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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MuganloTV apartment tour video

Here is the link to the video I tried to get uploaded the other day. I had to go to YouTube to get it done. Thanks to Christina for giving me that idea.

Monday, September 26, 2011

MTV has moved, I'm in The Big City now.

Yes, I know I’ve only managed to write about college football since I’ve been back over here in Georgia. Well that and some other stuff but none of which goes on this blog. Sorry, some things go in private emails and some stuff goes on the blog.

First impressions were weird. It was very very surreal being back here and at first I didn’t know what to make of it at all. There were the minor culture shocks to be sure such as: no TV (read: SportsCenter), having to speak in a foreign language all the time and start thinking in a foreign language again, cooking and cleaning again (where did the army of Azeri women go?), taking public transportation and starting work again after three months off. All of these things started happening all at once and it was a lot to deal with in these first two weeks.

I did go back to Muganlo one night to visit the family and pick up all my things. I think the one dog was the happiest to see me. It was kind of funny too because normally those dogs are up and barking at anyone even walking by our house out there. I came up to the gate, opened it and just walked right in after not being there for six weeks. The dogs didn’t even so much as get up. Once the brown one did decide to get up, he wouldn't leave me alone the whole time and was under my feet begging for belly scratching. Freakin' dog. The family was happy to see me too and we had a good evening talking and of course drinking. I brought them some liquor from the States so we didn’t have to drink the local vodka… until the next morning. (Yes, we did have sheep for dinner but they 'grilled' it since my coming back was a 'special' occasion.) By the time I got back to my apartment the next day I was exhausted and stating to feel hung-over. I kept asking myself, how did I ever survive two years out there? It was SO weird being in Muganlo again. Outhouses, kids, sheep, livestock... wow.

I started playing softball and kickball again at the local field with the girls and other expats. I hit a monster homerun yesterday in softball that felt great! (For those of you that have played at that field, I hit it over the left field wall, not the fence, the wall; and had it bounce up and hit that house out there.) It was a legit homer and a moon-shot. It’s fun to get out there on Sundays and play and it’s also a great way to escape even the idea that you’re in Georgia. Well, except the birzah out in right field.

Everything seems to have settled down for me though and I’m starting to establish a few routines and norms. I should be getting really good Internet next month so I’ll be able to Skype and chat with you all. So, give me some time and I’ll get that done.

Let me show you a video and some pictures of my apartment first and then I’ll get on with my school. So, here are some pictures that I took and a ‘Cribs’ style video tour of the new apartment.

Um... Ok, video upload FAIL! Bummer. So, I'll try to load it up in the next post or just take a lot of pictures and get them up on here. Sorry, the file is really big and it was loading for well over an hour.

Let me say that I really like my apartment and my school continues to blow my mind. The opening ceremony on the 15th alone was enough to let me know that this isn’t your typical Georgian school. To start it was catered by the Marriott Hotel’s food service staff and it started on time. That’s right, I said it, a scheduled event in Georgia started on time. It was nice too. The students and parents toured the new building, there was one (believe it or not) quick speech and then everyone had snacks and drinks. It was amazing.

I got to meet several parents who were interested in talking to me. One was a Georgian diplomat to Denmark who has two children attending the school. She wanted to let me know that her youngest son spoke English better than Georgian because he had lived in Denmark for most of his life. This little guy is in my 2nd grade class and keeps telling me he knows English. I keep telling him I know but that he has to now learn to read and write; neither of which he has a grasp on now. Anyway, I met several parents and then had some cake and went home. We didn’t actually start class till Monday like every other Georgian school the only difference was that my school told the kids not to even bother showing up on Friday and to just come back Monday. Nice.

There is one similarity to the other Georgian schools though; we just got books today. This is not because the students hadn't gone and gotten them, it’s because they hadn't arrived from England yet. Chalk up yet another victory for the Georgian postal system. But, this gives me some time to do some pre-testing and assess my students levels before I have to start launching into curriculum.

One thing you should know is that my school went through a huge expansion this year. We have over three times the number of student they had last year. This is not to say that they are a big school by any means (with class sizes limited to 12) but there are a lot of new students. This means there are several groups that have quite a wide range of English competency. Not a huge deal at this point, but interesting. Also, this school is only about 90% Georgian students. We have kids from China, Iran, Russia, Turkey and a lot of kids who, while Georgian, have lived abroad for a few years. Very interesting and very nice. Everyone at my school speaks Russian and 95% of the staff speaks fluent English. So, I have NO issues with communications. My director and the Dean of Students are awesome and have been very supportive so far.

So here is a breakdown of what I’m teaching this year:

2nd grade; 5 times a week. Meaning, I’m with these guys every day. Normally I would hate being with little ones that much, but damn if this group of kids aren’t the cutest little buggers on the planet. You all know me and know I don’t normally say that about any group of kids, but wow. And they are so much fun. They constantly want to show me what they’ve done and as soon as they finish writing anything down they hold up their notebooks for me to see and squeak out, “Mr. Andrew, I finished!” By Wednesday one little guy had to start each lesson with giving me a hug. (See 7th grade below for why this saved me one day). By Friday we were starting each lesson with ‘class hug.’ They love me! And, I know it’s only week one, but damn it, I love them too.

4th grade; 6 times a week. This is a fairly large group so they are split up into two. I have them all together for back to back lessons on Monday (2 lessons) which is a little bit of a challenge but then split up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So far so good with this grade. They are very bright and we are already flying through verb conjugations. There are a few rowdy ones in this grade, but I’ve got them under control and they actually did a little self policing this week as well which is nice.

5th grade; 4 times a week. This group is a little rowdy but I think we’ll be just fine once we get on to normal assignments and stop playing around so much. Very bright group overall but there are a few fairly new students to the language so I have a bit of a competency split to deal with. There are also two little girls in this group that think they run the school. I’m quickly helping them dispel that rumor. We had a little ‘issue’ with them on Friday when one of the girls wanted to pull that “he’s looking at me,” bit when a boy in the class was messing around in the back. I had to stop class to let them know there were two things I would not tolerate: playing around and interrupting my lessons. These middle grades to me are the toughest because I have both language and behavioral issues to deal with.

6th grade; 2 times a week. I have these kids in a two class block as well so really I only have them once a week but for two classes. There is one kid in this group that lived in America for several years and speaks perfect English. The only problem is that he feels the need to correct his classmates’ mistakes. I cut that off pretty quick. I told him that was my job and just how rude it is to yell out the correct pronunciation of a word while someone is speaking. I think he got it since he has a pretty good grasp of American culture and how serious I was when I said it. Overall though this seems like a pretty tame group.

7th grade; 2 times a week. What a hell of a class this was. Again, I have these kids in a two class block as well. I gave them an assignment to write 50-75 words about their summer break (I know lame) just to get a sense of their writing and reading ability to start. There was this one girl up front who I thought was writing due to her arm wrapped around her paper and pen on the paper, but I wasn’t paying that close of attention. After everyone had finished and when I got around to calling on her she just looked at me and started tearing up. The girl behind her quickly told me that she had never studied English before and didn’t understand. I just looked at this poor little girl and said (first in English then in Georgian), “Don’t worry about it. We’ll work on it. Don’t worry.” I said this in a very calm and slow voice so that hopefully she would understand me. However, apparently she was heartbroken. Her head went down into her arms on the desk and tears were a commin’. Now I’ve been teaching for a while now; I’ve seen children cry, laugh, yell, lose it completely, and outright hate doing assignments and try a mutiny. So normally things like this don’t get to me. But this little girl was just so tense and just so nervous that she had me all kinds of confused as to what to do. Luckily I was saved by the bell not too much longer after this and immediately sought out the Dean of Students.

She informed me that the girl was there on scholarship because she is an orphan who has had a history of epilepsy and in fact, “knows no English.” My first thought was, ‘why the hell didn’t you tell me this before?’ I just asked the Dean to go in there, tell the girl that everything would be just fine and to RELAX! Just RELAX! I asked her to make sure that the girl knew that I was in no way upset that she didn’t do the assignment and that everything would be just fine. So, I stood in the hall while she talked to the girl and during the second class she seemed much more relaxed. Thank God! I just smiled at her every time I looked in her direction and hopefully by next week I will have figured out what to do with her.

8th grade; two times a week. About half of this class is in the ‘too cool for school’ stage. I’ve already spoken to our Dean of Students about this group and she says that they had similar problems last year at the beginning of the year that she got straightened out and that she would speak to them again. I don’t think I’ll have too many issues here but we’ll see.

9th grade; two times a week. Very bright group and very responsive. A couple of goofball boys but hey, it’s 9th grade. There are a few students in this class that are near fluency already and I was nothing but impressed with them after the first week.

10th grade; two times a week. Again this class has a large split in competency. I have two students who are fluent and only have slightly perceptible accents and the rest of them are doing pretty well, just not on par with the two superstars of the class. One poor girl is new to our school and has only been studying English for three years. She has done very well in those three years, but had a lot of catching up to do.

11th grade; once a week. Ha! No issues here. I only have them for one 45 minute class a week. So this week I just told them how class was going to work. Every week they will turn in an assignment, I’ll present new material, we’ll discuss, I’ll give them new assignment and in general we’ll have a relaxed time together. They just need a lot of exam prep, so our class will consist of them reading articles or stories, discussing and then writing about it. Most of my feedback will come in written form on their assignments. Ah the joys of teaching upper level students. Let’s not make this stuffy and boring, let’s just relax and fine tune your language.

So that's it. That's my class schedule and my first impressions of it and the students I teach. And, that's pretty much all I've been up to. I'll try to keep y'all up to date on all the goings on here in Tbilisi as much as I can.