As per bloody usual my plans have changed (again) regarding writing about my feelings after my first month as an English teacher in Siberia. My plan, was to write a guest post for another site, but I’ve had some time to think/ procrastinate and upon said thinking/ procrastinating I have decided to keep my story here.
Thankfully, I have acknowledged some changes in myself since my arrival (about three months ago); not just professionally but personally. Which I’d definitely like to share… so you get the coffee and I’ll bring the tiny chocolate ladies.
Just in case you ever intend on flying in to, out of or around
Moscow Russia, please bring a phrasebook. I woke up at Sheremetyevo, after a short nap, to find both an undisputedly snail-like trail of sleep spittle navigating its way down my chin and my connecting flight to Tyumen cancelled. When I tried to rectify this issue, with any member of staff that seemed available, I was turned away and tutted at for interrupting their otherwise not so busy shifts. I did eventually find a manager of sorts and she quickly had me booked on the next available flight. I’m pretty sure a Russian phrasebook in this instance would have helped, as it would when I went to use my complimentary food voucher in the only Irish bar in the world without an English menu.
However, should you be tight enough not to invest in a phrasebook, and you need a quick run down of words and phrases that I use at least once every day… then please read on.
Hello / Здравствуйте (zdravstvuyte)
Can you help, please? / Помогите, пожалуйста (pamageetye, pazhaloosta)
Sorry / Извините (izveeneetye)
Where…? / Где…? (gdye…?)
Thank you / Спасибо (spaseeba)
I don’t speak Russian / Я не говорю по-русский (ya ne gavaryoo pa-rooskiy)
Do you speak English? / Вы говорите по-английски (vy gavareetye pa-ngleeyskee)
Can I have, please…? / Можно, пожалуйста (moozhna, pazhaloosta)
So that’s where my story really started, and I’m pleased to report that yes, my Russian has improved and no, I don’t know how to swear. Everyone at the school was amazing when I first arrived and have continued to be an incredible support network over the months I’ve been here. I spent my first few days introducing myself to my classes, being shown around town, eating in cafes far too often and enjoying my own private apartment (for the first time in my life).
I guess normally these accounts then continue along the lines of “and then all the work hit me,” but it just didn’t. My school did a wonderful job of easing me in to a full timetable over the next two weeks. At no point did I feel that my life was out of control or that I was experiencing much outside of my comfort zone. I look back at my itty-bitty 15 hour timetable and cringe at how long I actually spent planning my lessons. I’d say on average I now spend 30-40 minutes planning each 90 minute lesson and many of those activities can be recycled and used again in other classes and conversation clubs.
I actually have more time to myself now with 24 hours of classes than I did in those early days, relearning how to print worksheets back to back and formatting tables in the Russian equivalent of Word.
I realised very quickly that I had a completely unique style of teaching, but everybody does. It worried me at first that the students I shared with other teachers hated my style; occasionally I was met with a few blank stares. However, after a few beautiful people assured me that I was doing a great job for a newbie, I came to see that the glazed eyes were either cases of ‘serious concentration face’ or mishearing an instruction.
Turns out I have the ability to speak abnormally fast when nervous.
I’m not going to delve into a top ten tips of being a great teacher here, as I’m currently on an upwards learning curve myself. But if I had any advice at all, it would be to relax. I’ve astounded myself with how well I’ve coped and adapted in this role because I force myself to chill.
Anyone that knew me as a university student would be absolutely stunned to find out that I can now stand up in front of a class of adult pupils and speak without crying. I’m most definitely referring to my abysmal contribution to our third year presentation, of which I spent most of our rehearsals sobbing in the girls’ toilets.
Part of me thinks that I’ve finally started scratching the surface of adulthood; I’ve found myself on a career path that suits me to a T, living on my own has taught me that not taking the bins out for a week is probably definitely not a good idea and every time I pass the supermarket I just have to buy coconut scented tea lights (maybe because of the bins?).
But despite this experience forcing me to adult a little bit harder, it’s more than generous in allowing me to act like a big child. Not a lesson goes by without a spontaneous act of immaturity, whether it be singing, dancing, joking, cheering or acting. It’s cathartic to sing Jingle Bells with 10 year olds, and it’s satisfying to hear teenagers laughing at your jokes. I’ve not only discovered this side of myself that can control and lead a room full of people but also the face of an unashamed and slightly immature extrovert. I AM ZOYA FIERCE.
In short, English teachers wanted – Only responsible Kidults need apply