Highlights of Teaching

Peace Corps / Friday, August 24th, 2012

For the last two weeks of summer, I was asked to work with some of the students one-on-one to prepare them for the National English Olympiad. It’s been fun, and I’ve talked about my approach to teaching already. Today, I want to share the first week results of my method.

While most of the time I don’t enjoy talking about politics, I made an exception this week. For me, politics is in the same boat as religion. It’s great to have your own opinions about things and you’re more than welcome to believe what you wish, just don’t try to force your beliefs on other people. No one likes that. Anyway, I was working on casual conversation with Anya, and politics just came up with the natural flow of the conversation. I winced. But then she said something, something very smart and mature for a tenth grader, and I decided a light political conversation wouldn’t be so bad.

Anya said something I could agree with. If we both agreed, then I wouldn’t feel like I’m pushing my political agenda on anyone and it makes me feel better, as a teacher. Anya mentioned that she didn’t think people should make war on people. Then she followed that with examples for the United States. “Why should the United States join in wars of other countries? They have problems at home they need to fix.” I agree, Anya.

She didn’t think of this as a political stance but I assured her that it was. A darn good one, if you ask me but that’s another conversation for a different day.

Later that same day, Nastya came in for her lesson. Nastya is going into the eight grade this year and her English still needs work. Well, her speaking still needs work. Throw a grammar question at her and she’ll tell you the right answer without having to think about it. Since her speaking skills aren’t at the point where we can discuss global political issues, we stick to the assigned topics and work on building her confidence. One of the topics picked at random read something like, “You’re stuck on a deserted island and can choose only one person to come with you, who would you choose and why?” Almost instantly, before I finished the sentence, she blurted out, “CHUCK NORRIS.” I laughed and tried to remember some great Chuck Norris jokes from back in the day (back in the day, at this point, was over six years ago, dang). When Chuck Norris jumps in a pool, he doesn’t get wet. The water gets Chuck Norris. Nastya soon after changed her answer to Bear Grylls.

Finally, two of the girls that I’m working with might be my two favorite students to talk to. I might have mentioned this before, but I don’t know when. The reason I really enjoy talking to them is because they read The Song of Ice and Fire series (you may know it as Game of Thrones). I found this out one day while I was teaching and I heard them saying to each other, “Winter is coming.” This happens to be a common saying in the books but then Winter was indeed coming in Ukraine so I asked them to clarify.

Sasha has only started the fourth book but we already had a great conversation about it. It’s amazing that she’s only going into the ninth grade and can have full conversations about a complex piece of literature in a foreign language (she reads it in Russian). She also agrees with me that the second season of the HBO series sucked compared to the book because they changed it a lot from the book. I hope she reads more before our next meeting so we can discuss it further.

Katya is the reason Sasha began reading the series. I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with her (I wanted to yesterday but her session wasn’t one-on-one because Nastya needed to move her time slot). I told Katya that next week she should come ready to talk about the books. She lit up nearly as much as I would have. She’s finished the five books which is great because I can now talk without revealing any spoilers.

All in all, it was a busy and tiring week, but the highlights far outweigh the boring parts of the week. I hope next week is just as enjoyable.

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