Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Morning, Students!

We're slowly making our way through our pre-service training, and I just finished the practicum (i.e. student teaching) portion of the program.  For the past two weeks I've been teaching English classes each day, for grades ranging from 3rd to 10th.  It's been a huge adjustment getting used to the Azeri classroom environment, but I've had an absolute blast getting up in front of the kids and doing something that I love to do.

Here's a short list of my experiences teaching Azeri kids so far:
  • Franzied, exuberant arm-waving.  Imagine a sped-up, jittery tomahawk-chop, and you kind of get the idea.  Some students even stand up to wave their arms so they can be called on.
  • On the other hand, the kids in the back of the room are not at all used to any sort of attention at all.  So when I include them in the lesson, they light up with happiness and confusion.  
  • Students normally stay put in their seats, so getting them up and moving around is a totally new thing for them.  They pretty much lost it when I had them do a grocery shopping role-play.  One kid started to get sassy though, so I made her sit back down.
  • The lower grades are still working on the English alphabet and forming the right sounds.  I spent an entire lesson on the letters M and S.  This resulted in 45 minutes of me doing improv about milk, and singing Morrissey songs.  Believe me, I killed!
  • I had a great lesson on prepositions.  My 5th grade class went crazy when one student was UNDER the desk, another was ON the table, and the teacher was IN the box.  They also really enjoyed learning about colors and definitive statements: the jacket IS pink, it IS NOT blue!  You're damn right I was wearing an 11-year-old's fuzzy pink jacket when I taught the lesson.
  • After my teaching my first class, the Azeri teacher I was paired with looked at me sternly and said "very interesting," and quickly left the room.  By the end of practicum, I had the teachers cracking up as much as the kids, and engaging the students with a smile.  (I sealed the deal by handing out chocolate bars to the teachers we worked with.  All part of my community integration project!)

When the two weeks of student-teaching was over, we found that we were famous in our school.  Now when I walk into the building, I hear shouts of JOEY TEACHER! HELLO HOW ARE YOU I AM FINE!  One day, one of my students was hanging around after school, and I was practicing my broken Azeri language skills with him.  When I made a mistake, he giggled about it, and then said "Jory Teacher, you... is nice."  Great things are tough to come by here, but that was one of them.



  1. As your linguistics dork friend, I just want to confirm English prepositions are freaking tough for non-speakers. Especially if Azeri (?) is anything like Russian. Nerd commentary over.

    Sounds like a great lesson plan! I'm glad to hear getting kids to have a good time while learning is universal.

  2. That sounds fabulous. You'll have a great one man show when you get back to the States! Those kids are lucky to have you guys.

  3. Hope I don't hear words "I'm sorry it's not true!" from your mean dude Michael this time.
    :)Joey you are so COOL! I'm so proud of you, my bro! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I think sooner or later your students gonna say "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" everytime they get to see you around, dun't ya think? ;)

  4. I love reading these, keep them coming!

  5. So glad to hear you are Joeying it up in Azerbaijan!

  6. So happy! What great news. They will remember you and you do make a difference. I remember my favorite teachers. I can imagine you doing some improv...Any suggestions from the 4th grade folks? "Pomegranate!". OK guys, really...pomegranate again!? Try another one. "Dogs." Ok, no they scare Mr. Z. Try again. "Marsh-mellow!" OK, I can make this work. First, do you know what a s'more is?

  7. So awesome!! ESL is so much fun, and you're a rockstar!! Can't wait to read more!

  8. Some day, when you've had a very bad one (which, sadly will come), these moments will keep you motivated and keep you there. I love hearing about all your PCV experiences, often thinking about my own and feeling both very jealous and very excited for you. Now, how to fly from Malawi to you??????