Starting Anew, Part Three: New School, New Jobs

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm writing this post about our new jobs on November 30th, so have had a good three months to get settled in, evaluate, and compare them to what we were doing before.

Working in language schools typically means you end up working irregular hours. We had done so for the past almost seven years, and had grown quite accustomed to it -- and, more importantly, liked our schedules immensely. On a typical day, we would work from about 1pm until 9:30pm (sometimes earlier on either end). We would usually go out after work, and often we would sleep until 10am or later. One of the big keys was though that nearly every day, our lessons were in the evening, which meant our start time was flexible.

Now, the service bus picks us up a little after 7am, which means I get up around 6:20 every day in order to shower, get ready, and get to the bus in time. It takes about 25-30 minutes to get to school, so we're usually there around 7:40. School officially starts at 8:10 and ends at 3:30 (3:00 on Fridays). Teachers need to stay until 4:30 (5:00 on Wednesdays/3:00 on Fridays), and the bus usually gets us back to our neighborhood by 5:15. 

You may know that I'm a narcoleptic and that every second of sleep is precious to me. I need a good eight hours a night -- at least. In order to get up at 6:20am, I find myself usually going to bed somewhere between 10pm and 10:30pm -- a massive change from our old jobs where we were just getting home from work at that time! So the schedule has been a massive shift for us.

On the plus side, we have a proper weekend (Saturday and Sunday), which we didn't have before (the majority of the year we were working Sunday through Thursday). We've been taking full advantage of our new weekends and have really, really been enjoying them.

At our old jobs, Konrad and I shared an office with one other person. The two of us had desks that were basically right on top of each other. We worked the same hours on the whole, and so we were together all the time.

We're still in the same room, but it's much, much, much bigger: there are probably a good 30-35 other people in our "office", and our desks are at complete opposite ends of the room from one another. Our schedules are also very different, so at school we're basically just ships passing in the... day.  

Lesson Planning:
Lesson planning at our new school is completely different from how we did it at our previous jobs. In the six other schools we've worked at, we always planned our own lessons, using whatever materials we wanted, rarely needing to submit lesson plans (the rare exception being when we were observed). 

At our new school, all the planning is done in a group. I'm in the kindergarten department with five other teachers, so every Monday morning, the six of us get together and plan out the next week's lessons. One person is in charge of creating the materials and writing the plan for every two weeks, so I'll probably end up writing the plans for seven weeks this year. Because the parents are constantly comparing their kids to others, we have to make sure we do the exact same thing in every class to ensure no one can complain that their kid missed out. The plans are then all saved on the school server and submitted to the Ministry of Education.

Konrad also has to plan with his group, thought not to quite the same degree that we do.

I've taught kids from age 3.5 years old and up, so when I was asked if I was willing to teach kindergarten, I said I was open to it. I knew that a lot of other prospective teachers would not be thrilled by the idea, but I really enjoyed the short time I spent working with kindy students in Vietnam, so decided to give it a shot.

I'm teaching a class of fifteen students. At the end of last year, the government lowered the age for kindergarten entrants, so some of my students were less than 4.5 years old when the school year began.  I would say about half of them were under five when we started, but by this point in the year, I only have two that fall into that category. All of them are Turkish, and all of them are beginning English students.

At our school, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten (the year before) are full-day programs. There are no nap times, and the kids' days are basically divided in half: the mornings are generally reserved for Turkish time, and the afternoons for English. An assistant stays with the students for the whole day, so I have someone who works with me and can communicate with the kids if they're not able to express themselves in English.

Every morning I greet them and join them during their breakfast around 8:15. I rejoin them at 11:30 for lunch, which we eat together. The students are divided between three tables and myself and two other teachers. We let them choose from three different dishes, serve them, then sit and eat with them until about noon. At 12:35, I head up to the classroom and have my lesson with them until 3:15, then serve them their afternoon snacks and help them get ready to go home. On Fridays, the day is sort of switched: English is in the morning 9-11:40, then to lunch, and then from 1:15 to 2:30, I accompany a group of first graders to their weekly club (the focus of which changes every three weeks -- it can be anything from baking cookies to learning about and how to play percussion).

On Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, all the primary school children meet in the hall for the flag ceremony. The school principal uses that time to share any news with them and also to recognize any special student achievements. The students then sing the Turkish national anthem before beginning/ending the week.

In addition to the regular lessons, we also join the classes on the field trips they take. There is typically one every other week. So far we've been to a fire station, the military museum, a printing house, a forest, and a coffee and ice cream production plant. 

I have a very active group, but the students are very sweet, and I'm really enjoying the year. As you may guess, the kids are making massive progress: it's amazing to see how far they've come in less than three months with us. I can't wait to see where they are by the end of the school year!

Konrad hasn't been as lucky as I have. He's teaching two classes of 25 fifth graders, and it has been challenging, to say the least. There are a number of discipline issues at the school, and classroom management is a completely different story from what it was with our kids at the language school. 

He teaches both classes for 11 periods a week, meeting with each for anywhere from one to three periods a day. He also has a chess club he assists with for two periods a week with the same age group, and every other week, he teaches an after-school class for struggling students.

He's starting to get into the groove with the students and has scaled back his expectations of the students, which he says has helped a lot.

General This and That:
The school provides us with breakfast (if we're lucky and fast enough) and lunch. Lunch, more often than not, for us as vegetarians is awful. The majority of days I end up eating plain pasta sprinkled with herbs and olive oil -- neither exciting nor healthy. I tried hard in the beginning to lobby for change, but have been beaten down into submission by this point in the year.

Our school is one of the most expensive in Turkey. As such, the students tend to be extremely wealthy and privileged. We have the students of Turkish celebrities in many classes, so it's a whole new world for us.

The school is big on technology, which is great. Each teacher has a laptop, and there are smartboards in many classrooms; those that don't have them have TVs that the laptops hook up to.

In general, I'd say that I'm really happy with the new job. I miss the old one if I really think about it, but find that I'm usually so busy I don't have time to even reflect on the old days. We'll keep you posted!
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