I am now a teacher! I am “Ms. Tammela,” to be exact. It feels good to finally begin my “real” Peace Corps service. Of course I’ve been serving here for four months already, but teaching English is what I’m here to do for two years. The second semester of school started this week, and as the pupils returned I met with my fellow English teachers, figured out a teaching schedule, and dutifully began to plan lessons. I teach 19 hours (“hour” = class period) per week, just one hour over the Peace Corps’ minimum requirement of 18 hours/week.
This semester I’ll work with groups from the 2nd, 3rd, 5th-9th, and 11th Forms (“form” = grade). As with any school, some classes are stronger than others. In Ukrainian schools if a class gets too big they form groups: А, Б (Ukrainian “b”), В (Ukrainian “v”), and on through the Ukrainian alphabet. The “А” group is usually the strongest, then “Б,” etc. I have a combination of А-В groups, but generally PCVs are given the stronger pupils. I’m probably not supposed to pick favorite classes, but so far the 6A (in Ukrainian we say шостий-А = “shosti-ah”) class really stands out. They know enough English to answer my questions and even have mini-discussions. The 11th Form will also be fun because they speak well enough to have conversations and debates. I want to introduce poetry and/or short stories to these groups at some point. If you know any short/easy-ish/fun poems and/or stories that I could use to teach my students, please email them to me or post them in a comment!
One of the (many) interesting parts of working at a Ukrainian school is the ever-shifting schedule. Today I arrived at school ready to teach two regular-length — 45-minute — lessons. However, when I arrived at the 2Б classroom, my fellow teacher told me all classes today and tomorrow will be only 30 minutes, and the breaks — usually 10-15 minutes long — will be only 5 minutes. Naturally, I asked “Why?” and received the answer that January 13-14 is the Old New Year (Старий Новий Рік), still celebrated by some here in Ukraine — it’s the start of the New Year on the Julian calendar, the same calendar which dictates that Ukrainian (Orthodox) Christmas be on 6-7 January. Just when I thought all the holidays were over! Again, the flexibility that the Peace Corps always stresses comes in handy. “Change my 45-minute lessons into 30-minute ones?” I asked myself. “No problem!”
More stories to come, no doubt. Below is a photo slideshow of my classroom for the next two years.