Beginning of School

Beginning of School

Tree with shadow, words on Polish flag: S-cray-oh-la in Poland

Welcome to my Poland section. I made this section to show my friends and my church the things I learned, observed, and thought during the preparation and process of my trip to Poland to teach English for a year.

2002/10/14

Today will be the first day of classes.

I don't know how to put into words what I feel. I know I should be nervous, but I'm not. It's not peace. I guess my body just hasn't realized that I'm about to be in the lion's den. Teaching is not an easy job.

I don't know what the day will hold, but I know who holds the day. I know that today is (in Poland) a day to honor teachers. The teachers get a day off, so school is closed. This being the case, I don't know how many of our students will come to the first day of classes. Many of them stay at the dormitory across the street, and it's not serving meals today.

I read one of Charles Spurgeon's sermon's yesterday, and one statement was particulalry interesting to me. He said that if any man had as much trouble with his children as God has had with His people, that man would have strangled his children long ago. Praise God for His patience with us.

On a side note (to most of you; to me it is very important), I wrote 81kb of formatted text yesterday. On one of my projects, 23kb of unformatted text is a chapter. On this project, I think 35kb is about four pages.

In other news, I have sent mail to about nine-tenths of the addresses I brought with me, so if you haven't heard from me, chances are strong that I don't know how to reach you.

2002/10/14

I just finished my first class. I made it through alive.

My class is five teenage girls at the fourth level. I had, I thought, enough material to carry me through seventy-five minutes.

I introduced myself and talked briefly about myself. I asked them about why they felt studying English is important. They gave some good answers: business, education, most books are written in or translated into English, much of the popular music around the world is in English. We talked about some Polish words that are borrowed from English: businessman, hot dog, hamburger, supermarket. I asked them about English words they already knew.

Silence, though we had been talking in English all this time. I didn't know if that would go well, because it's hard for me to list Spanish words I know without a starting point. I gave a very brief outline of the course, including the tests and the grading scale. I reviewed the English alphabet with them, and they pronounced the letters properly, so I didn't spend much time on that. I asked them if they had any questions about America.

Nothing. I asked them what goals they had for the semester, what things they would like to be sure I cover in the course.

Deathly quiet. I asked them where they hear English in Poland. They mentioned TV (CNN, movies), radio, school, and movies. I asked them where they see English. They mentioned Newsweek and Time. I looked at my watch. I had used only twenty minutes.

I got the placement tests from Pastor Kris and handed them out. We spent about five minutes in silence while they looked over their tests. I asked if they had any questions.

They didn't. I took up the tests and asked them if they had any topics they wanted to discuss.

Nothing. I cleared the board and asked them to each give me their name, their favorite color, and where they were going after this. One student asked me if I meant today. I said I meant career or college. I got some good discussion, but this went quickly.

I asked each student what was the farthest she had ever been from Iława. I asked each student about sports and pasttimes. I asked about places they'd like to go. I asked what they wanted to see in those places. I asked them about their favorite music artists. I asked if they liked cars. About half did. I asked if they liked motorcycles. They all like motorcycles, but each liked a different brand. I asked about dress: casual or formal.

Now, I had used up seventy minutes, and I felt as though I were soaked with sweat. I released the students early and took off my coat.

Adam had arrived, so I talked to him about the class and some other school matters. I'll be glad when we get the books on Wednesday. Winging it is a very hard way to teach. All in all, I'm very pleased with this first class. I only have to do this on the fly four more times. *gah!*

image description follows:

Yours truly in front of the chalkboard.

2002/10/15

I got my first piece of physical mail yesterday. It was junk: a "vote-for-me" letter from Don Brown. Bleah. Not what I call a good thing to come first. I figure he got my address from either the supervisor of elections in Okaloosa county or from the American Embassy in Warsaw.

Today was my first day of all-me teaching. I was very nervous, but after yesterday, I was prepared, and it was pretty fun. For the first three (it will be two from now on. One of my classes is merging with my Mon/Wed class.), I did the same sorts of things I did yesterday, though they were better planned (and better received, for the most part. Today's groups were talkative, which is good.), but with the advanced class, I did something different.

I figured they would be bored with importance of learning English, places it is heard/seen, etc. So, I started with my rule: I decide what the letters I see are (or, as someone in my past would say, "If I can't read it, it's wrong."), the course outline, and the grading scale (95, 97, 76, 64, 0). Then, I asked them if they had any questions about me, the class, or America. I don't remember what their questions were (I wrote so many questions on the board that I whittled an inch-thick piece of chalk from five inches down to two), but I do remember they had a few. I asked them if they would like to discuss any particular topic for the purpose of English Practice, and finding no topic, I mentioned that I had a copy of _The_Oxford_Book_of_English Verse_.

They thought studying a poem would be interesting, so I asked if one had a favorite poet. Someone said Shaw (not Robert, I forget whom), but he wasn't in my copy. No other poet arising, I suggested opening to a random page. I opened to a very long poem, so I turned to another page, where I found a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley called To —— (Yes, To [long dash] is the title). [url http://www.online-literature.com/shelley_percy/671/ ] I read the poem, then allowed them to read it. We discussed the words in the poem they didn't recognize, and they read the poem again. We discussed the meaning of the poem. It is, we decided, a very effective and well-written poem.

I then did the same with Eugene Field's "The Little Boy Blue". [url http://www.redondohills.org/goodnight.html#boy ] It was an enjoyable discussion, and I think they got much out of the class. I showed them a list of common errors, but there was not much discussion on that.

Pastor Kris said he thought I did very well. I asked him if he had been listening. He said he hadn't, but pointed to his mouth and said something like, "I saw the students smiling when they left."

After my last class, I treated myself to a sirloin steak at a restaurant about "50 meters" from the parsonage. The food was good, the waiter was accommodating of my limited vocabulary, and I left what I think was a big tip. I'm still not sure what is customary for tipping, but I think that a waiter's being patient about my limited Polish should be rewarded.

I was looking over the table of contents in the OBOEV earlier in the evening, and I must say that if I had known the authors who are included, I would have read more from this book sooner. It contains Poe, Keats (including "Ode on a Grecian Urn" [url http://www.bartleby.com/101/625.html ]), Yeats, Brontë, Whitman (including "O Captain, My Captain" [url http://www.bartleby.com/101/743.html ]), Shakespeare, Longfellow, and Kipling, who appears, from one of the poems included, to have been a Christian.

It is now almost eleven o'clock, so I don't think I will get any writing done today.

2002/10/16

Pastor Kris, Adam, and I went to Olsztyn today and picked up the books for our classes. I have one teacher's book out of the three levels I teach, but the other two should arrive soon.

Class today was pretty smooth, although the students are not very talkative. Adam and Pastor Kris and I are working on scheduling concerns, but everything should be smooth soon.

2002/10/17

I just got my first piece of /real/ mail! It is a card from the Women's Prayer Group at my church. Thank you!

2002/10/18

I don't have much to say. Perhaps that is because I am so tired.

I got up early, today (which was a relief, because I was having all types of weird dreams), and had my first class in the public school.

They want me to do some conversational classes. My next one is at 8:10(am) on Monday. I will see how this goes. I hope I can handle it.

I still want to start an English club, but I am not sure where it will fit. If I can get a room somewhere, I could have it on Monday or Wednesday evening.

Otherwise, I could have it on Friday evening. This is not ideal, as many of the students go home on the weekends.

 

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