Day 187: English classes!

Gave my first English classes today. The kids are very cute, super excited and extremely affectionate. The whole everything is very different from Sweden, for good and for bad.  It was an interesting experience, but honestly I don’t think that I want to continue with these. First of all, I’m not an English teacher. Is it really in the kids best interest to have me teaching? We’re not supposed to do formal education within EVS anyways, and definitely not supposed to substitute other employees. But then again, I’ve heard that no one teaches them English if we don’t. I don’t know how the Turkish school system works, I suppose I should figure that out.

Anyhow, although I have done some teaching and similar before before this is waaaayyy above my competences. They had fun, sure, but I’m not teaching. I don’t know, if we would just call the activity ”mess around and play” then it would be quite alright I suppose, although that might not be exactly what I want to do either. We don’t have much of proper impact assessment and quality assurance. They will surely not learn much English from me, and I don’t like this idea even though a co-volunteer keeps telling me that the important part is to give them a positive connotation of the English language, for the future, rather than having them acquiring actual knowledge. What is my aim? What is my goal in life? No just kidding. I’m confused.

So, you might or might not wonder, how was these lessons actually? Background info: primary school in a socioeconomically vulnerable area. I had four classes, each 40 minutes, with four groups of first year students. Some of them were able to read, some had not yet learned it. It’s funny though because they read everything with the Turkish alphabet pronounciation, so I was weighing the benefit of teaching them the correct spelling versus the ‘phonetic’ spelling, and ended with the latter. So teacher became tiğçer and goodbye became gıdbay. They had English last year as well with another volunteer, the amount that they remembered was… varying.

I was alone with the students; for every lesson I entered the classroom right when the bell rang and the children would swarm around me, making sounds of excitement and shouting ”İngilizce öğretmeni!”. I would try to make them sit down, and talk a little bit. Some 5 minutes later, their ordinary teacher would show up, looking very puzzled about my presence. We would exchange some words in Turkish (such as, ”Oh, I didn’t know that you’d be here! Are you teaching English?”, ”yes”, ”okay, good luck!”) and then they would leave again. Ughh. Let me tell you about the four classes. In every class, there would be a few kids sitting down and listening, but the vast majority would spend most of the time running around, chasing each other, fighting, and I don’t know what. Oh well.

Class 1: I was quite nervous, as it was the first class. I soon realised that there was not much to be nervous about, because everything was chaos no matter what I did haha. No but. They were around 20 kids, very sweet. However, fighting way too much. Don’t know how many times some kids ended up crying after hurting themselves or others hurting them or I don’t even… And then they’d be like ”He hit me!” ”He took my pen!” and running around. But some of the girls were very helpful and also tried to make everyone sit down and listen and do their stuff. Someone asked to use the bathroom, and I said okay. Suddenly, 70% of the class was out and heading for the bathroom. Wups.

Class 2: This was a smaller class, maybe 14 students. Nevertheless, it was crazy. The kids were once again very sweet – the class started with a spontaneous group hug. And when I was at the board talking, one of the girls would randomly run up to me and hug me.  Then, of course, someone wanted to go to the bathroom. Okay, I agreed, Another one raised their hand immediately, and wanted to go as well. Learning from my previous mistake, I said no, and explained that it would be one person at a time. So far so good, right? Well, all of a sudden, I turned around for a second and the kids had started to paint each others faces instead of the papers. And suddenly, half of the class was outside the classroom for no reason at all, completely oblivious for what I was saying. I managed to get them back, but then some others else left.  And so it went, around and round.

Class 3: What to say. Someone had brought candy, which is of course much more interesting than I could ever be. Their ordinary teacher entered and yelled at the kids to sit down. The candy provider looked at her, and moved in slowmotion to his seat as to provoke a response. The teacher left. There was loud music all of a sudden. The kids rushed to the window and then to the door. Something was happening out there. Then, another adult came and scolded the kids for running around. She remained standing, gazing firmly towards the spectacle. Some kids were standing as well. Was it their national anthem playing? Shame on me for not knowing. I figured that I might as well wait until this was over. The music eventually ended, but there was still noise from outside, making the kids very curious – they constantly tried to sneak out. I had no idea what was going on. Later, I learned that it was a theater play to celebrate the anniversary of the Çanakkale Zaferi. One of the boys from this class had a role in the play, and he returned after half of the class. He was a star – the kids hugged him so that I was almost afraid that he’d suffocate. The girls tried to kiss him and everybody wanted to sit next to him.

Class 4: Oh, oh. This class was sweet for the first… one minute maybe. They were all sitting on their chairs, claiming to be the best student. I turn around, and one student is sitting on the table instead. I ask him to sit on the chair, but all of a sudden, everyone is sitting on their tables. Their ordinary teacher entered and yelled at the kids for their misbehaviour. ”Who started?” she asked, and the kids pointed at each other. Then, she proceeded on to telling me how bad they all were, and told me that this was the worst class. Well, they were also sweet in their way;  while I was talking I could suddenly find everyone standing in a circle around me at the blackboard, I would tell them to go back to their desks, and two minutes later they’d be up front again. Odd. This class was more difficult in one way because they’d try to take things from my hands as I was holding them. But well, I survived.

Those were my hours of English teaching.  I think I could’ve handled the kids better, but then again I tell myself that I don’t have any training in this, so it’s okay to not know it. (Which is why also I maybe should not do this, especially not alone, according to my opinion). The other teachers mostly made the kids listen by screaming in falsetto. I jumped the first time I heard it; I’ve never heard such screaming before, not in a classroom, and not sure even if anywhere else… ”They will be naughty if you’re not angry,” one teacher said to me after yelling at her class. It’s not my style and I don’t know if it’s anything that I believe in either. Working with big groups of kids is not something that I’m not planning on continue doing in my professional life, and honestly I don’t know if these are skills that I want to prioritize.

In summary, if these lessons are really beneficial for the kids, more beneficial than whatever they would do otherwise, and if there is no options of another durable solution, I might be able to consider continuing with it. Otherwise, I’m out. All I know is that the next time I see a copying machine or a printer, I will appreciate it more than ever before.

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