Sunday, 7 October 2012

Embrace the Chaos

Today my tolerance of idiocy has been severely tested. I will never understand why some people actively reject learning.

Our first day; meeting and photo-op with the
Headmaster and the English dpt. head
"A chance to improve my knowledge and develop language skills that will be invaluable to me in later life and make me a million times more employable in a few years time? thanks. I think I'll just sit here, change my profile picture on my phone and keep working on my 'OMG yOu ArE LiKe Sooo saD!' face." 

It amazes me that after an entire class did so appallingly on a simple test that was intended just to be a quick revision of something they should know well, that I dedicated another hour and a half to going over the language again, some of them could repeat exactly the same test and score lower than they did the first time, before I pretty much gave them all of the f@*%&*£# answers! I mean what is wrong with these people?!

But I feel I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's allow the steam to dissipate and I'll go back to the beginning. So when I last wrote I was gearing myself up for the madness of the new academic year. Well it didn't disapoint. After various extra training sessions and a bit of back and forth over dates, I stumbled, all bleary-eyed and shaggy-tailed, onto the metro at some ungodly hour beginning with seven, to meet with my colleagues and project manager and we made our way to the Saudi embassy school in the south of the city. 

It's an interesting place. It's two storeys of concrete and brick, set back a little from the road behind a rust-coloured corrugated iron fence, are pretty inconspicuous, but on closer inspection the security guards checking the underside of vehicles with a mirror and a car-park full of diplomatic number plates give the game away somewhat. Above the door in Arabic and Russian are the words "Our School is a Home" and inside is a community of students and teachers from all over the Arabic speaking world; Saudis, Syrians, Palestinians, Libyans etc. We were welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm and I already feel very at home there. It's a very refreshing escape from the repetitiveness of Moscow and hopefully enough of a change to soothe my itchy feet for the time being. 

That's not to say that it isn't challenging though. For the first two weeks of term the students had no concrete timetable, my colleagues have elementary classes with as many as 27 pupils, and the interactive whiteboards we've become accustomed to at EF are nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, my classroom is hidden in the bowels of the building and devoid of usable desks. It is the old computer room/future hi-tech, state of the art, snazzy ILab facility. And now that it's under construction and the chemistry teacher locked us out of his lab I'm camping out in the library.  Its chaos, but it's a good kind of chaos; exciting and full of challenges.

However chaos can wear you down sometimes. I now spend 3 days a week with two classes of intermediate students between the ages of 13 and 17. Which brings me back to what’s wrong with these people; they are teenagers. 

On the face of it they're all pretty switched on, intelligent young people, some of whom are well beyond the level of the material I'm working with. And unlike some of the kids at EF, they actually seem interested in English and appreciative of the opportunity this project is giving them. After the first few weeks I felt I was beginning to develop a good relationship with both classes, and we established a good communicative atmosphere in the classroom. The material was working well and progress was being made.

False sense of security alert! This week it all came crashing down around me with the younger of the two groups. Two lessons on irregular verbs in the past simple that seemed to fall on deaf ears and I'm at a loss for what to do and really ready to break things. Time to take the weekend to re-group and I'll be back on Tuesday ready for battle. I said I wanted something that would push me, and this is definitely doing that. They will learn this bloody grammar. Even if I have to ram it into their brains with the leg of a chair!

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