Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A better day

I'm writing to follow up on the gloom and doom from the last post. Today I proctored the final speaking exams for many of my students.

To be honest, I was proud of them. Despite the challenges they posed for me, I got to know some of them pretty well; and despite their behavior, I actually liked many of them.

Today I felt sad to see them go. I won't miss teaching them, but I will miss them somehow.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Teaching trials and moving on

It's been a month since my last post. I finally finished the fourth and final teaching quarter at Meliksah. The last quarter was by far the most difficult--in fact, there really is no comparison to any teaching challenge I've ever faced in the past.

I was assigned to teach the dreaded "repeater" sections of students who didn't pass the 3rd quarter. Some of them didn't pass because of proficiency, but most didn't pass because of attendance or motivation issues. While the lowest 2 repeater sections gave up almost immediately and started watching subtitled films instead of working in the course books, my sections were supposed to trudge on through the material that students had already seen the previous quarter. You can imagine that my students and I were not so thrilled to review the exact same material again.

Things were bad. I felt like I had stepped into an alternate universe in which disrespecting and ignoring the teacher were normal behaviors, and a good day was one during which I only imagined strangling one student. Students would deliberately put headphones in when I was talking, flat out refuse to do activities, and in some cases, refuse to speak English to me. Students painted their nails, applied make up, played cell phone games, took selfies, sang along to the songs on their headphones, and even set up what looked to me to be a craps table using their books. Perhaps most annoying of all, many of my questions were not answered with words, but with this delightful gesture/noise. It's a very casual way to say "no" in Turkish, but it's really not appropriate for a teacher-student interaction, and definitely not appropriate to an open-ended question.
I cried in the classroom for the first time in my life.

These groups of students took me to a very dark place. For the first time in my life, I genuinely did not want to teach. I felt like my job was pointless. Honestly, I think my students were in a similar mode of apathy and ennui. The classroom atmosphere was heavy and dull--completely the opposite of how it usually feels.

Now that it's over, I can look back and see a few bright spots, but I was so relieved to finish my final hour on Friday. I'm usually sad on the last day of class, but not this time. It was a bad feeling for me. I want to like my students and help them and miss them when they're gone.

My colleagues and I had a great party last night to celebrate the end of the repeater classes, and I'm feeling much less toxic now. I'm ready to move on.

I'm looking forward to non-teaching time this summer to investigate my research interests in educational psychology and identity. I hope that I will feel refreshed and motivated now that I've survived such a difficult experience.