I write this post after a short afternoon of teaching English at Ujar’s school number two. I haven’t written about the school, its intricacies, or what exactly I’m doing there, so I thought it would be a good time to update on what I’ll be doing for the next two years.
First of all, Peace Corps assigned me to the school. The national education minister explains what Peace Corps does, and gives applications to all the regional education directors, who give them to all the schools that are interested. My school applied, and Peace Corps deemed us a match. Their application process takes about a year.
Tomorrow (most students attend school on Saturdays) will be the end of the second week, but mine is done today. Peace Corps had recommended to us to simply obsderve classes for the first two weeks, rather than just jumping in and starting from day one. It was good advice, but I couldnt’ make it two weeks without teaching, even though I really set out with that in mind. First of all, some of the teachers couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around that fact that I just wanted to just sit in the back and take nots on their students, them, and their material.
I was observing to choose counterparts, the teachers with whom I will be working with for the school year. There are supposedly ten English teachers at my school, but I think there are really only nine. Either way, I observed six of them, and chose to work with two. Between Rasmiyya and Ulduz, I will be teaching about 18 hours a week. Peace Corps requires that we teach at least 15 hours a week, a number that seems low, but when put into the context that we are also supposed to be community development workers as well, it leaves plenty of time to work on community projects.
Overall, school has been very enjoyable, but there are a few frustrating things about it, first of which is the schedule. It changes. The students stay in their classes and the teachers move around, but no one knows where to go or when to go there. It’s incredibely frustrating. I was trying to observe classes and I would find a teacher and ask her if she had lessons today, to which she would reply “I don’t know.” It was crazy. I guess I’ll just say that business culture here is different.
Another thing that is difficult to work with here is the education culture. A typical interaction in an English classroom might look something like this: Teacher asks a question in English, Students don’t know. Teacher asks question in Azerbaijani, students reply in Azerbaijani. Teacher tells students answer in English, students repeat. And in that little process I just described, no one learns a damn thing. There is a lot of translation that happens, but very little comprehension. I’ll do my best, but I have my work cut out for me, that’s for sure.
I had to break some hearts and tell some of the English teachers that I wouldn’t be working with them. I have heard from other PCV’s that two is a good number of counterparts to have, and I really like mine. They are probably the two youngest English teachers at my school. Their youth brings a few qualities that will hopefully make it easier for me to work with over the next year, such as flexability and enthusiasm.
That’s about it. The kids seem to like me. I get bombarded with “hello!” everywhere I go, but particularly in the school. It’s cute for the most part, but can get tired pretty quick. The students in the classrooms know me better than the ones who have just seen me out on the street. They are the ones who say “Hello Mr. Jeffrey,” instead of the sloppier “hEllo.” I ended my last class today with a standing ovation, so I got that goin for me.
I’m off to my site mate’s house (Nick and Dana, a married couple from Bellingham) to hang out on this friday afternoon. Now that I’m done with school for a few days, I need to figure out what to do with myself.