Owning the First Day of School

Peace Corps / Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I talked to Jeramie yesterday and it sounds like she had an awful first day back at school. If not awful then at least not ideal. Apparently she had to deal with the same kinds of things we had to deal with in earlier years, but she’d thought she had helped her school past them.

I, however, won the first day of school. Excluding one minor to-do (floating the idea of me putting on a male beauty contest similar to the one I did in high school), I got everything either accomplished or rolling. I feel like a boss. Looking back at the day, I did what I should have done for all my life. I took charge and got things done instead of waiting for other people to take care of them.

While talking to other Peace Corps Volunteers recently, I joked that I didn’t think I’d have my class schedule until early October (which is very late considering I should be leaving in late November). It was this way last year, to be fair I was at home for two weeks in September so that might have been an issue. I solved this by making my schedule. I went to the teachers I worked with last year and asked, “Would you like me working with any of your classes this year? When?” And then I wrote it all down. I still have one or two to talk to and discovered one conflict when I got home, but my schedule is nearly complete. I’ll fill it up soon with one-on-one tutoring with the girls for the English Olympiad.

Then, I needed to talk to my school’s director and remind her that time for our grant to be completed is running out. I gave her a deadline of this coming Friday so I’d have time to gather my notes, head to Kiev, and close the grant before the end of the month (the last week of the month is out for this too, because I’ll be at my Close of Service Conference). It’s crunch time. She assured me that the books are being delivered on Friday and I’ll have the receipts. I’m only slightly skeptical.

Finally, there were lessons yesterday, and I owned them. I was working with classes that I had worked with all last year (with a few new students mixed in to one of them). We had a rapport built already. They know how I conduct a lesson and they know the sound of my voice. Of course, they were reluctant to speak English again, but I made them do it anyway. Practicing is the only way to get better.

For the quieter group that I had yesterday, I gave them an example of what they can do after only two years of learning a language. I first asked them to tell me briefly about their summers, and they did. Some sounded a little more rehearsed than others (were they practicing and preparing for this question over the summer?). When they were all done, I asked if they wanted to hear about my summer, knowing they’d say yes because I assume they understood that any moment I’m talking, they don’t need to be talking. I busted out the Russian I’ve slowly been progressing with and described my summer in roughly the same level of detail as the students did in English. They were delighted.

Later, when I was explaining to their regular English teacher what I had done and why, she scolded me for speaking in Russian. She didn’t grasp the concept that I was teaching by example. I wanted to show the students that they can understand me, mistakes and all, even after I’ve only been learning Russian for two years. I think the teacher thought I’d be speaking in Russian to them for the rest of my time here. As if I could!

There were other little things that I needed to take care of yesterday and I did. It was a good, productive start to the new school year. We’ll see how long this steam takes me.

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