Classroom Observations

Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
Trip End Jul 2008

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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Thursday, April 27, 2006

On Wednesday our practicum began at the local school. As part of our 10 week training here we'll guest teach a total of 16 hours at the school, 8th to 11th graders. It got off to a really great start. Our resource teacher Galina, one of the 2 english teachers at the school and the one who will be our main contact, and the principal invited us really warmly. We got bread, chocolate, geraniums (for health,) and matching pen and keychain sets. Later our bulgarian trainer said that was really unusual, the host schools don't normally do that kind of thing. Galina even arranged our schedule for us (what PCV is teaching which class) which the peace corps left up to us to decide. Then over 2 days we observed a total of 3 classes. It is so generous of them to invite them into their school like they did, so I can't help feeling bad about thinking of all the ways they can improve their teaching.

Unfortunately, the resource teacher can barely speak english. She said she was much better at reading and writing english (telling us this through out language trainer, who was translating.) But judging by the fact that she greeted our first class with 'Good Afternoon' at 930 AM, I wasn't too optimistic. Her colleague was teaching our first class (10th graders,) and he didn't seem so great. Most of the kids went the whole period without saying a single word of English. Basically 2 girls did all the answering, he spoke more Bulgarian than english, and just ignored the half of the class that was joking around and reading comic books. And when they did new vocabulary he spelled 2 out of the 4 words wrong up on the board. I know that I sound really condescending, but it's hard not to. I have to remember that no one at the school has been exposed to other methods, like more interactive methods. And they're not bad people, just underqualified. Galina even told us her major was in psochology, not English, which is why she doesn't feel comfortable speaking English. When you combine a high demand for English teachers, low expertise in English, and a high overall unemployment rate to boot, you're going to get underqualified teachers.

The next day we observed 2 of Galina's classes, both of 7th graders. She seems like a much better teacher, moving around the classroom, giving individual attention, and calling on more of the kids. But her English just isn't there - we would cringe when she made mistakes. I even heard her correct kids at least twice when they had it right, to change it to something wrong. I just hope it didn't show too much on our faces, I mean I'm sure she felt like we were sitting there judging her anyway.

Tomorrow morning we start teaching classes. We have to do 16 hours of teaching for our peace corps training. I'm planning on taking a much more interactive approach, basically forcing English out of all the kids. Teaching in Spain taught me so much, the language school was very focused on speaking and less on reading and writing. Over time I came up with some good ideas to keep things interesting which I should be able to use during my practicum and the next 2 years. Anyway we'll see how it goes, they might be excited about a new kind of lesson or they might put up a lot of resistance to something they're not used to. I tried to make it fun. But unfortunately it's an 8th grade class, the worst age!!
In other news I'm in love with my family, Dessi is like an older sister (I always wanted one of those) and I've been spending more time with the grandmother, Fidanka, who is really cool. Cami is fun as always. They all love to help me with my bulgarian homework and quiz me on my vocabulary at random moments. I'm still optomistic about bulgarian, it excites me whenever I can string together a simple sentence. I know one other PCV here in kocherinovo is already feeling frusterated at not being able to communicate. I don't, at least not yet. I guess having low expectations helps, or at least being realistic. We've been here less than a week, so I don't expect to be able to communicate complicated thoughts or questions and don't even try. At some point I'd like to get to know Dessi well enough so that I know how she feels about being married so young, if she thinks it's weird that other people outside bulgaria get married late, what she thinks about politics, if she wants to have another kid, whatever. But for now I just have fun getting across ideas like I'm hungry, I want to shower, Valerie is at her house, I don't want vodka with dinner (Giorgi tries every night.) Just picture these thoughts as extremely broken sentences and that's my level of bulgarian.
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