Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Road To Pedagogy

My life has fallen into somewhat of a routine now that my schedule has
been finalized. My teaching schedule has changed dramatically since
my counterpart left after New Years holiday and I have been working
hard with the other teachers at my school to set up new clubs. Peace
Corps says we have a mandatory 18-20 hours a week at our primary job
site. As of right now I have about 25 hours per week and I feel like
it is a good amount for me. Not close to the regular forty hour work
week in America, but I come home twice as exhausted as I did back in
the states.

My students are honestly the joy of my life here. I work with about
100 students in my clubs and several hundred more in all the classes
that I help team-teach. I started with clubs for the 7th through 10th
grade students and now I have expanded to include all grades and
teachers. I have an "Art and English" club with my adorable 1st-3rd
grade students. For my first club, one of the mothers who had brought
her son had lined up all of the students outside my door in a line
that curved all the way around the corner, and I panicked a little
when I saw more than twenty eager little faces staring up at me. How
could I manage twenty tiny ones with my Turkmen skills? These kids
are amazing. They listened attentively, hands on the desks, minds
alert as we recited the alphabet song and worked on the first page of
our illustrated ABC books. "A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat, D for
Dog." I have never seen young students that respectful in America!
They are so cute and I am so happy to work with all of them. Their
energy and eagerness just light up my day and restore my faith in what
I am doing here.

Last Sunday was the Garashsyzlyk Etrap Olympiad and three of my
advanced students won first place in their grade and will move onto
the Lebap Welayat Olympiad. Every school has a preliminary Olympiad
and the 1st and 2nd place students in each subject then compete at the
Etrap level. For English, they take a grammar and vocabulary test and
are then given a topic to write a short composition about and then
speak about in front of the judges. I am so proud of my students.
Jennet and I have been spending free class periods with them reviewing
advanced grammar topics like passive and active voice, which to be
honest, I am still unsure of how to explain clearly. Although they
need to know these really difficult grammar topics for the Olympiad,
they breezed through the basics so fast that they still need review,
and I basically started back at the beginning with them. We began
with greetings, but I wanted to expand on the "Hello. How are you? I
am fine." dialogue that they know, and I gave them new greetings like
"What's up?" and "How's it going?" and many adjectives of mood so that
they can actually express how they really feel (you don't always have
to be just "fine"). We are now onto the present continuous tense with
the question "What are you doing?" An example of one of my lessons is
as follows:
1.) Warm-Up: Greet each student. Collect homework. Play around the
world with the previously learned vocabulary.
2.) Presentation: Present Continuous Tense
- Teach these eight verbs: okamak=to read, oynamak=to play, yatmak=to
sleep, gitmek=to go, yazmak=to write, dinlemek=to listen, okatmak=to
teach, owrenmek=to learn
-Review the verb 'to be'
*I am
*He, She, It is
*You, We, They are
-Explain in Turkmen that this tense is simple and the verb 'to be' is
used as a helper verb and that the subject of the sentence must always
be said first
-You must first take the 'to' off of the verb and add the suffix -ing
-Write on the board: Subject + 'to be' + main verb + ING
-Write on the board some examples: Men okayaryn= I am reading, Ol
(oglan) oynayar= He is playing
3.)Practice: I give them a subject (I, You, He etc.) and I act out the
verb. Tell the students to make a sentence in the present continuous
tense using the verb that I am acting out.
-Repeat this until all the students are translating well
4.)Application: Charades
-Divide the class into two teams. One student must act out a verb and
their team must make a sentence using the subject that I give them.
If they make a sentence, they get a point. If they can't, ask the
other team.
5.)Homework: Write seven present continuous sentences, one for each
subject, using the new verbs.

My lessons all include interactive games and activities that get the
kids speaking as much as possible. Most lessons here are teacher
centered, and my goal is to have my kids speaking more than me in

Apart from these two clubs, I have a Beginner 7th-10th grade club, an
Intermediate 7th-10th grade club, a Beginner 4th-6th grade club, an
English Teachers club and a non-English teachers club. I have more
than enough kids in each club and I have had to start turning kids
away because I can't take anymore. For my first 4th-6th grade club I
wrote on the poster, and told all the kids that they couldn't be late
to the club. I had a full room at 2pm and I locked the door. I still
had kids knocking, but all I said to them was, "I told you not to be
late!" I know it seems harsh, but if they had really wanted to be
there, they would have been there. There are 1,400 students and I
have to set my limits on numbers or else the effectiveness of my
teaching decreases by so much. I arrive at school around 9am and I am
usually there until 4 or 5pm. I eat lunch when I can at the school
cafeteria where my host-mom and host-sisters work. I get soup and hot
pumpkin filled pastries almost everyday. When I have free periods I
prep for classes or go drink tea with the other teachers. Now that my
days have a routine, I am beginning to feel settled in (to a certain
extent). We joke among the PCVs that some days all you can manage is
showing up to work—that's the hard part. Once I get to my classroom,
all decorated with the various school supplies I have been sent, maps
and pictures from home, I can pick up the chalk and write out the new
words on the blackboard. Then when the kids come bounding into my
room, they bring all the energy that I was missing that morning when I
woke up, and suddenly I am ready to teach.

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