Thursday, January 12, 2012

My school in Georgia

This was my school. It was a small village school in Akhelsopeli just a 10 minute marshutka ride outside of Zugdidi where I was living. It is a very small village. I don't know the population but you can judge the size considering that we only had about 100 students in the whole school from grades 1-12, and some of those students even come from the city to study out here for various reasons. This made teaching nice, with class sizes between 5-12 students.

The school is in the process of being remodeled, but it's clear it's still a while away from being considered one of the "renovated" schools where some other volunteers work.  here are two hallways in the school. One recently painted, the other one desperately in need of a paint job. Windows have been replaced in the whole building and there is a computer lab (where internet is intermittent at best and painfully slow) which works when the school has power... though, sometimes there is no power. One renovation I would like to see is getting new blackboards. We could only use one kind of chalk on our boards, most chalk would just scrape across the board without making a mark, and blackboards in other classrooms are in much worse condition.

I thought the fact that our school had a bell, an actual, manually rung bell was kinda cool. But, obviously hand ringing the bell can cause a lot of problems as one might imagine. Sometimes the bell might get rung by naughty students at the wrong time, or sometimes someone would ring it early and I wasn't able to finish the lesson... or someone would ring it late and I had too much time to kill waiting for the bell to ring. At some point while I was there, an electric bell was installed. Unfortunately, you still had to manually ring it, so I didn't really get the point. But worse than that was the fact that it was so quiet you often couldn't hear it ring... and of course when the power was out they'd still have to go and ring the manual bell anyway. I think the whole electric bell system was a bit of a waste of money... that could have gone to a new blackboard instead for one classroom.

Here is my classroom with my 6th grade students. I was lucky that we had our own "English Classroom" because most TLG teachers in other schools had to move from class to class and couldn't decorate their classrooms.

In the photo below you can (kind of) see some of the decorations I made for the classroom. The first thing I did was make question words with Georgian translations because they struggle a lot with question words since they never hear them from the Georgian teachers and never use them since answering questions never involve using them. My last week at the school I made the ones above. I don't know if you can read them, but they are common classroom phrases like "May I go to the bathroom?", "I don't have my homework." and "How do you say ________ in English?". These phrases were a terrible enigma to my students who especially struggled with the "How do you spell ______?" phrase. As I tested them on this, they would respond with sounds rather than letters, "How do you spell 'hat'" they would respond "Huh-ah-tuh" instead of "H-A-T". I tried very hard to enforce the use of letter names rather than sounds for these sort of activities, but many still never learned them.

Below is our wood stove. This, ironically, was not set up until a week or two before I left Georgia and since it warmed up in December after a bitterly cold and rainy November, we only ever lit it twice. If it's not freezing, it's better left unlit since the wood often fills the classroom with smoke and it is a huge distraction for the students who are always trying to maintain the fire with more wood and paper.



This is English World 3, a British English McMillan textbook. The quality of this series is quite good, unfortunately the older, supposedly more advanced students get cheated because they don't have the experience to get into the higher levels. This book is the third in the series, and is used by our 6th grade students. It assumes they know things like past tense and a whole lot of vocabulary. We spent 3 months on the review chapter and we were only able to get to chapter 1 by my last week of teaching there. I seriously hope that they don't try to finish this book off in the spring, some students in the class don't even know the alphabet or are just learning to read basic words, and this is what they're going to be expected to do in a few weeks. 

These are all the girls from the 9th and 10th grade. One of them studied English really hard and could actually have a conversation. The rest... well, they were well intentioned and very sweet girls, but I think they just liked hanging around my classroom because I was a new and exciting alternative to anything else they could have been doing not because they were actually interested in the language.

Sometimes they would have soccer tournaments. On these days it was hard to get the kids to come to class and study, they were much more interested in watching the game or playing than coming up to class. The gym teacher never seemed to care if students were really supposed to be somewhere else when they were playing. 

This was a fall concert put on by the 1-3rd grades. Aren't they cute?

I hope this gives prospective TLG teachers some idea on what the conditions are like in schools in Georgia. Of course most schools are much bigger than mine. Some are renovated, many still are not. Everyone's experience is different, but this was my experience.

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