Friday, October 22, 2010

Down with textbooks! Up with games!

My adorable school!

I’ve been teaching for about six weeks now and have started to feel like I’m actually connecting with most of my students. It’s been interesting to figure out how each student seems to learn in the best way. My rowdy, too-cool-for-school eighth graders could be mistaken for textbook nerds if we happen to play a competitive game in class. (It’s even funny how much more fun learning seems to become to kids if you attach abstract points to a lesson). I made a lesson today that was loosely based off Jeopardy and the kids were so into it, you’d have thought they were actually playing for money.

I’m a big fan of kinesthetic learning (learning out of your seat) but most of my classes are too rowdy or too big for many of the games I’d like to do. I do however happen to have just nine sixth graders so I'm able to do some really fun activities that involve running around the room. The kids’ mouths dropped when I first told them I actually wanted them to run around as part of the lesson, but so far they seem to learn best when they’re having fun and laughing.

I don’t think school needs to be as serious as it is. After all, I didn’t fly all the way to Georgia to read students English out of their textbooks. I want to have fun just as much as my students do!

Most of my seventh graders have a very, very poor comprehension of English and their textbook is just way too advanced for them. They absolutely adore learning through songs though and constantly run up to me in the hall and sing me a song we learned in class. It’s very cute. While they aren’t very good at English, it’s obvious they’re clever kids. They refer to the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as the “Wash ‘n Go” song. ‘Head and Shoulders’ is a popular shampoo here in Georgia and it says, “Wash ‘n Go” on the bottle. Okay, now how clever is that?

Sometimes us four Samtredia girls even get together to try to come up with new songs and games that we can teach our students. (Tara has used the ‘Happy Days’ theme song to teach the days of the week and I thought that was pretty darn adorable). Almost all the textbooks between us Samtredia girls are identical so it’s been helpful to swap stories of activities that bombed and those that were wildly successful.

I subconsciously think that all the Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties and leadership councils I went to throughout middle school and high school have helped me to come up with many of my educational activities. Who knew a variation of the beloved Bar Mitzvah game ‘Coke and Pepsi’ could actually be educational! (Though I'm still trying to figure out how to bring Cotton Eye Joe to the classroom).

It never really gets old to walk into a classroom and see students perk up with delight. One of my boyfriends (remember I have twelve) is eleven-year-old Giorgi who always has a huge smile on his little face whenever I help teach his lesson. (He sometimes even slips me pictures he drew when he hands in his homework).

A mural in the hallway of European (maybe even Georgian) fairy-tales.
I have also started two extracurricular activities that have been going great so far. I have an English discussion club for advanced tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders who want to practice conversational English. At our last meeting two girls even argued (strictly in English) over who was better: Edward or Jacob. Yes, that’s right- the Twilight characters.

My other extracurricular activity is teaching the teachers English. Twice a week, about eleven teachers from my school gather to learn some letters, phrases, vocabulary and basic grammar. I'm teaching English in Russian to Georgian speakers so at times it gets a little messy, but somehow it works. It’s very sweet how excited the teachers get when they can read certain sentences and converse in basic English. My school director is even in the class (and is a wonderful pupil).

While most days are quite fulfilling, there are days that seem more frustrating than anything. I didn’t come to a developing country to teach English expecting it to be piece of cake though. While there are many things I wish were different at school (but that’s an entirely different post) all the kids are just great and make my time here worthwhile. I have loved getting to know my students; even those that marginally weird me out. (I have one boy that plays the Titanic theme song whenever I walk into the room who wrote about how much he loved me in his essay on pollution. Another one of my boys proudly told me how he killed his neighbor’s cat).

Cat killers and stalkers included, I think it’s going to be a great school year. (Oh, and I absolutely told my little cat killer Zico that he should never kill cats for fun).
The ironic thing is I actually can't wear jeans to school.


  1. I love reading your posts, you are always so cheerful and positive. It lifts me up, especially because after visiting GE myself several times, I know how wonderful and challenging and exciting and frustrating it can be.

  2. Hi! First of all, I miss you-
    It's wonderful to catch up on you and see that you're doing so well and I had no doubt in my mind that people were going to love you!
    The world is really lucky to have you. Take care of yourself!

    oh, when is your "vaca?"