Saturday was a day off for most of us. The Community Development volunteers were executing their practicum project in Tetovo so the TEFL people decided to go support them. They were cleaning up a park. The park was very small. But when we were done, we celebrated. (not too good at the video function of my camera yet)
Then we did what people do when they live in a village and get turned loose in a large city! We went shopping. I was looking for nice candy to give my host family when I go to visit next week (apparently something frequently done here) . Stacie, on the other hand wanted to go to the second hand store. We discovered these little gems for a grand total of 99 den each ($2.00). So now I have to have my yellow jacket and shoes sent to me! I just knew I should have packed them!
The days are rapidly ticking down until we swear in. So many things happening and so much joy in my life. Weather is beautiful, people are beautiful and loving and I have such an amazing family. It will be hard to leave them in a couple of weeks but I am buoyed by the knowledge that it will only get better and better as the days continue to fly past.
This past week I did my practicum at a satellite school in the district. It was in a village about 2 miles away (which by the way is only about 5 miles from the border with Kosovo) called Odri. My first challenge was transportation. Not a problem, my co-teacher Elgadaf assured me. Just come with Shqipe. She is at this school every day. (Many of the teachers regularly rotate to the various satellite schools). Well, first of all, I don’t know Shqipe but I do know where the bus stop is. I’m just not sure I will know which bus/van is the one that takes me to Odri. Fortunately, Teuta (the school director’s wife and an English teacher) called me Sunday night and said, oh, just come to the school here in town and either Rexhep or I will take you to Odri. Phew! I will watch carefully, in case I need to walk. Get to the school and Elgadaf is waiting for me and we walk into first class I will be observing and suddenly I’m teaching. Yikes–today is supposed to be observation only. The tough part is that the schools here teach British English meaning can and can for ability and permission; have got; trainers not sneakers; lorries not trucks. So if I talk funny when I return it is because of this. At the end of the day we had to plan for the next day and I didn’t get back to my village until 15.00. But oops, language class had started at 14.00. Needless to say it was a very long day and I was quite hungry at the end of the day.
Tuesday was a much easier day but I did have to navigate the transportation system. Fortunately as I waited for the bus for forty five minutes, (no one gave me a time) a couple of people showed up for the bus that I recognized. Shqipe was one of them along with the host father of one of my site mates. (I met Shqipe at the school the day before and it turns out she is a cousin of my family.) We got to school right at 08.00. Did I mention school starts at 08.00? Seems to be pretty traditional that teachers do not enter the classroom for about 2-3 minutes after the bell rings. That means you really only get about 35 minutes of instruction. At the end of the day–which was much earlier, Elgadaf has to dash off as he has a class to teach in Tetovo but manages to get a ride for me back to Dobroshtë before he leaves. He also tells me to plan whatever I want for the next day and then just tell him what I want him to do since the PC observers were coming to watch the next day. Things went relatively well other than the fact that the kids were totally unresponsive because of extra people in the room. They thought they were inspectors from the Ministry of Education. By the end of the week, I had my teaching mojo back on and felt good about getting back into the classroom–except for that British English thing. That will take some getting used to.
As you can tell from these photos, the classrooms are bare bones and not well heated. But the students are generally well behaved and eager to learn. Most of the classes I worked in had a couple of learning disabled students. It was good that they are mainstreamed, but there was no differentiation done for those students. That is something I hope to be able to do when I reach my permanent site.
Schools in Macedonia are markedly different from our modern schoolhouse but the children are essentially the same. They love to play, they thrive on learning and they copy each other’s homework! They do a lot of grammar translation work and it was funny to be checking the homework and see the same exact words on paper after paper. Not sure they always knew what they were reading and writing so I made it a point to stop continually and say, “What is a rookie? How did they get to the tram station?” At least check some basic comprehension and then act things out. The first graders were hysterical when Elgadaf and I danced to their color song. Don’t think they had seen anything like it.