Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's a Good Day to Have a Good Day

Wednesday, March 5th

My three-day weekend with friends was definitely as refreshing as I needed it to be.
Then, on the bus ride back to Zovreti from Zestaphoni, I sat beside one of my fifth graders and we taught each other words. He was honestly already one of my favorites. He’s an adorable kid with this girlfriend in sixth grade who is at least a head taller than him. He sits in the front of the class and looks at me with these bright blue eyes and eager smile. I want to huggle him up.

Then, yesterday, I finally got to attend dance class with some of my high school students. It was fun, both dancing and hanging out with them. And the dance teachers are both in their early twenties, which is cool for me.


We are reviewing a reading with the second grade class. It’s simple, but they still don’t fully get it. In traditional Russian-inspired Georgian style, my female co has a few different students read one at a time while the rest of the class listens…or doesn’t listen. Usually the latter. But it isn’t long before she looks to me and says, “shall we do something with them?” I love it when she asks me this. She really does understand that the read and regurgitate method doesn’t necessitate actual understanding, and she has noticed that activities which get the students involved are more effective. I think making these teachers realize that they have to try new methods is half of the battle.
So I end up reviewing numbers 1-10 with them. I hold up however many fingers and a dozen exited little voices scramble to say the correct number in English. They are so cute, we can’t help but grin when they keep getting hung up on the number 5.
Then, something even better happens. My co takes over again and chooses the next activity. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, it means a lot. Getting Georgian teachers to realize that student engagement is more effective than zombie-learning is half the battle. Getting Georgian teachers to experiment with engaging activities is the other half.
Only one student is present in the 12th grade class today.  After the three of us chat for a while, my co having to translate the whole conversation, I give him a challenge. My co will choose ten words. I will learn them in Georgian, and he will learn them in English. On Friday, she will quiz us to see who has learned more. He accepts the challenge, and the trash talking commences. With frequent pauses to ask for more English synonyms of win, of course.

It’s time for my weekly extra English class for grades 7-9. We do a number of activities, including a couple that my male co suggested.
On the walk home, we chat and giggle and I answer a dozen questions that we reviewed in the lesson. “What music do you like,” “What sports do you like,” etc. I happily let them practice their English with me. And I soak up the interaction.
It's a beautiful day, so I decide to go for a walk. The neighbors stare at me as I pass by, either because I am the new American teacher or just because Georgians are lazy and going for a walk on any day seems silly.

I go to the school, and see one of my students there. He, his mom, and his little sister are cleaning the school. I share a very light-hearted but linguistically limited chat with them and head back down the road. I’m not far before I run into a random village dude, and then some of the kids who live in the houses nearby. I recognize a couple, including a little buddy of mine from the dance studio. I meet their mom and hang out with them for a bit. They bring out their adorable puppy, I get out my camera, and we take a million photos.

At home, when we sit down for dinner, my host mom gives me a normal size plate instead of a big bowl, which is also a victory of sorts. Traditional Georgian hospitality requires that hosts feed their guests to their hearts’ content. In real life, that seems to translate into feeding them a dubious amount of food no matter how realistically said amount can fit into a guest’s stomach.
I even get to take a shower tonight. I don’t get to bathe myself, as the mom holds the shower head for me…again. I’m not really sure how to politely ask to bathe myself. But afterwards I am at least able to convince her that I can brush my own hair this time. It’s a step.
So this is still hard. And I am still thinking that next semester I should find a place where I can be surrounded by other young adventurers who speak English. But right now, all I can do is take it one day at a time. And today, I had a really good day.

1 comment:

  1. I'm enjoying re-experiencing Georgia in a new way, through your eyes. Having my hostess hold the shower head so I could bathe? Not something I would have anticipated! ... Love the phrase, "huggle him up!"