After One Semester

Alright, the time gap between my first post and this one is longer than I planned. I had 3 more months in the meantime and when I look back to those now, I admire time’s capability of flying. Half of my given time in Elk is now behind me and I’m here to sum the last semester up for those who are interested.

Firstly, I’d like to proudly announce that I survived the ruthless winter of Northeastern Poland. I hope it’s not too early to assume it’s over, but it looks like it’s over. What I have to say about winter may not make any sense to people who got used to it since they were born in it, molded by it whereas I merely adopted it (i love putting movie references). I’ve seen snow only twice in my hometown before I came here and for a person like me, this heavy snow thing is kind of a big deal and I just can’t shut up about it. During the winter I’ve lost two pairs of gloves, some of my respect to my father for sending me bermuda short and hawaiian shirt pictures while I had to wear lots of clothes and meanwhile gained a little weight because of not going outside.

But how did my first half of assistantship go? I can put it like this: ‘amazingly fast’. According to Einstein’s relativity theory, we feel ‘wow that was quick’ about good things (he explains it in a more scientific a complicated manner), so I’ll say it was really good. I’d remember if I got bored at some point, but I don’t. And it’s most logical explanation for me is that there were more new things to experience than I imagined. This was my first time in a foreign country, I was in a small part of this country where most of people couldn’t speak any foreign languages, therefore their daily lives had purer reflections of Polish culture, there was a school I had to work in and I couldn’t interact with its students in their mother tongue which got me in trouble during lessons on many occasions, there was this winter people have been constantly speaking of, there were people ringing my doorbell and trying get in to talk me about some religion, there was a whole new student attitude in my school, there were cars on traffic stopping on pathways just to let me pass, some foods with scary looks and so on, I can expand this list to eternity and beyond. And all I got was this: ”Nie rozumiem po polsku :(”

In between all these things I didn’t have time to get bored or miss my old life.

I still remember my first day at the school. I got in from the front door and my tutor showed me around. There was a primary school part on the right half of the school, which was strange for me, because we don’t have this kind of schools in my country. The students were all looking at me. Because of my unusual height people looked at me on public places whole my life, so I was prepared for that. Can’t say I don’t hate being in the centre of attention, but I’m used to it. I was warned that there can be kebab references in the beginning since it’s the most popular thing about my country in other countries and some students adressed me as kebab on the hallway. They obviously found it funny. In fact, some of them still doing it and still think it’s funny. As every other person who was a teenager once, I don’t see the point of questioning teenagers’ sense of humour, so I’m not even reacting to it. Then I was introduced to other teachers. One of them assured me that I’d feel myself at home after spending one month in there and it turned out she was right.

I spent my first month observing the lessons and trying to figure out the approaches Polish teachers use in classes. It wasn’t so different from the language education methods used in my country, so I didn’t have any troubles adopting it. The main problem for me was the language barrier. I’m well aware that modern language education approaches strongly encourages teachers to use only the target-language in the classes but having a real classroom experience showed me it wasn’t as easy as they taught us in the university. There are nearly 20 students in each class and that means so many individual diversity. Teachers have to make sure they all learn the subject and the learning models of each student makes it hard to use one single approach. They all have to be taken care of and this is where we need mother tongue. I, naturally, can’t have that advantage in the classroom and I have to use the target language only. Putting a foreign language speaker in classes could actually be good idea to strengthen the pupils’ listening and speaking skills but the lenght of the lesson won’t allow it. There are lots of variables and perspectives in this manner and I saw my ideas of a perfectly effective lesson plan I had in my mind during my university years shattered. And I’m really glad they did. Being in the reality itself makes you think of more realistic solutions and sharpens your teaching skills, I guess. This realization alone, can be the reason why I won’t ever regret participating in this program. I would’ve realized it sooner or later in my country as well but as an unexperienced teacher, working in a whole new environment, having to use the target language all the time was way more effective. I am not having those hesitation moments, where I don’t know what to say, as often as I used to in the beginning and it’s just getting better as I gain confidence.

This was a brief summary of the effects of my assistantship period on my overall teaching skills. I wanted to mention them as they were the main reason of me having this period but they are not only posivite effects I experienced. I’ll write about them later. When it comes to negatives, the first thing comes to my mind is having to get up early. I was an ordinary student without any concerns about working life and suddenly, I had to buy an alarm clock. This is a big change in ones life. I chose my alarm clock by it’s price and bought a cheap one. Its ticking is louder than its alarm. I should’ve believed the man who said ”I am not rich enough to buy cheap things.” Other than getting up early, I can’t think of any negative sides of my assistantship period. Which is a good thing, huh?

I’ll try to write more frequently from now on and my next post will be about the cultural interaction we had in our school.

Until next time,

Do widzenia! (The students enjoy it when I try to speak Polish.)

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