Greece: English Classes

I had my first “real” English lesson the other day. Different from the day where I offered activities in English, this is a TRUE lesson with a white board and everything.
The kids sit down silently and wait for me to begin. We sing the alphabet in beautiful unison. I invite the children up one at a time to write the letters of the alphabet on the board. We introduce ourselves and spell our names. Later, we go through and think of a word that begins with each letter. They are creative and clever. They give me a standing ovation when the hour is up, and leave the room in single file.

Just kidding. It’s fucking chaos. 

It takes 15 minutes to get the kids to settle down. Everyone is screaming and running around. I ask some of them to leave, some do, some don’t and just get worse. Some of the kids are maybe 3, and some are 10, so natural the levels of English vary drastically. Arabic is wildly different from English so I just start with the alphabet and go from there. I invite the kids up one at a time to write the letters on the board but after E, all of them are up there, scribbling things down, grabbing the markers from each other, drawing Js and Ss backwards, and all asking me to check their work, while I try to congratulate and correct at the same time. Eventually I get them all to sit back down. One of the three year olds has started crying so now I have a baby on my hip and am asking students to spell their names on the board. Kids are in and out of the room at their leisure. By the end of the hour only two of the older children have stayed and we’re completing our alphabet of random English words. They don’t want class to finish which is beautiful and I’m flattered, but even IIIIIII want class to end. I go to wash my hands after class, having asked a 3 year old to spit a plastic bead out into my hand, and find there’s marker on my face and arms. How does that get there without me noticing????

Most hectic hour of my LIFE. I knew teaching here wouldn’t be like Spain but…oh my god.

In Spain I could tell the kids at school to go back to their classroom. I used to be the fun teacher, and came to interrupt their grammar classes for some speaking practice in small groups. Sending kids out of my class was the easiest punishment. They’d be disciplined by someone out. In my private lessons, their mothers were usually in the other room or coming back at the end of the hour so they had to behave.

What do I do here? Threaten to tell their parents who may not even know they’re in an English class right now? Take 10 minutes off their recess?? There IS no recess.
It’s a struggle.
I plan to divide the class into smaller half hour groups next time and hope for the best. I’ll learn as I go.

We have an incident in the clothing distribution room with a confederate flag. Yeah, you read that correctly. One of the boys, I’d guess around 13 years old, had found it last week and has been wearing it like a bandana. Of course, at 13, being told to throw it away only makes you want to wear it more so he fights us on it. He likes the way it looks and doesn’t believe it’s problematic because he’s been wearing it all over Athens and no one has yelled at him. We explain the racism thing, and try to equate it to us wearing an ISIS flag. Even if people in Canada didn’t know what it was… would that make it okay? Nah. Eventually we get him to hand it over, rip it in half, and throw it away.
Who donates a confederate flag?!?! I don’t imagine extreme racists as the type to donate to refugees…

We’ve been having water activities every day because it’s 40 degrees outside. 39 today. I am actually melting. I laugh and play and tell the kids not to shoot me with their water guns and balloons, but really I’m stoked when someone douses me with the hose. Do it again, I’m still too hot!

Way too hot for a classroom

I have chosen some favourite kids. I know you’re not supposed to but let’s be honest here, some kids are the worst. Ironically, the young Iraqi boy who’s mother screamed at me the other day for excluding him, is my favourite.
The days pass quickly but are filled with activities. We buy supplies for arts and crafts every day which has been a lot of fun. Bracelet making. Painting. Play doh. A whole solar system tomorrow! But oh, how the supplies disappear quickly. The kids always ask if they can bring entire bags of water balloons or full colouring books to their homes. When I say no, I hear them discussing how they will “Ali Baba” the item, which I have learned means steal. I like to believe I stop most of them, but all 24 of my new white board markers are already missing so…

In the evenings we usually pass by our favourite bar, Nosotros (a Spanish name, of course) for a couple cervezas. It’s a quaint little roof top patio overlooking the square by the school, accessible by a rickety metal winding staircase. You’d never want to have more than 1 or 2 beers here, because you could easily fall to your death or at LEAST a broken bone.

Stairway to Nosotros

Our house now has 6 volunteers. More to come next week. I snagged the best room as I was first to arrive, but I’ve been feeling terrible about having the only air conditioning unit, so I invite everyone to squeeze in. We take the mattress from the second room, as well as 2 single blow up mattresses, and manage to squeeze all 6 of us in there at a comfortable 21 degrees as opposed to the 34 outdoor temperature.

Slumber Party!

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