субота, жовтня 28, 2006

happy Halloween!

I kept coming to the post offfice today, seeing that someone was going to be on the computer for the next hour or so, and going away, only to find out that when I came back, someone new was on the computer. I finally decided to just sit here for an hour and read one of the not-trashy-but-still-pretty-dumb-but-I'm-desperate-for-English-books romance novels I bought at the local secondhand store. (I was told by the owner that Jenia, a girl I know who studied at the lyceum last year and is now studying to be an English teacher, beat me to the good books this week. Bah.) The man who was using the Internet needed help saving and printing a document in rtf form, so the nice post office ladies asked if I could help him. Honestly, I think I could get a second job just sitting here and offering Internet advice and help to people. :)


Well, I knew it was bound to happen, with babushkas praying for me and all that...I received a declaration of affection from a Ukrainian male this week. However, it came from 9-year-old Valery Y, who kissed me on the cheek and informed me that he was going to be my boyfriend (or something...I didn't catch the exact phrase) when he was older...like 20. Apparently it didn't occur to him that I'll be 34 at that point. Personally, I think he's only smitten because I pay attention to him, practice the English alphabet with flash cards, taught him the 11s multiplication table, and beat him up less than his siblings. :)


The 7th form had a test on Thursday, which I think they bombed miserably, but as it was from a standardized test book that doesn't exactly follow my curriculum, there's not much that I can do. The heart-wrenching part of it for me was watching Oleh Y. All 10 of the Y kids are adopted, but at least Oleh and Vlada don't officially have Yukhymets as a last name on the school record books. Nelya had written "Oleh Yukhymets" on his book and then crossed it out and wrote his legal last name on it, and I watched Oleh spend half of the 20 minutes allotted for the test erasing his "real" name and rewriting "Yukhymets". It made me choke up a little.


Yesterday was the last day of school before fall break, and there was a talent show-esque competition and dance in the evening. Knowing this, I based my 10th form 6th period lesson on Halloween and we played games in English all period...a Halloween word search and a pumpkin drawing contest (Nelya forbade a carving contest, and rightly so...I would have loved it, but it would have made a mess) where they had to draw different emotions in English on paper pumpkins. I had also made a jack o'lantern, and Nelya found a candle for it...it was the funniest thing to watch the kids' reactions to it all day. They don't celebrate Halloween here, and they all crowded around it (in every class)...and my slower students just stared at it all through the lessons. I think my jack o'lantern may be remembered longer than the English I taught yesterday!


I helped chaperone the aforementioned dance last night. (Jason, on the phone later in the evening: "That sounds like a thankless job.") It made me realize how old I am...the music was atrociously loud and it was 20 degrees hotter in the gym than in the hallway, where the teachers hung out and kept an eye on who went in and out. We stood around, tried to keep an eye out for people who were intoxicated, and muttered things about students who felt the need to constantly enter and exit. It didn't seem like an enjoyable pastime to me, but whenever we asked the kids how they liked it, they replied, "It's great!"

I'm old.


My social calendar for the next few school vacations is shaping up. Jason is coming to visit for New Year's break (much to the fascination of the Y kids, who have given me the third degree about him), Melissa is interested in maybe coming during spring break, and Tif mentioned trying to come next June. Anyone else who wants to come, take a number and get in line. :)


My 7th form wrote books this quarter in their groups. Each group had a season and had to write a story that took place in that season, supposedly using new vocab words (which didn't really happen). Then I corrected the stories, they rewrote them, and then they made them into books complete with illustrations. Final product: two complete books, one that didn't quite finish illustrating, and one group that couldn't seem to work together and turned in two sentences. (We're changing groups next quarter and I'm splitting them up!) I'm so proud of my kids!

вівторок, жовтня 24, 2006

the earwax post (because I know you all want to know)

First off, happy birthday to Tina!


When I got to church Sunday morning, I realized that I couldn't hear very well out of my right ear. (I didn't realize this sooner, because I live by myself.) Plus, I had a bit of an earache. I (correctly) figured that this was somehow connected to the last week of being sick.

Nadia's suggestion was to squeeze the oil out of walnuts with a garlic press and apply a couple of drops in my ear. I thought she was crazy, but I tried it, and my ear got better (temporarily) within 10 minutes.

However, it was only a temporary pallative, so I called Dr. Sasha at Peace Corps. His first suggestion was that I come to Kyiv and have him check it out, but after I pointed out that it was a 13 hour trip, he then said that he would help me set up an appointment at the clinic here in town.

So after lessons yesterday, I walked over to the clinic and presented myself to the director, who wanted to know why on earth some doctor in Kyiv had called her rather than someone at my school. I opted not to say that I trust Dr. Sasha more than most medical personnel I know here and that I came based on his recommendation rather than of my own idea. Sometimes not knowing Ukrainian all that well helps me out.

I then saw the doctor, who wanted to know why we were going to call Dr. Sasha on my cell phone. "For translation purposes," I explained. "But I understand everything you're saying," she replied. "Um, yes, but what if I don't understand you?"

She then washed my ear out with a plunger-thing and warm water, loosening up some rather disgusting earwax. And I was all better...and then the doctor asked if I could give her son individual tutoring in English! No rest for the weary...

(I said no.)


Not much else has been going on...Nadia's birthday is tomorrow, Erin is coming to visit next week (yay!), etc., but nothing current today.

пʼятниця, жовтня 20, 2006

am I a person or a Sims character?

It's not been the best of weeks. I was home sick with an upper resperatory infection from Saturday through Tuesday (temperature, sneezing, coughing, the works) and then, to top it all off, didn't have running water from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon. Which would generally be an annoyance, but being sick made it much worse. Thank God (and I literally do, often) for the Y family, who brought me water and groceries and called every day to see how I was and if there was anything I could do. It's so nice to have a family, and since most of them aren't related by blood, it doesn't matter that I'm not.

The water got fixed on Tuesday (I got a fun trip down to the basement of my building, which would be perfect for a Halloween haunted house, if I was so inclined, which I'm not), but then my bathroom sink wouldn't stop running. Second time this year that this has happened.

On Thursday, I mentioned to my director that my water wouldn't shut off, and she sort of flipped, started yelling about how much money it was costing, and told me to go home so that the school workmen could come fix it. For the record, she had been aware that I was without water and sick and hadn't done anything about it. (In her defense, she told me she'd had a sick grandfather.) She also told me to stay home today, as some of the cleaning ladies from school would come help me install plastic or tape or something on my windows to help insulate them.

So I cleaned my apartment so no one could say that the American is a slob and got up early this morning to mop my floors and do last minute puttering. And NO ONE CAME. As I had had plans for this afternoon (visiting the Y family, which I now need to start doing earlier in the day so as to not be walking home after dark), I was rather frustrated, and at 2 pm called my director. She told me that an unexpected visitor from administration in Kharkiv had come but that she would send the people to come do my windows within an hour.

At 3:50 I gave up waiting in disgust and came here.

I am a person. Not a doll, not a character on the Sims computer game. If you can't keep an appointment, please have the courtesy to let me know. I could have taught my classes today; I could have spent time with my friends. Instead, I spent most of the day waiting at home, not wanting to start doing anything that might mess up my clean apartment.


On the bright side, during the various times I've been waiting (mostly in vain) for the Internet over the last three days, I have had the chance to perform multiple small acts of kindness: dialing a phone number for an old babushka, telling a woman that she dropped 20 hryven, and showing another woman how to use the delete key on the computer.

And I have a clean apartment.

But still...aargh!

субота, жовтня 14, 2006

cough cough cough

One of the hazards of working at school is that when the kids get sick, you get sick. We've had a lot of kids out sick the past two weeks, Nelya's been sick (and still teaching...I admire her dedication), and I have picked up a phlegmy-sort of cough, a reduced voice, and excessive weariness. I told my kids yesterday that I couldn't talk very loud, and they were actually pretty good about it. I had to grin at Olena in my 10th form, who took over the teacher role, and asked everyone if they'd done their homework. "I'm helping you!" she said.

(Why am I not holed up in my apartment? Because Internet is my one form of communication that doesn't involve talking, and after this, I am going to go buy apples at the bazaar, lock myself in my apartment, and spend the rest of the day making applesauce and carrot or pumpkin bread. And sleeping. Or maybe just sleeping. Still haven't decided about church tomorrow.)

I'm helping some of my better older students prepare for the Olypmiads in December by giving them conversation practice. It's amazing what you find out...Katya's favorite color is orange; Natasha N. and Olena have only been going to my school for a couple of years, after their village school closed due to lack of people; and Ira, who is very smart but has a chronically bad attitude in English (in part due to conflicts between her and Nelya), had a wonderful conversation with me about music, books, her plans for the future, and pets. On a level that no other kid in my school has reached...and then at the end, she said she'd done a bad job. (Her twin sister goes to the pedagogical college in town and is specializing in English. I suspect that Alla is both how Ira's English has improved and a mark that she feels she can't reach.) I want so much to connect with her...not even about English, but as a girl who has a lot of potential, who claims she has no friends but would rather study, who complains about the teachers at our school but wants to come back and be a biology teacher here. I tried to prod her into thinking about how she could teach differently than the teachers she dislikes. The conversation left me upbeat and hoping we can talk again.

The Y kids got a new cartoon DVD last Saturday, and when I visited on Thursday, they were on Viewing #7 and could already quote along with it.

[I was intent on my typing just now when someone opened the door of my little cubicle and asked how much longer I'll be. I jumped!]

середа, жовтня 11, 2006

no time for a longer post

I'm alive. But very, very busy.


6th form textbooks. We started the year with no books, then were sent 13 for 31 kids and 2 teachers to share. Well, 23 new books (from a different company) showed up yesterday, and the exasperated conclusion that Olga Ivanivna and I came to is that if we had students who were basically fluent in English already, we could use them, but they're outrageously hard for the kids we DO have. It's enough to make me consider a textbook writing career.

Okay, not really. But still...

So we wait and hope for more of the correct textbooks.


I helped out in the 3rd form yesterday afternoon, as they were having trouble making phonics cards and I said I could help outside of regular English hours. When I came in, I got lots of hugs from the kids, and Angela smiled and said, "Our mom!"

Me: I'm too young to be your mom. I'm twenty-three.

Angela: My mom's only 25. (Angela's almost 9.) Our mom!

Valery Y: My mom from America!

Good grief, a mom already? When did I get old enough that little kids think I'm old enough to be their mom?

Of course, it hit me the other day that I am about the same age as Wendy Bates, my kindergarten teacher, was when I had her. Also my 6th grade English teacher Sally Ingles.

I turned into an adult at some point. It's sort of scary.

пʼятниця, жовтня 06, 2006

got a little dish and you got a little spoon

And another week of school has ended...on a good note. My 10th form, who generally sit there and do nothing, had a good lesson today. We listened to country music as part of our American Studies curriculum, and the kids really got into it. We heard "She's in Love with the Boy" (yes, I was able to reword the idioms in the footnotes) and "Little Bitty", which was a great song for having a picture drawn of each line by yours truly, and then the kids had to put them in order. Sasha, who never does anything, really got into it, and Inna, who has brains but prefers not to use them, REALLY got into it and insisted we sing "Little Bitty" as a class. Nelya said afterwards, "I wish all lessons could be like that." I agree.

I gave my 6th form back their tests today...much groaning and sad faces, as they hadn't done so well. I went to collect the tests again to show their "official" teacher, only to find out that Yulia had crumpled hers up in a tiny ball and Arevik...well, Arevik, who is my top student but had only gotten 60%...had shredded her test into lots of little pieces. Yep.

The new supermarket in my town carries real chocolate chip cookies and Mria, the "regular" store I often frequent, has started carrying something very similar to Doritos. Ah, familiar junk food!

For the benefit of (at least) Tif, I'll try to post a Christmas wish list sometime soon.

вівторок, жовтня 03, 2006

boys are weird

Okay, so you all tell me that I can occasionally be bubbly. Except Tif, who suggested that she didn't think of me as bubbly as she had only known me during the past year, which has been stressful. (Good, but stressful.)


7th form boys...ah, yes. Oleh-who-isn't-in-my-class and Maksym came up to me at lunch today to show off how they had poked needles through the skin on their hands, sort of like splinters. I was, understandably, appalled, but they were delighted and kept showing everyone. Tanya and Vlada, 7th form girls, and I agreed: we don't understand boys. Male readers, please explain the fun of sticking a needle through your flesh, as it's beyond my comprehension.


I put my 8th form in groups yesterday and made them write stories using our vocab words (plus a few extra "fun" words I knew they knew). The results: one love story, one story that involved a crazy boy sitting on a pig and saying "very bad words", and two groups that a) didn't want to work and b) didn't understand the concept of writing a creative story rather than retelling a text from the book. We looked up the word "imagine" and they still gave me weird looks.

Really, I teach so much more than just English. Creativity, group work, the value of each kid (even the slow ones)...these lessons will hopefully stick after they forget all the vocab and grammar I've taught them.


Alosha, who is in my 8th form and is SO quiet, got a perfect on his take-home test this past weekend. And he was the only one, so I can't say he copied off of anyone. Now, if I can just get him to talk...


It can drive me up the wall some days, but I love my job.