Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Day in the Life - Part 2 - Being at Work

Check email. Check coursebook. Review plans for classes--classes which may or may not be consecutive--which will begin in T-minus 27 minutes. Determine whether additional materials need to be printed or photocopied. Commit plans, which have previously remained in your head, to a sheet of paper, folded in half. (It's important to you that this sheet with the Agenda, the Announcements, and the Homework is small. It makes you feel as if everything is more doable. It gives you confidence because there's a finite space to fill up, and it reminds you that you have the ability to improvise when needed.)
Read email. Make mental notes. Mark most emails as unread because you'll deal with them later.

Put computer to sleep. Unplug headphones, mouse, ethernet cable, and power-supply cable. Put computer, coursebook, student workbook, paper-clipped handouts, and half-sheet plan for lessons in computer bag. Wrap up power-supply. Put that in bag, too. Take one more sip of tea from mug. Pick up bag and head out of the office.

Walk along the balcony/corridor, hearing the din of students' voices on the ground-floor below. Say good morning in English and Turkish to a slew of coworkers. Go to the teacher's lounge to get attendance sheet from pigeonhole. Go downstairs.

Say good morning with a friendly tone, but without a smile, to any students who have arrived in the classroom. Set up computer. Make sure the SmartBoard is off by checking this minuscule, hardly transparent button to see whether it is green or red. Type in computer's password. Take the HDMI cable and the USB cable from bag and plug them both into the computer and the wall. Turn on the Smartboard. Hear it make a comforting noise, indicating that it will work. Try touching the projector screen. See that the SmartBoard is actually not working. Switch USB ports. Listen for sounds indicating whether it will work. Sometimes they're there; sometimes they're not. Resolve yourself, annoyed, to the fact that it doesn't seem to be working today. Take pen, marker, clock, and (just in case it magically begins to work) the SmartBoard pen from your computer bag. Write agenda, today's homework assignment, and announcements on the board. Say good morning to more incoming students. Feel a sense of pressure as you note the time and realize that it's T-minus one minute or so. Wonder where half of your students are, but try to be grateful for the punctuality and the bright-eyed looks from the ones who are there.

Begin teaching. Try not to get annoyed by late comers. Try to be patient when students knock on the door before entering. It's not a knock indicating that the student will wait for permission to enter. It's a knock that announces, I'm gonna enter in about one second. And then they enter.

Teach. Use weird, idiosyncratic hand motions to try to make new language more comprehensible. (Ignore the small, nagging voice in your head from your friend who once observed your class and suggested you're hand gestures make you resemble the Abominable Snowman. Ignore the other small nagging voice that reminds you that one of the gestures you're making--as far as you have been informed--indicate that someone is ****ing in the *** according to local interpretations. Ignore the final voice that reminds you that "um," the way you pronounce it, denotes a certain part of female genitalia in Turkish.)

Focus on more important things. Look for instances of students genuinely doing a good job. Praise them. Correct instances of language use that are developmentally appropriate for the class as a whole and individual students. Somewhere, sometime, in each lesson, get a positive, unassailable morsel of enjoyment out of something.

Finish classes. Return to office. Put stuff down. Try to scare up a couple coworkers to join as you make you're way up the campus-road to the cafeteria in the student center at the top of the hill.

Depending on a variety of factors, do your best to make interesting and/or humorous conversation with those around you. On some days just listen. Wait in line for your meal. Scan your ID card, and feel a little pang of guilt because you get this lunch for free. However, your Turkish colleagues don't because it wasn't explicitly mentioned in their employment offer. Sit down at a crowded table, and turn your tray sideways when necessary to make room for others. Eat. Pay attention to the time, especially where you've got afternoon lessons to teach. Finish up. Put your tray in the dirty-tray rack. Walk back down to the English prep-school building that you call home.

Teach in the afternoon.

Return to your office. Take care of what feels like a million administrative issues--recording attendance and participation, answering emails, checking homework, etc. Look over coursebook, and put stars next to activities you'll include in your lessons the next day. Work on specific "materials office"-related assignments, because that's your "committee" for the time being. Do some planning for your American literature class, whether it's putting together a PowerPoint, designing an activity, or grading. Eventually note that most of your officemates have left because the evening has begun encroaching. Hear the office door open, and see the top of Jena's head over the bookcase that obscures your view of the entrance to your office. Make eye contact with her. Know that it's time to go.

Shoulder personal bag. Turn off lights. Lock office door. Find Jena. Head home.

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