"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Day of the Defenders (Better yet, Men's Day!)

Wednesday was going to be just a routine day, a recovery one for me, because I had given an open lesson and presented a workshop for all the English Teachers of the Region on Tuesday. The school had been preparing for quite a long time for the event, evening putting on a special English concert for the teachers. Tuesday turned out really great, but it was a lot of work. Here's a picture of most of the English teachers from the Manevechi Region.

But then I show up to school on Wednesday and right as I walk through the doors, a 10th-former says to me "Dobre Den, Mr. Benjamin. Sviato Vam" (Good Day, Mr. Benjamin. Happy Holiday). I thank him politely, but in my head think, "Oh Bosha" (Good Lord)...it's a holiday!? What holiday, I'm still not sure of, but everybody is wishing me a happy one. When I arrive in the teachers room, I am greeted with hugs and kisses from every woman in the room, along with excited shrills. They all want me to see something. Across the room, I see a bulletin board with a bunch of pictures on it.
Under my photo-shoped photo it says, "The Best Volunteer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with his ZAZ" (Ukrainian Car)
Then, I'm informed that it's the Day of the Defenders, also known as Men's Day! We only had a half-day at school because of the holiday, and instead of one of my classes, I was allowed to attend a class party in the 9A form. Around noon, all of the female teachers decorated the Teacher's room and threw a party for us men! Speeches, drinks, food, drinks, candy, presents and a few drinks, all to celebrate the "men that have defended this country, and for the men we love". My present was a porcelain Kozak (Cossack) which doubles as a jug for pouring Ukrainian type drinks! (I was told it probably holds a half liter!) We had a wonderful time, and the women really went all out. I am constantly impressed by the camaraderie and fellowship of my school staff. We take care of each other, help each other out, and really know how to have a good time. Next holiday is International Women's Day on March 8, and from what I'm told, the celebrations and parties put the holiday yesterday to shame.
Missing a few of the other men from Kolky Lyceum, but here we are being celebrated!
My Ukrainian Kozak Jug

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February Update

So sorry for the lack of posts lately, but apparently February means temperature highs of 5° F, pretty awesome and intense snowstorms, and internet outages! School is going great, but when the temperature gets around -25° C (maybe -13° F) we get to cancel classes!

I started my English Clubs at the beginning of the month and they are going great! Tuesdays, I have the 1-4 forms, Wednesday I have 5-7 forms, and Thursdays are the 8-11 forms! The first week we talked about Valentines day, made cards with the younger students, studied new 'love' vocabulary and listened to some fun songs about love. The second week was all about Winter, and we even had a snowball fight with crumpled up vocabulary words! (Thanks, Evan!) I'm excited to continue these English Clubs and see where they lead. With the younger students, it's all about spending time with the American teacher that doesn't get to teach them in class. They are very active, are eager to participate, and make me laugh. The older students are the ones that are simply interested in improving their English, having discussions in English, and taking their language skills to the next levels. I'm a little worried that I'll run out of ideas over the next two years, but I'm sure they'll help me think of some themes.

Tuesday, my school is hosting all of the English teachers of the Region for a English Seminar Day. I'll be giving an open lesson in my 9A form, and presenting a workshop about the Communicative Method of Teaching. My Link in training (Kivsho and Tarashcha) gave a similar presentation to the English teachers their, but this time I'm flying solo. Our technical/teaching training was all based off of the Communicative Method, and being a Comm Major it's something I am pretty interested in and passionate about. I hope it gets some of the Ukrainian teachers thinking about their own teaching practices, and at least encourages discussion between colleagues. I'm not here to try to teach that the Communicative Method is the only way of teaching a foreign language, but rather it's one that I feel works best for me, both teaching and learning, and might be a useful resource for them.

All in all, things are going well here in Kolky, but I am excited for March. March is my favorite month of the year, and not just because I'm a March baby, but it's sort of a transitional time. In High School, it was a time where you could get away with wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. In college, it meant midterms and the the year was starting to wind down. Hopefully here in Ukraine, it means the the snow begins to melt, the sun begins to shine, and I'll be able to begin the transition from English teacher to community member, starting to work on side projects, thinking about grants, meeting with the right people to get the ball rolling on some things. Now, I will finish working on my workshop and lesson planning before braving the cold to get weekly groceries. My refrigerator/freezer has been down the past week, hope hopefully the repairman can come soon and no more food will spoil. Luckily for me, my kitchen isn't heated, so if I keep the milk out, it stays just as cold!

Happy Valentines Day!

English Club Board for 1st-4th Forms

8th-11th Forms