If you’ve been reading this blog, you may think that all I’m doing here is traveling on the weekends. That’s sort of true, but I actually do have a job as well. I mean, something’s got to pay the bills . . . if I have less than 500 lari worth of bills. Anyway.
Anyway, I’m an English teacher/the resident native English speaker at school number 2 here in Gurjaani. I work with two co-teachers, and I have five classes every day, including classes for the teachers three days a week. Over the course of a week, I usually see every grade from 3-12 — I like the variety, for sure, but it’s been giving me quite a challenge in terms of learning all their names. There are apparently about 500 students, which makes it one of the bigger schools in the region. Luckily, probably 50% of the kids are named Giorgi or Nino, so that gives me a little help, but it’s still tough.
I got lucky in a few other respects as well. My school is actually heated, which I only found out the day that the power was out, because I was usually so cold — but spring’s coming, so that’ll be better too. We have plenty of chalk to go around, and every classroom has a blackboard — I had heard that that’s not the case in all schools. Plus, I’m only about a 10 minute walk from my house, which is super convenient. My host mom tried very hard to force a car on me, but with a distance like that, I decided to keep to the walking.
Georgian education, though, is incredibly different from what I’m used to. Rules that I took for granted for my entire life just don’t have any effect here — you know, the basic ones, like don’t talk when the teacher’s talking, do your homework, don’t cheat on tests, things like that. Kids will sit for the entire class chatting with their friends, without even having their book on their desk. Or, potentially, without even having a book. They intentionally order the cheapest (ie, not the best) books, but it can still be tough for some kids. One of the images that has stuck with me the most so far in my experience was one of the best students in my 7th grade class turning to a new page of his many-times-used book and erasing the work that had already been filled in there so that he could do the exercises himself.
I think I’m about to use the #1 cliche of teaching, but the best thing about the job are the students. Not all of them, just the ones who actually care. In a place where rules don’t matter, it’s easy to tell which ones do — they’re generally the ones who occasionally speak in English, and who don’t answer their phones in the middle of class, although that cuts out quite a few people. They come out with some great lines, though. I taught my 10th graders the future progressive tense (I will be ___-ing) with the help of one of the great songs of our era — “Imma Be,” by the Black Eyed Peas. You might have heard of it. Anyway, it’s almost entirely in the future progressive, so all I had to do was explain how “Imma be” becomes “I’m going to be” becomes “I will be,” and there was my tense, and some pretty slick beats to go along with it. We talked about the tense, they got it, but they do an impressive job of forgetting anything you tell them, so at the beginning of the next class, I asked them if they remembered future progressive. “Yeah, Imma be,” said one of the boys.
There is so much to tell about this that I’m honestly overwhelmed now that I’ve even started. Guess I’ll have to do it in pieces, though. Probably by tomorrow I’ll have another few anecdotes . . . per class.