Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fears, Goals, and Cottage Cheese

Melitopol has welcomed us warmly, literally, with a sign in the university’s entranceway: “Welcome Kerry and Logan!” I’m really excited to be here and I’m loving every second of it. This week, I met with the administration at both my school and Logan’s. They are a great group of people and I think we will do great things with them. Meeting the administration at my school may not sound like a big deal, but my school happens to be one the largest schools in Melitopol: three floors, 12 English teachers, four Vice Principals, and about 1,200 students. (There is also a ping-pong table on the first floor that students can play between their breaks. There is a long 10-20 minute break between classes here in Ukraine. Another interesting side note is that there is no lunch period for students. Because of the long breaks, students can go to the cafeteria and grab something quick to eat between classes.)

When my counterpart, the very wonderful Olga, said I should give a short speech (in Russian) at the teacher’s meeting, I assumed it would be just the English teachers in a small room. Lo and behold, I had to speak in front of almost all the teachers about myself and my work experience. This went very well and I’m glad I got to use some Russian. This meeting was proceeded by another one—entirely in Russian—about my work load and teaching schedule. So, my day was filled with Russian and I am still alive!

I’d like to talk about fears, goals, and first impressions now that I am at my site.

Fear one: upsetting the Babushka’s at the bazaar if I like one Babuska’s cottage cheese over another’s. I’m not too keen on the bazaar etiquette here, but I’ve been told it’s good to stick with one seller because they will get to know you and they will take care of you. However, it’s hard for me to say no.

My biggest fear is not learning Russian. I have to study and practice now that I don’t have 4-5 hours of classes a day, but everyone’s so nice here, and they all know that it’s important for me to learn Russian, so I hope they will test me over the next two years.

I’m not afraid to teach, but it will definitely be a challenge to get some of the adolescents really interested in English. I think the 9th graders will be my biggest challenge. They have a lot of energy, but I think they don’t know what to do with it and maybe some of them don’t see the benefit in learning English. It’s my goal over the next two years to make it fun for them and to convince them that it’s important. Wish me luck.

I am setting weekly goals for myself to help me ease into life in Melitopol. Of course, it is my professional goal to be a good teacher and to do the most I can here. But, it is my personal goal to find my favorite cottage cheese vendor on my own. I need small goals and small victories.

Reading over this post, I see that my fears have transformed into goals. That’s because I’m an optimist?

Tomorrow, I will write about my first impressions on buying said cheese. My first impressions of Melitopol are very positive. It’s a small city with a lot of culture and motivated people who are as happy as I am about taking part in a positive cultural exchange.

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