Back to School


Today was the first day of the Macedonian school year. I’ve been preparing for about a week now, heading into school to discuss projects with my vice-director, visiting my counterpart to talk about new things I want to try in the classroom, and yesterday running all over town to buy notebooks and prizes for the “English Stars” program I am starting this year, then staying up coloring the students’ cards and organizing the prizes until 10 pm.

All this is by way of saying that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to work in Macedonia. I woke up at 6:30 this morning and although I did not exactly leap out of bed, I was pretty psyched to get in the classroom and get the kids all excited about the stickers, pencils, candy and homework passes they can win from me this year.* Walking to school, I had that special feeling I get every September when I head to school for the first time – like, no matter whether I am in South Jersey on my way to high school, North Jersey on my way to college class** or in Macedonia on my way to the primary school, the air smells and feels a certain way, like all at once I can preemptively experience the aching shoulders, dry eyes, cramping hand and pimples attending any respectable school year.

Instead I went to school, sat in the teacher’s lounge for a little over an hour, listened to a meeting I could only understand bits and pieces of, learned that one of the teachers I wanted to work with this year is no longer at the school, and left with all the other English teachers at 9 am.

The teachers know, for the most part, what grades they will be teaching. But as for actual schedules – no dice. Dear reader, you may be wondering when I’ll get down to the business of actually teaching; I’m wondering the same thing. A week from now? A month from now?

I’ve been in Macedonia almost a year, and was feeling pretty good about my cultural adjustment until, well, about 8:30 this morning, when I realized I wasn’t going to have any work. But no matter how hard I try some things I can’t get used to, like the relaxed attitude torwad work. Even as a Certified Lazy Person, I’m frustrated by what I see as the lack of energy many people put into their jobs. Sure, school starts slow in the States (as it must everywhere), but the teachers come in on the first day knowing their schedules, with books for the students, and knowing what they’ll be doing that day and probably for many days thereafter. Here, the teachers show up on the first day in part to distribute books to the students, but also to begin figuring out just what their schedules will look like. Since some sort of planning has purportedly been going on for a month now, I have a hard time understanding why things aren’t moving faster.

Then I remember that I’m not in America anymore. And frustrating as that was today, tomorrow morning I’ll head into school with my GRE study book, a notebook and my laptop so I can research graduate programs, having exhausted the list of work-related tasks I set for myself a week ago.*** There will be plenty of time for lesson planning in a few weeks.

* I know that bribery is not necessarily a respected teaching method, but if I cannot instill a love of learning at least I can instill a love of doing homework in order to win a Hannah Montana pencil sharpener.

** Indeed, I spread my wings far.

*** No doubt this post is shocking in that I claim to actually do work, rather than just sitting on my sofa eating Pop Keks (or ice cream, in the summer) and crying all day long as I have been implying for the past year.


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