vacation area), and then passed out from sheer exhaustion.

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Çarkıfelek Margarita (Passion Fruit)

The next morning, we had the hotel’s included breakfast. Let me tell you, if you like breakfast, Turkey is the place for you. The amount of food that Turks consume for breakfast is insane. The hotel had everything. I’ve never been to another hotel in Turkey, but I assume that hotels here are not allowed to have a weak breakfast considering how much they normally eat in the morning. This hotel’s food was just as great as the night before. When we finished, we went down to where we had eaten dinner the night before, except now it was an area for lounging in the sun with a sea view and sea access. We sat for awhile, roasting in the 90+ degree weather, and soon decided it was time for a swim. When we finally got into the water we were not expecting the random cold patches. The water was freezing when we first went in, warmer as we swam out, and random cold patches of water all over. Apparently, somewhere around the area there is a spring that empties into the sea. It was refreshing to say the least. The water was clear as glass and we could see straight down to the bottom (which I recently found out was anywhere from 10 – 25 meters; a fact which I am very glad I did not know at the time). We swam for a bit, sun bathed a bit more, ordered two delicious drinks (a watermelon mojito and a passion fruit margarita…my margarita was out of this world!), swam some more, sat some more, repeat, then showered and went into town in the sweltering heat.

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The Lion Tomb

For lunch we went to Meydan Pizza & Kebap and had some pide, hummus, and calamari pizza. It was all pretty decent. Not too amazing, but I wouldn’t mind eating there again. We then explored the town, trying to walk in the shade as much as possible. There must be hundreds of little shops lining the streets, all of them selling interesting souvenirs, rugs, nazars (the eye), mosaic / tiles, etc. Many of the stores were copy-cats of one another, but it didn’t make them any less interesting. I picked up a nazar keychain and magnet because we didn’t have any in the new apartment yet and here that’s bad luck. After we got a feel of the town and picked up some more things from Migros (one of the main chains of grocery stores in Turkey), we headed back to the hotel so Burak could swim a little bit more. A bit later we headed out again, this time for dinner. 

Before going to dinner, I had decided to check out reviews and ratings of the restaurants in the area on Tripadvisor and I’m glad that I did. We ended up going to Turkuaz Meyhane which was rated number one and we weren’t let down. We arrived just in time because there was live music (some traditional Turkish music) and we ended up getting one of the last tables. For an appetizer, we had some fried mussels and some little dip to go along with it that was great. Then we had a shrimp casserole / stew/ soup thing that tasted very yummy though it was a bit small. Then came the swordfish (kılıç). I have never had a fish cooked so perfectly before. It was absolutely amazing. Grilled on the outside, juicy on the inside, amazing flavor. Wow. And, of course, we accompanied our meals with a little bottle of rakı. 

After freshening up and changing, we went back out after dinner to see how the night light was. Again, we were not disappointed. The first stop was Red Point Bar (it reminded me a bit of a mix between Murphy’s and P&G’s bars back in New Paltz). It seemed empty at first but quickly filled up with twenty-somethings and a few random older people. We didn’t stay too long there simply because we wanted to see some other places. The next stop was Hi-Jazz Bar. We loved it. The drinks were great (though expensive, but that’s to be expected) and there was a live band. This bar reminded me very much of Oasis Cafe plus a little bit of Snugg’s thrown in there back in New Paltz. We ended up staying here the rest of the night because of the atmosphere.

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More of the half sunken city…
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View from the top the Kaleköy (ancient Simena) castle

The next morning we somehow ended up getting up early (probably because we had to since we booked a boat trip). We packed up our sunscreens, but on our bathing suits, and headed to breakfast before heading into to town for the boat trip. We decided to take the longer boat trip so that we could see more of the coast which meant we had to be driven to a certain area (Üçağız Village) and then get on the boat from there. Once we boarded the boat, the journey around Kekova Island started. About ten or fifteen minutes into the ride, we made our first stop at what I think was the Aquarium Bay. The water was, again, blue blue blue and crystal clear, but this time it was warm and so salty I barely had to do anything to stay above the water. We made a few stops like this visiting different gorgeous bays around the area, seeing a sunken city in the water and above, we saw an old castle on top of a giant hill that we ended up hiking up…the view was breathtaking, having some homemade ice cream, enjoying a BBQ on the boat, swimming a lot, being caked in salt because of how much of it was in the seawater, seeing two sea turtles, and just enjoying the sun, sea, and beautiful sights around us. When we finally returned to the hotel around six that evening we were exhausted and ended up taking a quick nap before going back out into town to find some dinner. 

When we did find dinner though at Zeytin Restaurant, we weren’t all the impressed. I’m sure it didn’t help that the power went out for awhile before we received our food (apparently the first power outage of the summer…lucky us), but the food just didn’t have the amazing taste that we had experienced at the other restaurant. Burak made the mistake of ordering swordfish again (I had told him not to since there was never going to be anything like the one we had eaten the night before) and I had a steak in an apple cream sauce. My steak and sauce wasn’t actually all that bad, but there was just something a bit off about it. The potatoes that came with the meals though were very nice though, so at least there was that. We didn’t end up going out that night because we were so tired from the day’s activities, so we stayed in and relaxed.

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View from a window in the Kaleköy castle

The next day we decided should be a relaxing day. We woke up, had another lovely breakfast, and went down to the beach area. We sat and swam until the early afternoon sipping on another peach margarita, yummy but not quite as delicious as the previous passion fruit one. We took a break from the sitting and swimming to go get lunch in town. We found a place called Sarpedon’s Burger (Sarpedon was a Lycian Prince and son of Zeus, hero during the Trojan war until he was slain by Patroclus…just a little bit of extra information for y’all) and sat down to look at their interesting selection of burgers. All the burgers looked tempting, but I settled on the Speedy Gonzalez Burger and Burak got the Hangover Buger. Both were cooked really well and had great tastes. We had also order cheddar fries and were a bit confused when they first came out as they weren’t what we were expecting. Instead of cheese on the fries as we had thought, they were regular fries but with a delicious cheddar dip (made from real cheese I think!) We then order some frozen yogurt to try and beat the heat and headed back to the beach for a little longer.

The next dinner we ate was at another restaurant that I had seen on Tripadvisor: Natur-el. We were seated near the fan which was great. I had wanted to try a certain dish that I read about but was torn between it and another dish that I ended up getting instead. I got the home made stuffed ravioli, filled with goat cheese and a tomato cream sauce. Burak got the homemade stuffed ravioli filled with sauteed lamb and mushroom and a mushroom cream sauce. Both dishes were amazing and we both agreed that this place and Turkuaz were the best restaurants in Kaş. This restaurant even served us bread and dips with our meal (common place in America but not in Turkey), so it was a nice added gesture. 

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One of the famous Kaş cats… too bad her size can’t be understood from this picture

The next morning was out last in Kaş. We packed up all of our stuff and checked-out. The hotel was nice enough to let us leave our stuff there throughout the day though since our bus trip back home wasn’t until 730 that evening. We sunscreened up and walked all through the town that day, exploring as many shops as I could. There were so many things that I wanted to get but obviously couldn’t. For one, I wanted one of the Kaş cats. They’re huge, practically dogs and have amazing patterns on their coats. My favorite cat looked like a cow. Obviously I couldn’t bring home one of the famous Kaş cats, so I settled on a dark turquoise cute kitten statue. I added a nice Kaş spoon rest and turtle nazar magnet to my collection of things. We had some nice pide for lunch and then a little later we stopped at the Kaş Bio Tea House and some frozen drinks. We stayed there for a bit, out of the sun before continuing to venture around the town. Again, trying to avoid the sun, we sat in an area shaded by trees and ordered some tea. A bit later we tried go to Turkuaz one last time for the amazing swordfish. Sadly, they weren’t open yet, but they told us to come back in an hour and they’d have the stuff ready for us. So, we went back to the hotel, got our stuff, and went back to the restaurant. To our surprise (and the bartender’s) there was no one there when we returned. We were annoyed to say the least but didn’t let this disappointment spoil our day. We ended up going back to Natur-el since we had such a nice time there the night before. This time I got the pomegranate walnut chicken that I had wanted to get the previous night and Burak got some sort of fresh fish (sea-bass I think) which they de-boned in front of us.  We accompanied our last meal with a last drink of Efes (Turkish beer) each. 

We then made our way to the bus station. On the way to the bus station I somehow made a friend in a stray dog (looked like a black lab) who wouldn’t stop following us and kept barking at people to get out of our way. It was quite interesting and a bit funny. We were not expecting that. The bus ride back to Istanbul was much smoother than the one to Kaş especially since there were no transfers. The bus did not overheat and we made it back just in time for Burak to catch his class that he’s taking. 

The whole trip happened so fast and we want to be back there now. It was amazing and definitely a place to revisit. The only things that make me believe that the trip actually happened are my pictures and my bank account plus my little trinkets that I picked up. If you want to visit Turkey, but huge crowds and city life is not for you, go to Kaş. I loved it and cannot wait to return.IMG_3233

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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.

Noticing.

I’ve been noticing some things about my children. For one, they’ve certainly aged over the two week winter break. It’s bittersweet. I don’t want them to grow up! I was skimming through some pictures I have of them from the beginning of the year and the ones from now, and the changes may not be noticeable to someone who doesn’t know them, but to me? Wow! They’re losing their baby fat, becoming more like little adults…It is strange to watch them grow up. During lunch the other day, some of the “big kids” came over to say hi to their brothers/sisters and some of the teachers. They looked so grownup even though they were probably only ten years old at most. A bunch of them hugged one of our English teachers because they had had her just three years ago. Then I started thinking about my little ones and how much they are going to change in just a couple of years. I confess, I did get a little teary eyed.

I’ve also noticed that some of them are really starting to understand more. They may have forgotten some vocabulary over winter break, but, in general, they are starting to understand more of what I am saying. For example, the other day we were playing Pictionary with the SmartBoard to review our animals. Whoever guessed the animal got to come to the board to draw. One of my children had already had his turn at the board, so I looked at him and said (with gestures as well) that he had already gone so if he could pick someone else to go instead it would be really nice. At first I didn’t know if he had understood because some of the other students had distracted me, but less than a minute later I felt a tug at my sleeve. He told me to, “Come,” and then proceeded to whisper into my ear the name of the child that he had picked to go instead of him! I was so proud of him. Not only did he understand, but he also was not selfish about keeping his turn.

As much as some of these children can drive me crazy, they also melt my heart everyday. The other day, when it was time to go home, the children would not let me leave. The circled around me, each one grabbing onto and hugging a different part of me. “Teacher, no goodbye!” Then one of my little cherub faces held my hand an wouldn’t let go until he was distracted. This has been happening a lot more lately. I certainly don’t mind it. It makes my day for sure. If there is one thing that I love about teaching in Turkey, it’s that unlike in the States, the children are allowed to hug and kiss you and you can reciprocate the actions as well. No one will call you out for it saying that you shouldn’t do that. In fact, it’s encouraged. Love, love, love and more love.

Speaking of love and noticing, I’ve found my nurturing personality to have really come in handy. My one student, who had been transferred from another school because his behavior was so bad and violent and been making improvements; well, at least he has in my classes. I decided that when he came, what he did not need was another person yelling at him. He needed and needs someone to give him a little extra attention and love. I can be firm with him, but I will not yell at him because I honestly believe that’s the only way he has ever heard his name. He’s obviously a hyperactive child who needs a different kind of care than the other children. This is something that the other Turkish teachers do not seem to realize. I constantly hear him getting yelled at or I see him sitting in the hall while the other children are playing in the play room. Now, yes, sometimes his actions do necessitate a consequence, but I also have noticed that a lot of the time he is unfairly blamed for things or they yell at him because even though there are other children out of their seats, he’s the problem child so they’ll automatically yell at him. I’ve seen this happen in my own class (the assistant teachers are sometimes in our classes during our lessons). I made sure at the end of that lesson to point out to the teacher that he had been good and that there was no need for punishment of any kind. It may take more than once, but eventually, he’ll listen to me. He’s no longer violent in my classes and, in fact, has started to randomly hug me. I can tell it’s not something that he is used to doing because of the way he does it, but it’s a start. Sometimes, in order to do his work, he also needs a little push. I’ll sit down next to him and start working on the project with him or I’ll tell him what needs to be done. More often than not, he’ll end up doing the work. He just needs some extra motivation.

So much love!

These past few weeks have been going really well at the school. I know I’m going to jinx myself by saying this though. For the most part the children have been very cooperative, and even…dare I say… somewhat respectful. They’ve also started to randomly run up to me in the hall, or shout, “Angela Teacher! Angela Teacher!” every time they see me and will not stop until I acknowledge and/or talk to them. I love them so much. I cannot describe to you how it makes me feel. Unless you teach children, I don’t think you’d be able to understand. The closest similar situation I can think of would be being tackled by a bunch of puppies. In a way, I feel it’s even more special because of the language barrier that there is. I can tell they’re learning more and more every day.

Break through! This week we were learning about germs and hygiene, and I thought to myself that this might be a bit difficult to do, but to my surprise, it’s gone over really well! The first day we started talking about it, I played a short video with a lot of English, but they seemed to get the general idea. They even kept going on about it in the little English that they knew. They were all very eager to try and say stuff. There was a lot of miming going on. And I found myself having conversations with them.

“Teacher! Germ..mmm…germ small small small!” 
“Teacher! Germs…germs is…mmm no..is bleh!” – Me: “Germs are bad?” – “Yes! Bad!”
“Teacher! Mommy doctor-doctor! Mommy *points to teeth*doctor-doctor.”
“Teacher! Me mommy doctor-doctor! *Achoo* doctor-doctor.”
“Teacher! Toilet..wash your hands!”
“Teacher! Germs *uses arms to show the whole room.*” – Me: “Germs are everywhere?” – “Yes teacher! *mimes cleaning the table*”

Now imagine these little phrases with the most adorable accents.

This week went pretty well. We did some crafts to go along with the germs and  hygiene. Germy hands, followed by wash your hands, and finished up with sparkling clean hands.

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Also, I started Turkish lessons about a month ago (they’re only once a week), and I and his family can already see huge improvements in my understanding of the language. The Turkish teachers at school can see it as well. It’s hard, but I’m trying. I wish I had lessons everyday, but this once a week is better than nothing. Having actual instruction is the only way for my brain to learn the language, because that’s how my brain has been hard wired. It’s a pain, but living in a house where only Turkish is spoken helps (and at the same time can be super stressful). I really just need to start memorizing more vocabulary. I cannot wait until we start learning more about sentence structure and verb conjugations.

I’ll try to update more regularly! I’ve just been really busy as of late. The big thing though right now is that my students haven’t been stressing me out as much as they used to, and I love it and them. They’re all way too cute for their own good.

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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