Amanda – Bulgaria
I’ve been experiencing so much more lately than just teaching. I’ve lived in Bulgaria for a year now and I’m really excepting it as home. My students are still my students but they’re also like a bunch of crazy little brothers and sisters. My second term is going well. All the mistakes I made in my first term are not happening now. I am more prepared and I know my students better. It also helps that I’m getting a lot of support from fellow teachers; my Bulgarian still isn’t great but I’m trying to communicate with them as much as possible.
The people here make all the difference. I was sitting in a cafe the other night and everyone was singing traditional Bulgarian songs to an accordion. Something that’s quite unusual in the states but normal here. Six months ago I would have been embarrassed but now I just sing right along. Goat poop doesn’t phase me anymore and I’m getting used to washing my clothes by hand. Of course you there are washing machines here, but I’m only a volunteer so I can’t really afford one.
Spring is also coming and the weather is beautiful. I can go out running one day and by the end of it I usually have some students running behind me. I’m truly enjoying my kids. Although they can be a pain they really make my job here delightful and entertaining. I’m really starting to like this “Ms. Onken” thing. I’m even thinking of going back to grad school for teaching. I figure if I can handle some things I’ve dealt with I can handle a lot. I find that my students are teaching me about who I am without them knowing it.
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Ah, Christmas is in the air. My kids feel it and so do I. In fact, as out of control some of my students get it’s now ten times worse. They can taste vacation and it’s making it really hard to teach lately. But, as I always tell myself, patience is the key…I think.
I started this month with trying to get tests and essays out of the way so the students have some grades in their book before the break. One day I had a test for my 9th graders in geography. Since this class is all in English I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to use their notes on my tests. “If you take good notes, you’ll do well on the tests,” I told them. Well, this apparently is harder than it seems to some. When I handed out the tests the kids were having a rough time. You see, I let them use their notes, BUT, I also expect them to pay attention to what I say in class and take notes on that too, and wouldn’t you know it, they don’t do that. While a girl named Anna was taking the test she looked extremely stressed, she obviously didn’t take very good notes and didn’t bother getting them from the other students. She raised her hand and said, “Miss, my cat died and I didn’t have time to study,” with this wonderful look of “will she believe this story?” in her eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh because I knew she was lying, then she started to laugh too. I told her to relax and do the best she could. She ended up getting a decent grade but it just goes to show that some kids really like to go the distance to make an excuse.
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I’ve learned while being a teacher for the first time ever that I really enjoy the little kids. When I’m taller than a student a feel a little bit more powerful and they have respect for me. It seems, at least in my school, that when they pass the 8th grade they join the let’s-make-the-teacher’s-life-hell club. I get extremely overwhelmed when 9th and 10th grade boys are towering over me grabbing for their papers and grades. The decibels in the older ones voices also tend to get louder. Because I can’t spend all class telling them to be quiet I end up yelling through my whole class, this being extremely exhausting.
My 10th class is in the “A” group, which means they have taken and passed a language exam to get into the higher class. It seems to me that they kind of have a complex that they are the best students so they can do whatever they want. Unfortunately, I also teach them geography and being the new teacher who doesn’t get paid, I get to teach them at night. My school has split schedules, younger kids in the morning and older ones at night. I walk into my class at 6.15 pm and leave at 7.30. The first 5 minutes of this class consist of a lot of hungry, crazy kids that just want to go home. In fact, the first thing they say is, “Miss, can we go home?!”, within the first 30 seconds of class. I think in my head, “you don’t think I want to go home too?” One night it was just too much. Kids begging, not listening, yelling, and knocking over desks. I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my bag and said, “you are horrible! if you want to go home so bad here’s your chance, I’m going home!” and then I walked out the door with them pleading for me not to on the way. I felt terrible afterward but knew if I stayed in that room and would lose my head and start to cry. NEVER let your students see you cry. Anyway, the next day two representatives from their class came and apologized. I didn’t do it to make them act better in my class but I assumed they would when I had class again that night. Would you believe they were they same little hellions?? Kind of makes me laugh to think about it. In conclusion, I stopped teaching geography for a while and just started talking to them about anything, this way instead of scientific terms in English to learn they can talk all they want as long as it’s to me.
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Well, my first term has a month left and I’m proud of making it out alive. Today we had a lovely Christmas party and my kids read a Christmas poem and sang songs. It was a blast and I realize outside of the classroom, just seeing the kids in the hall and talking to them is extremely important. Casual conversation lets them know you are human too and not just the crazy woman trying to get them to shut up in the classroom. As much as I’ll miss their wonderful little faces I’ll be running to the airport on the 24th on my way to Prague!!! Happy Holidays!!!
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