Do you ever work, anyway?


Candy wrote a fantastic entry on her job. If you’re looking for something similar here, like my thoughts on the structure of the Macedonian education system and all the interesting meetings I’ve been to about education here, you’re in trouble because this entry is just to prove that I do, occasionally, work.

I frequently reference how I don’t do anything at work. This is sometimes true (some days I only go in for about an hour, and am not in any classes) and sometimes not. This is in large part because I am still, after four months here, trying to figure out my schedule. The director and vice-director of my school want me to work not just with every English teacher in the school, but every teacher in the school. Need I say that I am not qualified to do this, or that my Albanian isn’t good enough for this type of work? To appease them after spending my first couple months working with just two teachers (and mainly with my counterpart, D.), I began going to school in the other shift some days, and made a blank schedule for the teachers to fill in when they wanted me to come to class.

This kind of worked, and kind of didn’t. Some weeks I was in class every day, and some days I wasn’t in class at all. The sign-up sheet didn’t solve all my scheduling problems, as I’d hoped it would; my main problem, that I wasn’t able to talk with all the teachers about the schedule because they work in different shifts, didn’t go away. It turns out it’s just as hard to coordinate on a lesson when someone writes down the details as when you make a vague verbal agreement to work together “one day next week.”

Since returning from my in-service training in Ohrid, which was last Monday through Thursday, I’ve only been going to classes with D. It’s been kind of fantastic. Every day I know that I’m going to work for three or four hours, and every day I am with students I know. I’m comfortable working with D., and it’s easy to plan lessons with her.

This is also the first time in months that I’ve had any consistency to my schedule, and I like it. Maybe my job still consists of thinking of dumb things for my students to do, but when I’m with D. I feel like they are MY students, rather than ones I’m visiting. These are the kids I’ve been with ever since site visit back in November, and being back with the first and third grades every day is a good, comfortable feeling. And although I don’t feel like I got a lot out of IST, it did get me thinking more about changes I can make in the classroom beyond lesson planning – getting into classroom management and things that I can only do effectively if I’m a regular presence in the classroom.

We held a contest that involved students racing to get certain items of my clothing, then dressing one of the students in their group.

As my dad said, third grade is a great year because you can still do dumb things like this and the kids think it's awesome.

Inadvisable though it is to have favorites, I kind of love this girl.

Beyond this, not much else has been going on. The weather is alternating between awful, pouring rain all day, and gorgeous, leaving me confused and unable each morning to decide whether to bring my umbrella with me or not. I’ve lost two umbrellas in about the past two weeks, and now am on a quality 100 denar (about $2.50) umbrella I bought in Struga on my way home from IST, having left the previous (200 denar) one in the back of a taxi three days after buying it.

I’ve done six interviews for Camp GLOW so far this week, and have four more scheduled for tomorrow. It takes a lot to inspire me, but I love meeting all these girls. It is also a nice change from early on in the recruiting process, when I was only able to pull one applicant from my school, the numbers of interested girls declining as we went along with the application process.

In closing news, I passed both of my LPIs (language tests), which I took when I was in Ohrid. I scored higher on Macedonian than Albanian, which surprised me but probably shouldn’t have, since that’s the language I hear and speak for three or four or five hours each day in my home. But having done a Macedonian lesson today that required me to read a (very short) magazine article, I’m starting to realize that my strengths in the languages are very different. Because I speak and listen to a lot of Macedonian, I’m able to score not terribly on a spoken exam, but it takes me an hour to read a couple paragraphs in Macedonian. And while my spoken Albanian is kind of a disaster, I’m able to read political magazines and the newspaper in Albanian, as opposed to…uh…Macedonian fashion magazines. I am, however, far more likely to understand Macedonian news than Albanian.

I should put up photos of Ohrid but, you know, I’m feeling too lazy for that. Despite being in Ohrid for four days, I didn’t see much of the town – it rained all week, excepting the one day we had a short tour. This was notable mostly because I was one of a few volunteers to get lost during the tour, and because I was able to see the church from the first photo of Macedonia I ever saw.

As one last note, I am a major lover of spring but this year have mixed feelings about its arrival. When my host family started breaking out the turshi (pickled vegetables) back in October I couldn’t stomach it, but now that I’m rapidly approaching the date at which it’s unacceptable to keep eating pickled vegetables when there are fresh (& cheap) ones at the pazar, I don’t want to see it go. A summary of my week thus far includes about thirty minutes sitting on the floor, eating straight from my jar of turshi, each day. Ajvar is also going to go, if I want to eat like my family here – people only eat ajvar during the winter. Things to look forward to, though, include making ajvar with my mom S. in five months.

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