October 3, 2010 § Leave a comment
Pat myself on the back, I successfully finished my first week of teaching at NKU. 21 hours of “What is your name?”, “What is an adjective?” and excessive finger wagging. I’m sitting back this weekend, popping the lid of a nice cool ayran and trying to organize my new life.
I arrived in Tekirdag on Saturday after a 9 hour bus from Ankara. I was told the ride was only 7 hours, but that estimate didn’t take into account an engine problem that stopped us twice, various loud driver/passenger/toll both collector arguments, and dead-stop traffic around Istanbul.
I was met at the Tekirdag bus station by Hakan, co-director of the English department. He packed my luggage in his minivan, started the engine, and asked pretty incredulously, “So you’re really here for a year?” Way to make me feel confident in my decision, Hakan! We drove to the NKU campus hotel (my home for the next 2-3 weeks) and Hakan helped me check in—good thing, because the staff (actually NKU students) doesn’t speak English. I was joined at the hotel by Alex, a fellow Fulbrighter, fellow Tekirdagli for the year, and future super best friend 4 life xoxo. We spent the night eating burnt kofte, drinking campus-produced white wine in the hotel restaurant, and wondering just how we ended up in this city.
The next day, Dudu and Elif (two other NKU English teachers) took us on a car tour of Tekirdag. NKU is actually about a 20 minute drive from the center of the city, and the landscape change from brown hills, scattered apartment blocks, and American-style shopping centers to a dense, lively downtown area was much appreciated. We wolfed down some famous Tekirdag kofte and piyar, drank some tea and walked along the seaside promenade. Hakan, Dudu, and Elif, while surprised that we are here, are happy to practice their English with native speakers. Surprisingly, none of them has visited the UK or the US. Cultural ambassadors to the rescue!
Since we arrived in Turkey, we have been desperately trying to ask NKU what kind of classes we would teach this year. After constantly being put off, we were told to stop by Monday morning at 8:30 am for our programs. Classes start Monday at 8:45 am. Yeah. At 8:30 the programs still weren’t completely ready, but Dudu managed to eke out our sections and classrooms and off we went to shock and awe our students with our amazing native speaker abilities.
Alex and I are teaching Hazirlik students this year. Hazirlik literally means something like “preparation”, and that’s what our students are doing: preparing for university-level English. NKU tests entering students’ English with a pre-year exam. Students who fail must spend an entire year studying English (and only English!) at Hazirlik. At the end of the year, they take another exam. If they pass, they’re allowed to being their university careers. If they fail, they must repeat Hazirlik. What lucky ducks!
Hazirlik feels like some combination of high school and university. They’re grouped by ability level (A, B, and C) and each group sits in the same classroom all day–the English teachers come to them. The maturity level of the students is also reminiscent of high school. The girls are relatively calm and patient while the boys want to poke each other and chat incessantly in Turkish. My goal=focus that energy to English.
It’s hard to get to know my students well because there are so many of them. I have 10 class sections which meet for 1 hour twice a week and 1 class for 1 hour once a week, and each class has about 25 students. Alex has the same schedule. We’re trying to keep our classes on the same lesson plans to coordinate with their other English classes and facilitate co-planning. In fact, that’s what I’m off to do now—a Sunday morning lesson planning session so we can show our visiting friend Dara around later. More information to come about teaching, Tekirdag, a Turkish wedding, and more!