Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Terrible October Evenings Full of Lameness!, aka Not Why I Came to Ukraine

Very up and down these last couple of days. One day I'm crying at the injustices thrust upon me by the school, the next day I'm thrilled because a cute guy in the coffee shop is speaking to me. There's just something so hot about a handsome man that speaks Russian and some English! :p Anyways..... 
I've been getting caught up on all the school gossip these last couple of days, which is always a little refreshing. Reminds you that others have difficulties too, at least. I got really upset about this cursed TOEFL course (yes, again) when I finally realized the material I'm teaching is for an older version of the test. The trainer called me from Kiev and reassured me that everything's okay, they don't actually need a TOEFL trainer, just a native speaker, blahblahblah (that said, she's really good at her job. I like her) and I don't need to be able to explain mistakes, just say "Hey, that's not right. Because I said so." Then I felt all reassured....except...have you ever actually said that to a Russian or Ukrainian? I didn't think so. They thrive on explanations and logic. Sometimes I think they're grammatically related to Spock and come from the planet Vulcan. So, after a couple of good classes, we had a pretty terrible class tonight. And when the class is terrible, I get mad at the school for making me take this course with no preparation or warning. It's a lot cheaper emotionally than getting mad at myself (and for what?!) and it saves the students from my wrath....although some of of them deserve it. I see them getting frustrated with me sometimes and it makes me feel awful. But what can I do? I can't just break out and tell the truth; that would be so unprofessional to pass the buck. So I feel like instead I take the blame and it irks me because I'm a good teacher. This is exactly why I don't want to be a teacher forever; since you're the one out there on the stage, you're always blamed for a poorly-written script.

Of course, half the battle of Ukraine is learning to get by Ukrainian-style. That means you do less and get less back in return. If I'm struggling, I think that means my expectations are still too high. Literally, if you're put in a situation with no training and no resources, how much is honestly expected of you? D, who grew up here, is always saying "Chill out, it's not a big deal. People here have been getting screwed for years, they're used to it." I see some teachers putting a lot of effort into their work, and others putting almost none, and the result appears to be the same. It's probably the same at any school all over the world.

Overall, this course has had a lot of unfortunate coincidences, like my ongoing lack of a decent internet connection while the answer key was scanned into a massive file (practically has its own gravitational system) and emailed to me. I spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours doing the TOEFL homework myself, 3 times a week, and trying to think through explanations in my mind before I can even get to the lesson planning part. At the coffee shop today, however, with their higher-speed connection, I was able to view the answer key and note it down in 15 that to up to 2 hours by hand! Although my coffee shop internet habit is growing increasingly expensive, I will gladly pay for this convenience in the future. I wish the school had told me more of what their expectations (or lack of) were before I started teaching this course. I showed up on my first day, they said "Hey! You're teaching this!" and I said "What the hell is a TOEFL?" I wish they hadn't given this to me my very first semester, when I'm still figuring out the system of the regular classes. But it happened, and THANK GOD that the semester is halfway over. Oddly enough, I think in another universe I would have gotten enjoyment out of this course, but here's it's been pure trial by fire. Thrice weekly torture. Okay, you get the point.

PS: These are the students who think it's okay to say "I want to live in USA" because one of the other (older, male) teachers told them so.
Say what you want, Mr. Older American Male, but I notice they don't have you teaching this course, so ha!

PPS: Some of the students are really cool. Again, in another universe..... meanwhile, I'm trying to make the best of this one.

Sorry for all the complaints, you guys. This has just been weighing on me!

PPPS: Do you get the title of this post? There's a hidden meaning to it....

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