Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Job

I realize that since I’ve started my actual work, I haven’t really written about it. So here you go. Sorry this got a little long. Skip the first part about scheduling if you wanna. I don't really have pictures of me teaching, because I'm teaching during those times. :) I will work on this. 

My work week has been in the neighborhood of 32 hours, pretty consistently. It may be a little more starting this week due to clubs finally happening.

My school’s schedule is pretty typical for a Mongolian complex school, I think. A complex school is a school that has all grades, 1st-12th. The day is divided into two sections. High school students, grades 9-12, have classes in the morning, from 8am to 1:15pm. Middle school students, grades 5-8, have classes in the afternoons/evenings, from 1:30pm – 6:45pm. I don’t work with elementary students, so I’m not sure when they have classes.

There are seven blocks of time in the morning, and seven blocks of time in the evening. Each block is 40 minutes long. So there are 14 class periods in a day.

I have three Mongolian counterparts (CPs). I teach one English class with each of them. On Mondays, I co-teach 9th grade for two class periods (2 “hours” as the teachers call them, even though the “hour” is only 40 minutes) and again on Thursday for one hour. Both days this class starts at 9:30am, which is the earliest class I have during the week.

On Wednesdays, I co-teach 2 “hours” of 5th grade, and again on Friday for one hour. Also on Wednesdays, I co-teach 2 hours of 8th grade from 5:20-6:45, and again on Thursdays for one hour starting at 6pm.

I also teach English to my CPs three hours a week. And there is a separate class for my CPs who will be participating in the teachers’ Olympics competition in the spring, also three hours a week.

This week, we are also finally starting with the clubs at my school. Once a week, I will co-teach an English class for teachers and school workers that want to learn English. We had the first class on Monday, and although only 3 teachers showed up, I think they all really enjoyed it. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the class stayed that small.

I will co-teach an English speaking club for middle school students Wednesdays at 12 and for high school students Thursday afternoons. The middle school club will be one hour, but the high school club will be split into two groups I think, 9-10th and 11-12th.

Altogether, I have 19 hours of teaching every week. Outside of that, I meet with each of my CPs individually to lesson plan about 2-3 hours each, and I lesson plan by myself for the English classes I teach to my CPs. I have also been typing up all the lesson plans on my computer for all the classes I co-teach, and occasionally, I have to prepare materials for classes, but my CPs usually take care of this.

In a broader view, my Mondays are pretty nice, only one “real” class with 9th grade. Tuesdays, I have NO real classes. On Tuesdays, I have my CPs come to my apartment to lesson plan and have CP English and Olympics classes. Since I don’t have an office and the one small teachers’ room is often crowded and noisy, it’s nice to have a day where my CPs aren’t distracted. Wednesdays are my hump days, for sure. 5th and 8th grade, 2 hours each, and I don’t get home until 7. Thursday is like a bookend day. 9th in the morning, 8th at the very end, not too much going on in the middle. And Fridays are pretty good, just 5th grade and CP classes. No lesson planning or late nights.

Classes themselves have been going pretty well. The 5th graders are all so excited about learning English, and they always seem to make me feel like a rock star. It’s easy to have fun teaching them. 8th graders are my least favorite, just because they can get unruly in a matter of seconds. This is also just me trying to work out classroom management skills, and my CP for this class can’t communicate on the spot with me very well. 9th graders are great. Some of them are reluctant to participate, but if I keep pushing those students, they will eventually work with me. The majority of the class seems really into English.

One thing that makes it difficult to teach here is the lack of materials and resources. Every school is different here in those terms, but I really feel it at my school. In my 8th and 9th grade classes, they only have 5 or 6 books for the whole class. They share maybe 5 or 6 students to one book.

My access to a printer is not ideal. I haven’t had to print anything personally, which is nice. My CPs always print any materials we need for class, but my school charges 100 Tugriks for each piece of paper you print. This converts to about 5 cents, but this can really add up when you’re printing things for every student, especially on a PC budget.

Speaking of which, I know you are dying to hear about class size. I don’t know what the average Mongolian class size is, but I can tell you about my school. My 5th grade class has 24 students, my 8th grade has maybe 26, and my 9th grade class has about 22. In my school, there are probably about 25-80 students in each grade. They are divided into different homerooms. For example, I teach the 8th B class. There is also an 8th A class that I don’t teach.

I am starting to feel pretty settled in with my job. The two main challenges for me have been scheduling and communicating. Communication is always going to be a challenge, I think, but the more I work with my CPs, the better we get with communicating with each other. Scheduling is just hard. It’s the clash of Mongolian and American ideas about time and priorities. I have a schedule worked out for my week of classes, CP classes, and times to lesson plan. I kid you not when I say there hasn’t been one week when something hasn’t been moved, changed, or canceled.

That being said, the more I’m here, the more I get used to it. Teaching is getting easier for me, even though it’s hard for me to label myself as a teacher. It’s not a bad job, and I appreciate all the teachers and professors I ever had classes with so much more because of this experience, but as a career, I don’t think it’s for me.

But I digress. We’ve been at our site for 2 months now, and time is not slowing down. Work is steady and good, and I feel needed. It’s nice and I’m happy!


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