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! 

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!

Turkey 315: Olur vs Olsun

Welcome to the third installment of Turkish Cultural Sayings, a subset of my other “Turkey Lessons” (available under said category).

Today we will address a pair of words that still confuse me sometimes.  I even had to ask hubby just now, to make sure my explanation was correct.  I’m talking about

olur vs olsun

Both words come from the root verb olmak, meaning “to be”.  But the variation in the endings give them a slightly different meaning.  Both words are used very frequently (daily…maybe even hourly), making understanding them critical to a successful Turkish conversation.

 Olur:  “it is”

Olsun:  “it shall be”

 So how does one use this, culturally?

 In the most general sense, olur is typically applied to something definite.  As in, it is this way, or no way.  On the contrary, olsun is usually said when you are compromising, or it isn’t really ideal, but can be as it is.

That wasn’t very clear was it…let’s use an example!

  At the pazar, you collect a bag of oranges.  You give it to the vendor, saying you want 2 kilos.  The bag comes to 2.5kg, to which you say olsun, and pay for the 2.5 kg.

 In the same pazar, you make a stop at a sweater stand.  You hold one up to you, and it is perfect!  Your companion looks to you, and asks if it’ll work (olur mu?) to which you respond, olur! Someone is going home with a new sweater!

While this is a hard and fast rule for olur vs olsun, they can commonly be interchanged, depending on the situation.  Different people in different cities may utilize these two terms with different levels of severity.

 Go out and give your new vocabulary a try!

aka, reason to go to the pazar

Are there any cultural phrases/words you struggle with?

Turkey 315: Cultural Phrases and Sayings

Every language has its “cultural” sayings.  Things that don’t necessarily make sense when taken literally upon translation.  An example of an English (particularly American) cultural saying is- “get a kick out of that”, meaning something is funny.  Turkish has a LOT of cultural sayings.  They make perfect sense when you have adjusted your ears and mind to Turkish, but when first getting off the plane…you may get a little lost.  I have listed several sayings that I hear frequently, that I had trouble with, and that are just plain fun to say!

Much like in America, religion has a bit of an influence on cultural sayings.  However, even atheists can use some of the more “religious” sayings and not feel out of place.  Even if you aren’t Muslim or necessarily religious, feel free to use all of these!

And just to make pronunciation easier, if you don’t already know them…these are the Turkish letters you will see, and their sounds

Ş- sh (as in shoot)

Ç-ch (as in change)

Ü- ew (with a Cartman sound from south park)(no real translation to an english sound, but close enough)

Ğ- eh (as if swallowing)

ö- oo (as in spook)

You know, this really hard to explain by typing… maybe you should go with a good old youtube search.

In Good Times, and In Bad

Hayırlı olsun- congratulations, but in a slightly religious/ blessed way. –

You got the job? Hayirlı olsun! 🙂

Hayırlısı olsun- that’s unfortunate, It’s up to God

You didn’t get the job? Hayirlısı olsun…:(

Allah (çok) şukur- Thank God (very much)

You made it home safely, allah şukur!

Aferin- good job

You made a 100 on your test? Aferin!

Coming and Going

Hoş geldin- welcome (you came nice)

*when opening the door to guests* Hoş geldin!

Hoş bulduk- the response to hoş geldin (we found you nice)

*cheek kisses are exchanged* hoş bulduk!

Görüşürüz- see you later! For friends/relatives

*upon leaving* Görüşürüz!

Hoşça kal- Good bye (stay nicely), more formal

*upon leaving* Hoşça kal!

In Sickness and In Health

(Gelmiş) Geçmiş olsun- a wish for a sick person to get well, or for someone who is struggling with something to get through it (translates to: (it came), let it pass)

I heard you have a cold, geçmiş olsun

You have been going through a hard time lately, geçmiş olsun

Sıhatlar olsun- say after someone has taken a shower/ got a haircut/ cut their nails, etc. More popular amongst the older generation (a wish for good health)

Sıhatlar olsun! That haircut looks nice on you.

Şıfa olsun- another wish for health, usually associated with eating something healthy or taking medicine

Drink this tea, şıfa olsun!

Food and Gifts

Eline/ellerine/elinize/ellerinize sağlık- Wishing health to the hands of a person.  Complimenting a chef or artist/worker (e.g. delicious food, a beautiful painting, a well-designed door, etc). The reason this one has many / options is due to pluralizing and formalizing, which is a grammar thing I won’t get into unless asked 😉

This food is delicious, eline sağlık!

Afiyet olsun- the Turkish version of bon apetit (enjoy it), also used as a response to elini sagolik.

This food is delicious, eline sağolik!

Afiyet olsun.

Güle güle kullan- Said to someone who received a new…thing…for using. Anything but clothes, really. (Use it well!)

*gives a new power tool* güle güle kullan!

Güle güle gi- said to someone who received new clothes (Wear it well!)

I love your new jacket, güle güle gi!

Of course, this list is nowhere near complete! To be honest, I probably haven’t even heard all of the different cultural sayings that Turks use.  While this is the hardest part of learning a new language/ being an expat, it is also the part that makes you feel most connected to your new home- once you start to learn it.

Drop a comment below with more sayings, or instances where you used one of these correctly/ wrong!

Until next time, Görüşürüz!

Starbucks Name

One of my international friends, Chinese, actually, told me about this hilarious concept called a Starbucks name.  What she meant is that some names are difficult to pronounce in another country- like her own name in the US- and therefore she picked a more English-friendly, American name to use at places like Starbucks or Chick Fil A or other places that call you by your name in a crowded place.  It is just easier for everyone.  And to be honest, I totally get it.

When purchasing bus tickets in Turkey, the attendant would butcher my name miserably on the ticket.  Whenever the hubster and I were out and about and a name was needed for an order or something, we would use his name…much like we keep everything under my name here in the US.  So, for unofficial purposes like bus tickets and whatnot, I chose to take a Starbucks name for Turkey.

Have you ever had to make changes like these to get around language or culture issues?

And so begins a new sub-category…

#expatproblems

It’s a process

Learning crutches
Learning crutches
The most stressful part of preparing to move to a new country is learning the language.  On one hand, you MUST learn as much as you can when you have the time, but on the other hand, you need to retain everything you are cramming into your brain.  Personally, I do my best to speak Turkish with my husband whenever I can.  This is a hindrance to him, though, because he needs to keep using his english in order to stay fluent.

Besides my limited grammar and stunted vocabulary, my biggest failing is my listening skill is horrendous.  I can understand my husband when he is speaking, and I can understand his father…but his mother sometimes speaks too fast and ALL TV shows worth watching (i.e. NOT sesame street!) are the same.  I’ve taken to listening to turkish pop in an attempt to grab some words and become accustomed to their pronunciation, besides by my own tongue. I have taken to the following:

  1. Tarkan
  2. Mustafa Sandal
  3. Maher Zain

I’m still exploring other musicians, but these are pretty easy to understand!