Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Challenges in the Classroom

In early September, I took my counterpart and a student to Kiev for PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) training. It was amazing. We all learned so much about HIV/AIDS in general and the problems that Ukraine faces. Education is one of them, and as a Peace Corps volunteer, it's my duty to help in this arena. At the training, we had a Q&A session with five people living with HIV, which included a teenager, a commercial sex worker, a mother, a drug user, and a gay man. It was really interesting to hear all their stories and outlooks on life and I was surprised by all of them. In the next couple of months, we'll have an HIV/AIDS education seminar at my school and teach students biology, prevention, prejudice and what we can do to help Ukraine with this problem. Check back in December if you want to know how this went.

The semester started up in September, but I'm still getting used to my classes. For some reason, this semester is harder. Last semester I was shiny and new and now I think I need to shed my skin and get that shine back. Oh what a glistening new teacher I would be!!!!  And that's just it; I'm still a new teacher and a changed teacher. Every time I teach, I am changed. My outlook changes, my goals change, my ideas change, my lesson plans change. I'm constantly reflecting and regrouping myself to try to be a good teacher.

I was given a new group of students this semester. I like to call them  The Wild Bunch. These little outlaws are testing me. By eating, rapping, singing, throwing candy, cursing, proposing to me, tossing sunflower seeds on the floor, and trying to break my spirit.

Well, what do you know, I'm still alive, although a little more stressed than usual. I'm working it out. If anyone has any tips on effectively dealing with troubled students and managing the classroom, let me know. I want to be stable for these children, but at this point, I'm just experimenting with different discipline techniques that I know little about. I even yelled in class! That was weird and I didn't like it. Maybe it's necessary? Their just kids and they can't all be cute. I'm wondering, though, if when the students are all grown up and reminiscing about their teachers and school, if I will be in their memories as the teacher who a.) got so mad that she threw a chair (or child) out the window; b.) got locked up in the maintenance closet and left alone to weep and rue the day she decided to leave her office job; or 3.) was able to wrangle up those outlaws and actually teach the students something to remember. We'll see. Teaching is an adventure. (If this were a choose your own adventure book, what would you choose?!)

More about my semester: I'm teaching first formers, and they are super cute. One day, I went to class and there was this one boy who couldn't sit in his seat because he just had to be called on. He was begging for it. The kids had to look at a picture and say what they liked: I like elephants, I like cats...etc. When this kid was finally called on, he shouted, "I like boys!!!" I laughed out loud. Basically, I'm singing and dancing and getting hugs nonstop in this class.

All together I'm teaching 16 classes and 10 different groups of students a week and 5 English clubs.  I work with grades 1, 5-11. I'm lucky to be teaching an American Literature and an American culture class for the 11th formers. I work with a Ukrainian teacher who can translate any difficult material (because their text books are way too difficult). Last week we talked about the roaring 20s and they got a kick out of it. I assigned them a famous person from the 1920s and they will present next week. I'm just hoping they actually prepare for this...or I'm going to have to experiment with a new and unproven discipline technique of my fancy! (Yes, I just said fancy.)


  1. Sounds like a challenge! U just gotta rocky it up and be strong :) I never worked with kids like that before, in Japan they were so cute and attentive. The only trouble I had was the ocassional nose picking or vomit @_@

  2. Ker, you knew this day would come! That's why I know you are actually mentally prepared for it; just remember that you can easily beat these children in a fight...

  3. Update: Only four students actually did their assignment, out of almost 20. The discipline technique of my fancy was to reward the students who actually cared to do their homework with the highest grade you can get in Ukraine. I think all the other students could see my disappointment. Is being visibly disappointed a technique?