foreign language week

it’s that time of year. no, no, i’m not referring to christmas. i mean that time of year, the one that comes ever so often, the one that makes me feel like i’m actually doing something in ukraine. a feeling that makes my work feel worthwhile  — something that helps me feel like i’m actually doing something and the past 2 years of my life haven’t been completely in vain.

as a teacher of english in the developing country of ukraine, it’s hard to feel useful all of the time. the outcome of your work isn’t actually countable or measurable so it’s easy to question your purpose or effectiveness. but this week, foreign language week at school, was not one of those times. the past 2 weeks have been busy full days of actual things to do, presentations to make, videos to edit, and songs to sing. i tacked on hours at school with the kids and while it sort of thew me off on my running schedule (no sunlight left for me), i loved feeling busy, productive, needed, and useful (who doesn’t?).

the week was filled with open lessons (practiced and uber planned lessons observed by the school administration and other teachers), presentations (where i introduced hanukkah for the first time to a room full of teachers and students), and a concert. it was wonderful to interact more with the school director (who is very kind to me) and the other foreign language teachers. not only that but i also received ‘thank you’s for my work. a festivus miracle!!

it was a whirlwind of a week but such a blast. the concert, that i originally dreaded, went wonderfully and the kids had so much fun — which is the only thing that really mattered. i was so glad my site mate sarah walked over from her school and got to be a ‘panel judge’ with me. i was quite suprised i was called to be a judge when my english club performed in the concert. needless to say, my group got first place.

i swear it’s not because i’ve learned the ukrainian bribing game and slipped a few hryvnyas under the table, or that they were even really that great, i think the director was just being very generous. and generous she was since my group was amongst 7 other 1st places and 7 2nd places. the director didn’t have the heart to make anyone last, so everyone’s a winner!!

the concert ended with a mass sing-a-long to selena gomez’s ‘i love you like a love song baby’ and smiles all around. since the concert took place on wednesday, also saint nicholas day in ukraine, our school was visited by saint nick himself (really just a very reluctant 11th former of mine). with the kids festively sporting santa hats, dancing around post-concert with such merriment, and a few photos with santa, all of the sudden it felt a bit more like christmas.

up until now, it hasn’t felt much like christmas here in ukraine. we’ve got the cold part down quite alright but since christmas is celebrated on the 7th of january in ukraine things aren’t as christmast-y as back home. not to mention new years is the bigger holiday for ukrainians (also when most gifts are exchanged). so despite my 5 inch christmas tree, christmas lights, and belting of christmas carols behind closed doors, it’s not really christmas here.

but next week it will be. i’ve deiced to stay here at site rather than travel north for a christmas party, which means i’ll go to school on christmas like any normal day. but i’m not just staying because of the cold, i swear!! this week reminded me just how much i enjoy making my students happy. they get so excited about english club or any party we throw so i felt by skipping town i’d be depriving them of that…and myself too (i love a school christmas party!)

one of my favorite memories last christmas at the boarding school was showing ‘how the grinch stole christmas’ on my laptop (with russian subtitles) to some students. i baked cookies and poppy seed bread and we all sat there huddled around the small screen with my blinking christmas lights taped on the wall. it made me so happy, so fulfilled to see them happy. i’m here for them after-all. seeing their joy and hearing them walk down the hall singing christmas carols makes everything worth it.

i’ve been at this site for 10 months now with only 5-ish to go. and yet i just now feel like i’m finally connecting with my students on a closer level, getting to really know them (even if a few of them still call me the name of the last volunteer). i guess it’s no surprise, it took about the same amount of time to feel ‘part of the pack’ at my other site. in that aspect it’s a pity that i haven’t been with the same kids or site the whole time.

so i enjoy all the moments i have to spend with them. while preparing to my final open lesson my 5th formers just wanted to hangout and watch me work. they asked all sorts of questions:

how old are you? — 25 (they swear i could pass for 18, ha!)
do you have a boyfriend? — no
and why not? — hmm didn’t know how to answer that one. i should have stuck with my original ‘santa claus is my boyfriend’ answer that i gave them this summer.
is this tape dispenser from england? — no, it’s from ukraine. and i’m not from england.
do you want to get married — yes, someday
do you want to be a mother? — yes, someday
do you have a lot of markers at home? — uh, yes?
how many kids do you want? — i told them 20 (this caused an uproar of shock and laughter, i reassured them i was kidding.)

but it’s moments like this that i’ll miss — joking, laughing, speaking at a ukrainian/russian language level i feel confident in…of course all of that is more fun that actually teaching. but really i love those goofballs. they brighten up my day during these gloomy winter months. so while i might not be home for christmas like i wish for in my dreams, at least i’ll be sharing some christmas cheer with some adorable lil kids.
now please enjoy the plethora of media from this week below:

school news video i put together (shot and edited) for the 9th form open lesson on television. they only had a few days to try and memorize the lines my counterpart gave them. don’t feel bad if you can’t really understand them, i myself sometimes have a difficult time, but still they did a great job!

5th form class singing a 1938 russian wartime song about a girl, Katyusha, and her lover away at war. it’s originally in russian but they’re singing in german for foreign language week.

(click a photo to view in gallery setting)

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