Return of the TMJ

Oh noooo! It’s back! 

For those if you who aren’t familiar with Tmj, let me direct you to my old posts about my first diagnoses back in Florida almost 3 years ago (check out the tmj tag). 

But for those who are, I had surgery for it while I was in Florida (athrocentesis) which didn’t perfectly fix the issue, but I was eating and speaking just fine. 

Until recently. 

Because of the stress of teaching (I’m sure many of you are familiar with that tightness in your forehead and jaw when you’re pissed) and overusing my jaw because of constantly yelling to be heard over the noise, my tmj is making a comeback. 

So much so, I was in tears from pain and anxiety. 

I don’t want to go through this again. I don’t want another surgery, I don’t want to go 2 months on a nearly liquid diet, and frankly, I can’t.  Not in a job where my sole purpose is talking. 

So as my jaw clicks and pops at almost every movement, I wait anxiously for the day it totally locks again. 

Great. 

Throw Your Hands in the Air

And wave em like you just don’t care! 

Which I am. 

Because I don’t. 

Being a teacher is hard, yall. Especially to spoiled, arrogant children.  

Not all of them are bad, but some are.  I honestly believe a hand full of these kids wouldn’t spit on someone if they were on fire. 

This is especially true for my 9th graders.  Two of the four classes are just hopeless.  It’s not like they can’t do the work, they just won’t.  I’ve tried everything.  Picking up unfinished activities in the main course English book, playing games, watching videos, teaching something else in English (e.g. Slavery in the US), projects, the works.  Nothing. Works. 

And I’m sad, because there are at least three students that are actually interested in the topics and want to learn. They even apologize for the others’ bad behavior. But if I have to call the counselor and the principal five times because they are so incredibly rude (I mean, standing in class, shouting to each other, sleeping, talking back in turkish as if I dont understand), I’m not going to waste my time. 

I did my best. I’m just going to be a babysitter for the 40 minutes that class takes in a week. Usually the good students gravitate to me and practice their English 1 on 1 with me anyway. 

Because this negativity just isn’t conducive to my 2017 resolutions

Teachers Day

My first Teachers Day (Turkish observed) was Thursday! 

It happened to fall on Thanksgiving! And TEOG (a national placement test for 8th graders),  so I had a short holiday Wednesday and Thursday.  

Typically students give gifts to their teachers as a thank you for all they do.  Sometimes it’s just flowers, and sometimes it’s some niiiiiice stuff.  One teacher got a tea cup set from English Home! Dang! 

Of course I got a whole lot of nothing.  Not even a flower! Since parents don’t get to meet the native teachers we don’t really count… İ cant lie,  I was a bit sad when everyone else was being lavished with gifts while I sat in the teachers room all by my lonesome.  

Since we don’t celebrate teachers day in the US it shouldn’t make me sad.  But what can I do? 

At least the school gave us gift boxes! 
We also were treated to a night out at a fancy hotel on Tuesday.  Service took us from the school in the evening and we enjoyed a social evening of dancing, eating, and (for everyone else) drinking! 

I was sick but tried to make the most of it. 

But in all honesty, I was in it for the sales! Every shop had a special teachers day campaign. I got new shoes and replaced some of my makeup that I was scrapping the bottom of the bottle for. 

But no matter what, Thanksgiving was on my mind. We again couldn’t do anything because of our living situation… And it’s making me homesick. 

That Was Fun While it Lasted

Well,  hubby lost his job. 

We knew the company wasn’t doing too well when his pay checks were coming later and later.  They finally decided to shut down that division of the factory.  

Pretty bad timing, considering we were looking for an apartment. 

Notice the use of past tense.  Were looking.  Were.  As in,  we were looking before, but now we are not. 

And we are indeed not looking. Not because we found a place, but because hubby lost his job.  Even though we could afford a place on only my salary, he has been applying to new jobs in other cities (read: Istanbul and Ankara, where he has more options. Never mind my own job).  He doesn’t want us to move out on a lease when he may have to move for work (because I clearly can’t live alone).  

Nevermind my f***in sanity. 

His parents are trying to finish the second floor of their house (which was built like a three flats apartment building), which they intend to “give to us” when it’s finished (and by give,  I mean have us pay to complete and thereof pretty much buy).  With no heating. In,  maybe,  March? 

So in the meantime I will continue to lose my damn mind in this overcrowded flat, serving as both a teacher at school and a maid at home.  Basically miserable everywhere. 

I think I’m going to be sick. 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Teaching

It’s been a bit longer than a month since I’ve started teaching.

About 5 weeks since we got our books and started classes in earnest.

And I must say, I’ve developed quite the relationship with teaching.  Some days it is more love.  Some days it is more hate.  But it is definitely quite the mix.

As I had expected, the students are wild.  Wild-ish? Well, the ones who started out well behaved are being more and more naughty as the weeks progress; and the ones who were bad are learning how to behave.  What is this madness? For example, the second graders are now staying in their seats (mostly) instead of running around the room…but the 9th graders are fist fighting in the front of the room in the middle of class.

What is wrong with these people?

 Of course, having no real grade to give them, no tests, and not being on the “interactive” list on the computer doesn’t help.  Honestly, my class is a bit of a joke. No one takes it seriously, and I’m starting to not take it seriously either.  And the parents aren’t too helpful most of the time either.

But for some reason, when I see my students in the hall or outside of school completely, they pay more attention to me than they do in class! They will go out of there way to say hello, sometimes spending the whole lunch period trying to speak in English!

WHY!?!?

 When we have a good lesson, or when I hear them shout “HI TEACHER!” from across the street and run up to say hi, I love being a teacher.  The hours and pay certainly don’t hurt. But when they refuse to write the answers to their book activities, even AFTER I write them on the board…play with toys in my class…run around hollering…REFUSING to stop and listen to a SINGLE WORD I SAY.

At that moment, I really hate teaching.

It’s a big learning curve, moving from young adults (university) to children.  I hope it gets easier, and I find my own rhythm, because I want this career to work.  At least in Turkey, where it’s a very cushy job.  Man, but do you earn your pay in the war grounds…I mean class room!

NOTE: Follow me on Instagram tomorrow to see a day in the life of a teacher!

My First Day As An English Teacher in Turkey

Another long title for yall, but what can  I do? 

I’m writing this while I wait for my hubby to get home from work so we can have dinner and talk about my first day, 

And what a day it was! 

For those of you who don’t know, 

1. I live in İzmir, Turkey 

2. My only experience teaching ENGLISH (I taught microbiology lab in uni) was my supervised teaching while getting my CELTA a few months ago… And I taught adults. 

So my stomach was doing little flips when I walked dutifully into my first 5th grade class with lesson plan and board markers.  I mean, we’re only doing ice breakers at first, so what’s the worst that can happen? 

OH but I wait. There was no board.  

That’s OK, we’re using smart boards (glorified TV screens mounted on the wall that runs as a touch screen computer).  OH BUT WAIT 

They deleted every dang thing off the system. Even paint.  Which was there before the holidays. 

So there I am, staring down a group of 10-11 year old, wearing bright red (I thought I’d be able to keep their attention with red) with nothing to do.  My entire lesson depended on the white boards being in. So what did I do? I pulled out some dash darn pieces of computer paper and stuck them on the bulletin board.  Because I am woman, hear me improvise. 

 I was pretty amused that I had planned 4 stages to my lesson and we only got through 2. But the kids couldn’t tell, they loved me anyway. 

The next period I had 9th grade.  I like teenagers, since I’m used to 19/20 year olds. The lesson was OK, not exceptional but not a failure. And I had a board so that was nice. The kids were pretty good. 

I had a break before lunch and had a minute to gather my thoughts for the 4th grade class after our meal. 

The meal we couldn’t eat because there was a line going down the stairs and they ran out of cutlery because they couldn’t wash it fast enough for the 500+ people trying to eat at the same time. 

So we went to the canteen and paid for tost instead of the free lunch we’re due.  I’m sure this hiccup will be solved soon. 

So I go to the fourth grade class and they were quite rambunctious! They got a big kick out of my drawing on the board. God they wouldn’t stop talking! In Turkish! I struggled to keep them on task, but with 15 minutes left they were called to play outside. 

Then I missed a class because of a communication error. But no one was mad.  They didn’t have a board in that classroom anyway.. 

Or the paint application! 

School let the primary kids go early to ease their adjustment, so my last 2 classes were canceled.  

I’m anxious to see what 2nd grade is like! 

Hello Turkey, Bye bye rights

Well well well, it happened again.

When I entered this private school system, I was told I was free to wear my scarf.  Lo and behold, that wasn’t the case!  Two weeks into working and I’ve been hit with new restrictions:

  1. No black scarf, ever.
  2. Nothing but turban style is accepted.

Well, when did this happen I wonder?  And why? After filtering down the chain of command, the information arrived to my fellow English teacher.  The school principal told the English Dept chair, and they told my coworker, and she told me.  I mean, it was better coming from her mouth because we’ve already formed a relationship (and bless the English chairs heart, she did NOT want to broach this subject.  She knew right away how ridiculous it was).

So after four or five instances of wearing a black turban, I was told I can’t do that anymore because it’s seen as “political”.  I’m not sure how, but ok.  Turkey is pretty crazy so it’s probably true. And I wore a more traditional style (around the neck and down the back, not covering the shoulders) once because the turban looked bad with my outfit.  Apparently that was also unacceptable.  Um…?

While I am partially mad that this is an issue at all (after having a discussion before I even started that this wouldn’t be), I’m mostly mad because this wasn’t laid out at the very beginning. This is stuff I need to know from day 1.  Maybe this info was passed on from down high, I have no idea, but I can tell you now I don’t blame the English department crew.  They had nothing to do with it.  I just don’t like changes being thrown at me like this.

The Chair even called me to make sure I wasn’t upset or thought that anyone had complained or said bad things about me. She encouraged my right to make my own choice regarding covering vs not covering, but that she had to convey this information to me.

Like I said, I’m not mad at her.  Hell, I’m grateful for being able to wear my scarf at all in a school.  And I have no intention of quitting (even though some people live in a world where they don’t need to work, and assume I live there too), because there’s not much better that I can do right now. Most other schools (hell, even most industries) won’t let me wear a scarf at all.

Because when you’re in Turkey…it’s bye bye rights.

Working Girl

I’ve been keeping this very much under wraps, but since it is all official now, I will go ahead and let you all know…

I’m a productive member of Turkish society now!

I have a job!

Yes, as you probably guessed, it’s as an English teacher. I should put that CELTA to use, right?  And when the demand for native speaking English teachers is so high, it seems silly to deny a position I could do that pays pretty well.  Yes, it’s at a private school (koleji), since the requirements for state schools are different. Will it be permanent? If I like it- sure!

While I’m here, let me give a few tips to those who are looking to be English teachers in Turkey.  If you do a quick google search, you can see that a LOT of horror stories pop up.  By no means am I a pro, but I do know a few “red flags”.

  1. Work Permit.  In order to work in Turkey under ANY profession, you need a work permit.  You are not allowed to work until it COMES IN.  If a school tells you that you don’t need a permit- they are LYING. If they say you can start working after applying for a permit, they are LYING.  If they say you need to pay for your permit out of pocket- they are LYING! The only thing you have to pay (and even then, they should pay for it) is the fee that comes after you’ve been approved for the work permit (lsat year it was 200TL).  And they should be doing the application for you.  If any of these things come up, that’s a big red flag.
  2. Not requiring any certification.  Some schools say that you don’t need a certificate (or a good one) to teach “conversational” English because it’s not grammar and whatnot.  That may be kind of true, but it is sketch AS HELL.  If they don’t want a certificate from you for teaching (or they accept a sketchy one that has no clout), you may want to be wary about that position.
  3. Sign a contract you don’t understand.  A lot of schools will give you a contract in Turkish, even though you don’t speak the language.  Some may have a version in English, but not many do.  If they don’t give you time to have someone help you translate the contract, or give you time to think about it or seek outside counsel, then run.  Hell, even if they say they will explain it for you…you don’t know them! They may not tell you the whole truth!  It is your right to understand the contract before you sign it*.
  4. Unwilling to budge.  It they tell you xyz is part of the work they expect you to do, but your contract says otherwise…make a note on your contract.  If they won’t allow you to make changes (which, like the US, is legally binding when written in) even though they SAID that xyz is your actual case, then be wary.  They will say that each contract is standard because they are a corporation- but you have every right to make changes in pen.  If they won’t do it, then they are likely planning to hold you to the standards written in the contract- even if they say otherwise.

These are more than just my own findings.  While taking my CELTA I sought the advise of other English teachers in Turkey, and they confirmed my own thoughts.  While Turkey is a great country that I think everyone should experience once, it is just like anywhere else…and will take advantage of the naive.  Do your research and be prepared when looking for a teaching job here!  I believe there is a blacklist out there for native English teachers, where others list schools where they had a bad experience.

Good luck!

*in Turkish labor law, it is stated that you cannot be held to a contract you don’t understand/ was wrongly explained to you.  However, if you leave your job because of unfair work conditions or a contract you didn’t understand, you’ll lose your work permit/residency permit and have to leave the country.  So be forewarned!