Foreigner Follies~ Halloween edition

I had a wonderful Halloween this year. I was lucky enough to be invited to help with the local high school celebration. I met with the teacher and kids prior to the party to plan the activities and decor.

After a short day in the village and munchkin interruptions getting ready, I was an hour late to help decorate. I am nothing but impressively punctual. (This should probably be my first folly, but I will let it slide.)

Pumpkins carved and glowing  lit up the cafe. Black cat and skull silhouettes danced to the Halloween beats. People began to file into the party slowly while I had a chance to meet with some of the teachers.

The music was loud like that of a night club. It made conversation was a bit dodgy at times. But we all managed and I met some new peeps. ūüôā

The other foreigner in town was invited as well and we were glad to be reunited. Spelling her name phonetically, Shu Sin Yen, was the bell of the ball. The young high school students (boys) were all about her.

One was very aggressive at asking her to dance, and she obliged the first time. But she is quite shy and was not keen on a repeat. This poor fellow, oozing with¬†beer induced¬† ¬†determination, ¬†wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Enter folly numero UNO!

I can see my friend is not wanting to be rude, but really doesn’t want to dance. She is too shy to tell this guy to bugger off¬†leave her alone and she is also a teacher in town, so she must be polite.

I am just a foreigner who speaks the tongue of the parties origin, so I say to this guy in his native tongue, “Ajde mash bre!”. ¬†Immediately, I got high fives from the other fellows. They were pleased and I started to question my words.

It was the wrong choice. I thought I was telling him just to leave. I have heard my father-in-law  among others and others saying it to hounding animals who keep begging for food and in other similar situations.

About a half an hour later, in a conversation with the doting bartender, I found out I have literally told him to “ef off!” This is not proper behavior for an adult school guest in my culture. (Somehow, I don’t think it is as damning in this culture, but I could be wrong.)

Games were played through the night and when they started bobbing for apples, I wanted my friend Shu to see this typical fall game. On my urging we walked over to watch.  Like with most of the activities, she had never seen it before. We gazed on at the first round of bobbing as two fellas went against the clock and each other to grab apples with their teeth in a bin of water.

Follie Number TWO.  

One guy was up for the next round and no one was going against him. They kept trying to pull some one in and no one would go. So they came to me. I didn’t really want to stick my head in and get soaked, but I also didn’t want to be a bad guest. Plus this was a game from my childhood so why shouldn’t I play. (Oh soo Many Reasons!)

I stand before the tub of bobbing apples and wait for the “GO!” I go all in and realize I am tall enough to practice scuba breathing but little else. I manage to get one apple, and after that, I feel as if I am just trying to drown myself. My height and bust size and stomach keep me from my goal of giving a competitive show… or so I thought.

When the minute is finally up, I feel the upper half of is totally soaked.I don my gnome hat and I look down at myself. The black bodice that I chose purposely to cover up my ample bosom has shimmied down. The shiny WHITE blouse is soaking wet and the leopard and lace print bra I am wearing is blaring through as if there is no shirt at all.

I may have just introduced and won the first wet T-shirt contest in Serbia at a high school event. CLASSY!

Fortunately, I haven’t enough sense to get all embarrassed and leave. I go to the bathroom. I fix the smeared ¬†mascara and dab myself with paper towel.

For the next bit to make sense to Westerners…. FYI In Serbia, the sink and mirror area are often a shared space for men and women.

As I wipe myself off, the bartender comes in and asks if I am O.K. as he heads into a stall. I say I am fine. Just embarrassed. He says something like, “Don’t be, It was great!” with the kind of boyish grin that makes it all the more embarrassing.

I did have some lovely chats post game that made up for all the shameful incidents. I can’t call the entire night a bust, pardon the pun. But part of it was. ūüėČ

Looking back on the evening I realize, I am certainly making a name for myself in this town, just not sure what it is.

I did find a blip from the Halloween festivities. If you want to see the great decorations and some of the great costumes click HERE!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

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3 weeks in~ TEFL

It has been a strange but fun first three weeks. I had a friend make arrangements for me to teach an English class at the local library. I am doing it for free. And really, no one should have to pay for my unguided attempts. I am learning just as much if not more from this experience.

Just this the past week, I found a free online TEFL training course that has given me direction on techniques, lesson planning and so much more. I really needed the help. and it is boosting my confidence.

The biggest challenge is the class itself. The kids are great. But school schedules are vastly different here. There are morning classes and afternoon classes. Kids schedules rotate every week. The first week some kids only go in the AM and another group goes in the afternoon. Then the next week the first group goes in the morning and the other group follows in the afternoon.

This was something I (sorta) knew about, but didn’t plan for because I got lost in translation. (It happens a lot!)

The first week I had 20 kids from three separate schools. All of them were the same age, but some were not at the level specified by the librarians when they set things up with the school.  No translation was needed listening to her phone call, chastising who ever sent the kids who were a year behind in their English studies.

What I thought would be review songs turned out to be all new. The basket of nerves I was caused me to speak too fast. I never thought you could have stage fright as a teacher, but did!

At the end of that class, when I asked if anyone had anything they wanted to study, on kid wrote glagols. In the Srpski tongue glagols are not monsters, they are Verbs. Ya learn something new everyday, right?

I got the biggest rush when I came home that night.  I finally had something to focus on in Serbia. Purpose began to form. I was on top of the world!

The next week, I had eight new students who had the afternoon school shift the week before. There were four returning girls. I had planned a lesson and games for the ones that had been there before, so I mixed it up with the songs from the previous week and the verb lesson and worksheet for the that week. It was a decent lesson, but the presentation was a bit scattered. I forgot my makeshift whiteboard. Again, I was a nervous wreck even though I was thrilled to be there.

I still got a major high from teaching the class.

This week, after studying online, I had a better lesson planned for the kids from the first class. I had the verb worksheets, songs, and games all set up. I was much more prepared. At five o’clock two girls showed up, and a few minutes later 2 more. We chatted (good practical English practice) and waited a little, but started the class with four girls just before five fifteen. I followed my plan and then some of them told me they had never studied verbs before. Another curve ball! So I give them some basics on verbs and vowels so they understand a bit of how a sentence works. I have them write practice sentences and then we pick out the verbs. They all did great! Later they told me that was the first time they wrote sentences.

One more girl shows up after we have  almost completed that. There is just about a quarter of an hour left of class. We write more sentences and finish up with a game.

I know I am not a stellar teacher, but the change each week is throwing me way off-balance. I have seen just a few¬†a ton of the mistakes I have made, but I am analyzing each weeks class over and over looking for things I could have done better. I really want to be a good teacher, but I don’t know what they know or don’t know, so I am lost.

The language barrier is the most nerve-racking to me. I get frustrated that I don’t know if they understand. Or I can’t understand them. Thank God for the little English prodigy in my class who translates everything, one of the amazing Fab Four!¬†My greatest concern is turning some kids off to English, or confusing their other English class studies.

These are my thoughts on why I have lost the bulk of my students:

Many don’t understand me, they are slow to understand like I am with Serbian. And, I spoke way to fast in the beginning.

A few may have simply forgotten, but I am sure some just don’t want to come to ANOTHER class. Kids don’t really want to study. It isn’t that fun.

I think many may have been afraid to return after hearing the harsh call the librarian gave to the person who sent them all. Or maybe it was my song with Mr.Tallman A.K.A. the middle finger?

I think a lot of kids may have been interested to see a foreigner. This is a small town and I am the only non-Serb I know here. Curiosity could have been a contributing factor to my first large class.

I know that since this is a free class, parents are not making their kids come, I don’t even know if parents are aware of this class. The wonderful librarians set this all up. I just show up and teach. Since it is free, they aren’t losing any money not showing up.

A few of my mistakes:

Speaking too fast.

Not knowing what they already know.

Not giving new vocab words each week.

I should have a proper introduction routine for each class. I will do that next time.

My next class will be tailored to the 4 girls who come every week. I know they are eager to learn. I don’t mind having only four girls. It makes it easier to give each one English language practice with feedback. Small groups are best for learning, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise?¬†

I have started a question answer bit with them for my niece who is the same age back in the States. They send her questions and she will give the answers and ask questions in return.

I am wondering what to expect next week. I can’t help but think of the Forest Gump line, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!”

Comments welcome!! Actually, I am kinda begging for them. ¬†Thanks Y’all!

Whatever Wednesday~ field work

Yesterday, we literally were working in the fields. I saw three field mice when I disturbed their shredded corn husk nests. The pair of us, my man and I were picking up piles of corn stalks to stack and use later in planting our baby sour cherry trees. I also saw a tiny lizard on the same field.

The hubby and I made quick work of that small field and soon we were off to harvest walnuts. A very long stick was used to beat the upper branches to free some of the clingy nuts, that was the tall man’s job. I scavenged on the ground for those who had already given up tree hugging. The pastures floor was riddled with nuts and I soon had my bucket full.

http://www.nuts.com/gifts/bucketsofnuts/walnuts.html (My bucket was much less commercial looking.)

Buck kept us company. Our “hot dog” style mutt, ran from one of us to the other and around the field and regulated the vehicles that passed occasionally. ¬†Once he tried to steal some nuts from my bucket, but he wasn’t pleased with the taste.

Back at the house there were a few more trees to smack and more nuts to harvest. One of the biggest trees stands over a small ridge where a small creek trickles below.

The hollow under the ridge was covered with nuts, so we went back for our boots and went down the hill like Jack and Jill. This was the easiest place to find them with no long grasses hiding them, and there were so many!

While we were down there, the hubby found an old horse or cow skull. You don’t see that everyday. Well, unless you have a love for south west ¬†art including cow skulls….

Soon the munchkin made her way down via Baba’s arms and when she saw me, it was all over. Back to Munchkin duty. Thanks God for naps that allow me to sneak away for a bit.

It is morning now, and she will soon wake from her long nights nap so I will bit you adieu for now and share more stories next time.

Wish me luck, I have my third TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class tonight. I have been taking an online free class in TEFL course and I am excited I have learned so much to help me do a better job!! Can’t wait to use my new skills!! Thank you TEFL boot camp!

Happy Hump day Y’all!

My First TEFL Class or Foreigner Follies TEFL edition

As I left my building to walk to the library where my class would be held, a swarm of termites like a massive cloud in a sci-fi film had descended on the grounds surround the library. I had been warned by the hubby as I exited the apt.

When I got to the Biblioteka (Library), I saw that most of the people there were now the landing pads for a ton of the flying critters. Initially, I tried to brush them off the unknowing people, but I gave up quickly. I saw I was fighting a losing battle. Throughout the entire class, I watched them crawl all over people. To be sure, there must have been some on me as well.

Once the librarian got them all in order with a list of their names and what schools they came from, and then she handed them over to me, left the room and shut the door. They were all mine. All twenty of them with only 3 boys in the group. I was a bit stunned as we had agreed 10-15 would be good for my first time teaching. But it really doesn’t matter. I am thrilled to have them and the opportunity.

I began with an alphabet game and followed up asking for words in English that began with each letter. It was a good warm up for me and them. I was able to see who knew the most English from this exercise, and leaned on the stronger students as interpreters when I couldn’t get my point across with English and my limited Serbian.

I had done a practice run with two of my neighbor kids who are the same age as the kids in my class. I will practice with them again too. I need the practice more than they need another English class.

One of the things I thought I learned in my practice class was the two songs I planned to teach, my young neighbors already knew. They thought the other kids would as well. I was gutted, but decided to use the songs as a base point as they were already introduced to them.

It turns out only two of the students knew one of the songs. For the rest of them, it was all new material! OMiGosh! So, I went about teaching them the songs way too quickly because I was so nervous. I really need to go slower and have a bit more confidence. I began with Row, Row, Row Your Boat. And followed up with Eensy Weensy Spider.

I plan to sing those same songs every time so they get to know them well, and to understand the meaning of the words. That’s the plan at least .;)

Next I told them that all the fingers have names in English….

The middle finger story

I told them there is the Thumb, the Pointer, Tall man A.K.A the middle finger, Ring finger, and Pinky. I went about teaching them the song that helps them to learn the names. ¬†I put up the ¬†words to the song and an outline of my hand that has the names of all the fingers. I sing a bit of the song for them and ¬†then have them follow along. This requires you to bring you hands from behind your back with only one finger sprouting from your fist. All went well till we got to the middle finger. I bring my middle finger out and they won’t follow along at this point, and I realize it looks like you are giving the middle finger. I assure them it is o.k. but they still won’t follow along.

Picture0019

It became really funny and we all laughed big belly laughs, because we couldn’t help ourselves. And it is a relief. The stress of my first time teaching and nerves all relax and we sing the rest of the song skipping the middle finger.

I think I shocked them at the end of the class by asking if they had any questions or if there was anything they wanted to learn. Blank stares all around. At the end I gave them my email address if they have ideas to send me. I think they were all interested in having a way to contact me, though no one has yet… it is now 4 days later.

I am excited and nervous about preparing for my next class. One little boy came up to me when most of the kids had gone and gave me a note in Serbian with an idea for the following class. He said he didn’t understand verbs. I am thrilled with the idea of teaching verbs. I must find some games to help me.

Three hours after my first class and even later, I was still on a high! To have found something to work at here in Serbia is a dream come true. Plus, I love the kids. They are so sweet, and more respectful than I expected. I am sure this will wear off when the novelty of the foreigner status in a small town dulls my allure.

I am excited for the following weeks. I hope I do well. I really want them to learn from me and be happy they spent time in my class.

I read a quote and immediately thought of sharing it with my kids, then I realized it was just as much suited for me!

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”

Helen Hayes

If you have any advice, I am all ears!

Entering the TEFL world (Please Help!)

I have been living in Serbia now for 9 months. It takes time to get your Sea legs when you get on a moving ship. I got on a moving ship with a moving baby. My identity has changed two-fold. I am not just an expat, but also an expat mum now. For the first few months it was as if the rug was swiftly removed and I was flailing to find footing.

Gratefully now, I am recovering. I think I landed on my backside, but I will soon be standing tall. I am finding my self and who I will become! I am entering the wold of TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

I plan to start with and English club this fall at the Library. Meeting once a week with the first week getting a feel for who may be interested. It is a small town and I am not sure what I am in for, but I am optimistic! I believe children and teens will be my main students. But I would love to work with adults as well.

Eventually, I would love to make a living at this. I know that I love kids, I love teaching, and I have what no other English teachers have in my town, English as my Native tongue. This does not make me cocky, but confident I have something new to offer. I know I have lots to learn from teachers native to this land.

Any advice is welcome. Advice on teaching, books, and degrees. I haven’t gotten a TEFL degree yet. I am unsure if I will need one, but I am looking into them.

I would love to hear from other TEFLers on books that have been helpful. Thanks in advance!!