Friday, September 27, 2013

The Geo Milov Language High School

It happened. I'm a teacher. In Bulgaria.

Note my panicked face.

This was from Day #1, September 16th. I got up early to have plenty of time to "get ready". There is no getting ready for meeting your new students in the chaos that is the First Day.

In Bulgaria, the first day is a celebration. At our school, everyone gathered in the yard (cement space, sized like a parking lot but for outdoor activities). High school begins in 8th class and correlates with 9th grade in the States. 12th class
are the ages of college first years. On the first day of school, the 9th class chases the new 8th class, trying to get them to take bites of carrots and turnips. This is a nation wide joke: the 8th class are called "rabbits" because they are so nervous and jumpy on the first day!

I was jumpy myself. It felt like the first day of school for me but I wasn't allowed to look nervous. Everyone seemed to know each other. I sat on a bench until my mentor teacher found and watched the running around.

My principle and various others gave speeches. Then we all went inside. My teacher gave the rules to her classroom of 11th students. I introduced myself briefly. Smiled forcefully till my cheeks hurt. Everyone was in high spirits. Everyone was wearing their best. One boy decided this meant he chose to wear a shirt with a barely clad woman on it. One boy opened a beer and sipped it when Lucy wasn't looking.

My schedule
What I didn't know is that Lucy intended for me to go with the students to a cafe. The class whisked me away after just a few minutes inside the classroom. I was starving, hadn't brought money, and wasn't quite sure where in town I was. At the cafe, the music blared and it was hard to start conversations with some of the students, many of them incredibly shy with their new American teacher! I had been warned that smoking happened at high rates with the students. That's different than watching your 16 year old students light up. Or sip a beer they snuck into class. In many ways, the first day was so overwhelming and full of culture shock. I didn't know how to handle it.

I handled it by going home and sleeping for two hours. It was an incredible exhaustion. I wondered: am I going to make it this year?

However, teaching has been nothing but a one good surprise after another. I've been impressed with my students. Pleased with what they know and how they think. A handful sometimes, but not a bad one.

The schedule is pretty light so I can spend a lot of time trying to come up with engaging and different lesson plans. I'm (gratefully) not considered a core teacher. I'm supplementary. 100%. And it's great! I can do what I think they need to fill in the gaps and give them practice.

One thing I'm not used to: getting up at sunrise. For the first week, the moon was setting just before the sun came up! It was a full moon and filled my room with moonlight from one end while morning light was filling the kitchen from the other end of the apartment!

Tea. It is the key to everything.

1 comment:

Aviva Rosenberg said...

I love this!!!!!