it’s officially june which means school is over in ukraine, and summer has officially begun. can i get an HALLELUIA??!?! i might be a little bit more than just excited to finish my first year of teaching in ukraine. and boy, oh bozje (oh my god), has it been a year!
a school year that began at one school with me knowing absolutely nothing about what i was doing, to ending at another school, broke up a few fights in-between, and quickly gained knowledge of the school system in ukraine (for the most part) and the power of a red pen (muhaha).
and while school is technically over, i’m still required to be at school every morning from 8am – noon for two more weeks. but this time i’m in my element playing with kids at a language day camp and dealing out uno cards instead of grades. summer in ukraine is what TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language) volunteers look forward to all year long. not just because we don’t have lessons, but because our summer of endless sunflower fields and late night river swims, means we get to 3 months of camp time and pcv camaraderie.
i have to admit, and not so proudly but truthfully, that i don’t really enjoy teaching in ukraine…during the school year that is. yup, the secret is out. but let me clarify before i get called a hypocrite if i ever buy that pc ‘toughest job you’ll ever love’ shirt. i love kids. they’re just universally awesome. even the bad ones. and i love teaching and getting students excited about learning. and pretty sure what i’ll end up doing back in america. the thing that keeps bringing me to think ‘oh my gooooood i have another YEAR of this?! why couldn’t i be a youth development volunteer??’ comes down to discipline and the school system in ukraine.
now i don’t mean to say that ukraine’s system sucks and america is BEST in any way. sort of. the american school system certainly has it’s problems too. but there is something to be said about a system where a student can never fail (zeros don’t exist), cheating as you’ve never seen before that would give an american teacher an aneurism, and the only form of discipline is getting yelled at by the teacher, head master, or grandma. (keep in mind this is from the perspective of a village dweller. and from what i’ve seen and heard, city schools are much different. as in the kids behave better.)
for the most part ukrainian teachers yelling and marking 1 (lowest) thru 12 (highest) in their shodeniks (daily grade book) does an okay job. but whenever i step into that classroom, the students excitedly and flatteringly ask ‘you’re with us today?? you’re with us!?!’ and after a collective ‘HORRAY!!!’ ensues, the shit show begins. and if you thought discipline in a classroom was hard, try having to do it in a different language. not so fun.
the majority of the time i’m alone in my classroom (i’m hoping to fix that next year), which is a huge source of the troubles because unlike my colleagues, i still haven’t mastered (and will never) the booming yell and book slamming and ukrainian/russian isn’t my native language (not sure if you knew that). and while i’ve certainly improved my mean teacher face and search tactics when they lie about not having their grade book, i’ll never be able to be the kind of teacher they’re used to. the ‘friendly teacher’ is a rarity here, though i’ve noticed a few young teachers are more willing to try that approach so it will be interesting to see where this still very soviet system will be in the next 30 years or so.
maybe i shouldn’t have written this at the end of the school year, after a good terrorizing month of summer-ready kids (and teachers), after ‘devil dima’ and his throwing backpacks out of the classroom day, or making my cute 4th formers cry after following through with disciplining threats. maybe the school year didn’t end on the best of notes, but what i’m trying to say through this 6 paragraph long rant: summer is awesome. this time of year gives me the satisfaction that i love what i’m doing here. something that is hard to remember during the oh so trying ukrainian school year days.
working summer camps is the highlight to my year and leaves me with memories that i try to replace with the ridiculously not so great (but laughable) classroom ones. most volunteers love summer camp season because of just that. it’s a 3 month long high of being with friends, running around with kids, and not worrying about classroom management. if i had it my way, it’d be summer all year long (but with fall temperatures because i love my cardigan weather). i think students, teachers, and volunteers alike would heartily cheer ‘hear! hear!’ to that.
happy summer! and now for some end of the school year/1st week of summer camp photos : )