As a profession, teaching is one of the more mysterious ones out there. Everyone has had teachers. Everyone sort of understands what a teacher does. Everyone has teachers they didn’t like, and teachers they remember twenty years later. But what makes a teacher special? Is it their expertise, their experience? Their willingness to work with sometimes intractable students and miserably low pay? How do you know if a student has learnt anything?
Around the world, ministries and departements of education have tried to quantify learning. Tests and data abound. Every few years curricula change and standards are renewed or tossed whole cloth. And teachers must completely change how they teach once more. And students have to change how they learn. Sometimes it’s very frustrating not being able to build a plan that suits every need. Micro-management is a problem everywhere.
I am by no means an expert. I have teaching experience, and I know that there have been some students who liked what I did. Here in N Macedonia all I hope is that I bring a real life connection to an escoteric subject that is so very necessary in the world today. Peace Corps has always sent native English speakers around the world to bring real life experiences to their students. I know I’m part of the process. Language learning is still a mysterious science. We understand why some people learn language faster than others, but there’s no way to tell who will be a polyglot and who will struggle.
We’ve started working in our schools, organisations and daily centres. Back in America, my former co-workers and teachers are counting down to their winter breaks. Here, however, winter break starts at the end of December and goes through January, so my countdown is a little different. On the plus side, I don’t have work on my birthday, continuing the tradition of never having worked/gone to school on my birthday…so far.
Living with a Muslim family means I won’t be celebrating Christmas, either the Catholic one (25 December) or the Orthodox one (7 January). I’m so confused by not celebrating Christmas; it’s the highlight of the year. However, I will be doing a Christmas lesson with my students on the 25th of December, so I will try and bring some Christmas cheer into the classroom. I found an Adventskalendar here in N Macedonia, so I’ve been quietly celebrating my favourite holiday here.
This past week, I observed fourth year classes and helped out a bit with lessons. This coming week, I’ll be heading the lessons, working with my Albanian counterpart teacher. She teaches exclusively fourth year. After the end of the 2019-2020 school year, she’ll start again with first years. Starting in 2020, I’ll also be working with a Macedonian counterpart teacher. It means I’ll have to be okay in both Macedonian and Albanian…easier said than done. These languages are both so different that it’s always a struggle to study one and then the other. I have set up tutoring sessions with both of my tutors. Let’s see if I can also be good about self-studying. Learning a foreign language is difficult, let alone trying to learn two. I think this helps me understand my students, though.
I’ve met tons of new family members. The families that have hosted me happen to be enormous, so meeting cousins and nieces and nephews is sort of exhausting. I went on a mysafir for seven hours on Saturday: from 315 to 1030 PM! It was nice to chat and be surrounded by so much company, but also exhausting. I was successful in bonding with the little ones though, which is always fun. I met a grandfather who had lived in Australia for five years in his twenties, and that was very interesting to hear about. I still have no skill with family situations, but I’m learning. And that’s the most important thing I could say.