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

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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!

 

All About the CELTA

After one long month of training and a 10 day bayram…

I’m baaaaack

Now I can finally, FINALLY, catch ya’ll up on everything that’s been going on.  Which, I guess, wasn’t all that much from an outside perspective.  But for me and the other CELTA candidates, it was a whole lot!

 So let me rewind.  I started my CELTA course here in Izmir earlier this summer, and it lasted for one month.  CELTA is a teacher training course/program that, after completion, results in a certificate from Cambridge saying you are certified to teach English as a second language.  This is basically accepted everywhere (except in the US and maybe Canada, because we ain’t having none of that British English!), and it never expires.  To learn more, check out the course online.  The thing that I liked about CELTA vs other TOSEL or TEFOL or what have you is that CELTA is accredited by a well known institution, is accepted worldwide (besides the exceptions I gave you), and also gives you hands-on experience. Also, CELTA mostly focuses and works with adult learners, but it is also acceptable for young classrooms.

 You don’t need a degree in English or anything like that, in fact you only need to have passed high school or an equivalent.  But everyone I worked with had a degree of some kind.  But there were a variety of people, from engineers to tourism and business graduates to actual English Teaching graduates and experienced teachers.  And then me, the Food Scientist.

 Let me go into a bit of detail about my experience, for those who are considering CELTA…

  When they say it is completely consuming, it absolutely is.  On day 3 we started teaching.  Well, by “we” I mean someone in our groups.  At the very beginning we were broken into groups of around 6 and assigned a teaching level (elementary or intermediate- the students we would teach, I mean) and a tutor (certified CELTA trainer).  Then, those groups were split into two groups of three, group A and group B.  Groups A and B rotated teaching days (myself, as a B, taught on day 4, while my friends in group A taught on day 3.  Then I would teach again on day 6, while they taught on day 5…etc).  Each person in their respective group were given a 45 minute slot of teaching time, and the three would teach to actual students (ranging in number from 3 to 10, but that was just our classroom. Others had 14+ students) in the mornings.  After that we would have a break, then the teachers would be taught something by the trainers (teaching methods, observing certified teachers, etc). It was an all day event, going from 9am (prepping for the 10am class), to 5.30 pm at the earliest.

 No wonder I wasn’t blogging!

 Aside from teaching (8 lessons in total), we had four assignments to complete.  The assignments were word-counted, some in essay-ish format, and some in other formats that you would have to see to understand. Between planning those lessons and completing the assignments, we were running at full speed!

But assignments are boring, lets talk a bit more about the teaching…

 Our first lessons were basically planned for us.  They told us what our aims and sub aims were (teaching grammar/vocabulary/speaking skills/listening skills), who would teach first, and basically word-for-word what activities you would do, the materials needed (in a course book), and when in the 45 minutes you would execute them.  As we continued our lessons, however, the amount of info decreased.  In lessons 3 and 4 we were given our aims and some suggestions on what to do, and pages in a book.  In lessons 5 and 6, we were given aims and a page number, then by lessons 7 and 8 we had to choose our own aims, what were going to do in our time, who was going to teach at what point in the day, etc.

  While we taught and interacted with real-life students (ranging in age from 20 to 38, in our classroom), our trainers observed us in the back of the room, taking notes on our technique and whatnot.  Unsurprisingly, I talk way too much (but to teach you need to talk right? Maybe not…you’d have to take the CELTA to find out!) and often too fast.  I developed my own teaching style and classroom habits tremendously in only 8 lessons!

  Half way through the course (starting with lesson 5), we changed teaching levels (I began in intermediate then went to elementary, still adult learners) and continued teaching.  When going down in skill level, I found myself struggling to appropriately grade my language.  Even monitoring the tenses you use can be a challenge!  But at the same time, it was quite fun.  The students got a real kick out of it, and the teachers did too!

I know I still have a long way to go in actually learning how to teach (don’t even get me started on the G word…), but this course has given me a whole new boost of confidence when it comes to teaching.  I’m so glad I took this course, even if it ate up a month of my life!  Besides walking away with a teaching certificate, I met some awesome people (some who live here) and have gained a huge new level of independence that was introduced to me through navigating Izmir on my own.  Now I can take on the world!

So long story short…should you take the CELTA as opposed to other, online courses? In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the money and the time.

 I want to give a special shout out to the folks at the CELTA training program in Izmir.  They went above and beyond to make sure we would succeed…and we did!

It’s not you, it’s me

  Within less than a week of putting my CV out there,  I’ve gotten several call backs.

One of which I was extremely excited about.

I was asked to interview for a marketing position in a small dried goods company.  They only dealt in international clients, all of whom spoke English. For this reason,  they needed a fluent/native English speaker, particularly one that could help them break into the US market.

Perfect!  And my extensive education in food technology was a huge plus! By the end of the interview,  they had practically hired me.

But there was one big problem.

The commute.

One hour by train and a 20 minute walk (including crossing a major road with no cross walk) in a large industrial complex stood between me and this great opportunity.  With my limited Turkish abilities,  it wasn’t possible.

I really wanted to make it work.  I wanted it to happen,  but what can I do?  The pay wasn’t outstanding, but I feel it was negotiable.  The job was exactly up my alley, plus the great benefit of doing all communications from the safety of an office.

An office practically a life time away.

If it wasn’t for that long,  creepy walk after the metro… It could have been.

But it can’t.

Sigh.

It’s not you…
It’s me.

The job hunt has begun!

Hello my dear friends/ followers- I have some exciting (ish?) news!  I have been sitting on my backside long enough…and I am on the look-out for a job!

6 months of nothing is just…it’s enough.

 As is the case for everything in Turkey, word of mouth is the best way to get your news out there.  If anyone knows of/works at a school looking for native english speakers to teach English in the Izmir area- let me know!

DSCN1192

Thanks in advance!

Turkey 315: Cultural sayings, session 2

It was my husband’s idea to continue this segment of Turkey Lessons indefinitely, and I will probably make a new sub-category for it. This idea arose when I was listening to the song Bangır Bangır by Gülşen.  Fair warning- great song, crap video IMO.  If I wanted to watch scantily clad ladies twerking, I’d watch an American video.  But that’s just me 😉

Anyway, I listened to the song, filled in the lyrics, and found a few things I didn’t understand the translation of.  That’s when hubby said that I should put such things on my blog, that many other (american) English speakers may run into these cultural differences as well.  Here are three that he had to explain to me (two are from the song- do you hear them?)

Gül gibi- like a rose

Turkish meaning: something that is nice/enjoyable/lovely.  For example, if hubby is watching a movie and I come in and bother him, he may say to me “Babe, I was watching this movie gül gibi…why are you bothering me?”

American meaning:  Like a rose also means lovely, but usually we refer only to women in that way. You can’t perform an action that is “like a rose” in (american) english, unless you are being quite directly figurative.  E.g. She pricked me, like a rose.  Meaning, the girl is likely both beautiful and also “thorny” in her actions.  Turkish isn’t limited to such direct meanings.

Havalanmak- to hover

Turkish meaning: Besides actual hovering, figuratively hovering means to have an elevated sense of self worth. Be stuck up/ full of one’s self.

American meaning: Again, besides the literal meaning, hovering usually means to stick close to someone.  A lot of times this is used to intimate that the hovering person either doesn’t trust the person who they are hovering over (in romantic relationships), or they are very controlling/worrying (parents).

Güven vermek- to give trust

This one is particularly confusing for me, because the use of this verb is opposite in American English and Turkish. For the sake of the explanation, let’s refer to the person who is actively trusting as the truster, and the person who is being trusted is the trustee (because objects, direct objects, etc are just no fun).

Turkish meaning:  In Turkish, the trustee “gives trust” to the truster.  Effectively meaning that giving trust, in Turkish, means doing something that indicates trusting the trustee is a good idea. E.g. I  give trust to my manager when I give them a full write up of the project.

American meaning:  In American English, however, it is the truster who gives trust to the trustee. Normally in English you can get away with simply saying they “trust” rather than “give trust”, but you can say “give” to make the sentiment stronger. E.g. Your friend must give you a lot of trusttrust you a lot if she co-signs your apartment with you.

So,  hopefully, I will have many sessions of Turkey 315: cultural sayings in the future.  Let me know if you like this idea!  As I said before, figuring out how to speak culturally rather than directly translating is one of the key (and hardest) parts of becoming fluent in a language.  Drop a comment below if you have a few cultural sayings you’ve figured out that you want to include!