10/10/2011

Another School Year Starts...

I have not had the time or motivation to write for the last month. But that's all going to change, I promise. It was PC World's job to give my laptop a free 'health check-up' and general clean-out while I was in England, I don't know what their intentions were, but since entering Turkish territory the laptop has sat in a coma under my desk unable to switch-on.

At the time of writing the school year is three weeks in. A number of changes have unsettled me and brought serious questions to my mind about what I'm supposed to be doing here anyway. This was an internal debate I had had whilst in England but didn't rush into any conclusion. Well it's dawning on me that maybe I knew what to do, I just didn't want to take the risk to think of anything else to do until it was too late. I've now been pushed into action.



Nightmare Class

In the last school year I had the 'nightmare class' twice a week. The nightmare class was made up of fifteen or so 5th grade boys. Granted I haven't any experience in single-sex schools, but I see mixed-gender as having a calming effect on boys. Girls' far more rapid growth of maturity has a kind of civilising effect on their male counterparts who would otherwise (our 5th grade as a case in point) be dancing on the tables. I tried everything to calm that class down but unfortunately I think my visably young age and none-Turkishness was the main disabling factor as it always is, even in none-extreme cases. That, and the fact they were, as a collective unit at least, just awful kids.

As my discipline techniques fell one by the other I got so wore down that for a week I decided to appeal to the masses: The old Roman bread and games format kept my sanity from going astray. Simply replace 'bread' with 'films' and you have a teachers' guide book to splendid isolationism. Except that the crowds wanted more. Every lesson upon entry it was the same; "Watch film, watch film... teacher, watch film!" Eventually I cracked. "Watch a film you say?" "Yeess, watch film please teacher". I grudgingly conceded to the wild screams of the crowd who were still busy adjusting their chairs to get a view of the monitor when they realised I had took their commands literarly and was sat at my desk watching Indiana Jones on the laptop for the next half an hour.

The next classes were full of alot of resentment on my part. I was done - which is a shame to say what with every child being special ect ect, but then i'm only human and took it personally - the other classes were doing fine. Only one thing made the situation barable: I would be working for the high school next year, a fact I would regularly rub in their faces to incit some guilt.

The Discontent Mounts

Why do I mention all this? Well it is relevant to how I feel today because during the summer that light was snatched away from me in an extraordinary but every-day example of politics and misinformation in the Turkish workplace.

I had gone across the city to check with the general manager regarding the certainty of my coming position at the high school (as apose to working in the kindergarden and primary). His support was confirmed, depending on what the principles and others decided. The head of English in the high school, the eminent Hale hanim, also confirmed her support so it was a suprise when my work mediator (or 'meddler', invariably), Oguzhan, showed up at my house as I was packing up to leave for England during the school holidays.

"Firstly, you will have to go to a few meetings next year - they want that." Fair enough, I thought - the feeling that if everyone was going to stay behind an hour a week, I should be no exception was palpable when I had to cheekily sneak in and out of one meeting to collect my bag. My Turkish is good enough that I can have a half-decent conversation with the other teachers, so who are they to know that it is rather too testing to have a solid fifty minutes of Turkish listening on the topic of new books, programme changes and 'which room is best to have the next meeting in.'

"Secondly," Oguzhan continued, "They want you to stay in the primary." "What?" I exclaimed, you mean all my threats to 5B would have been a lie? What followed was a typical example of the uselessness of any notions of freedom of information in Turkey. Information more often than not, conflicts.

The Wild Goosechase

According to Oguzhan I was not given the job because they have classes full of girls and they were worried they might be attracted to me. Proposterous. 'What kind of guy do they think I am' and such thoughts aside, there was no girls' class - it is a mixed school of mixed classes.

I immediately e-mailed the predictably frank head of high school language department asking if it was true.

"Actually, new primary school principle Yunus hoca doesn't want any other native but you. So as far as I know there will be a new native teacher for high school. But I don't know who he/she is yet. So you'll be in primary school next year."

Ah, of course, the only boss I'd ever loved, Hamit Yolcu, had taken his moustachio'd smile and beaming eminence to Sivas to begin teaching religion and give up to stoic elitist culture of high-ranking private school officials which he alone seemed to have never been affected by anyway. I was going to miss him, but Yunus was aimable enough, despite being a strict teacher, who I had worked with whilst he was a class teacher for 'the good' 5th grade class. I decided to e-mail Yunus asking why the decision had been made and expressing my shock, although being British I didn't directly imply guilt on his part. Sometimes I wish I wasn't born on that tiny island of diplomats because subtlty just doesn't work everywhere. He simply replied;

Haberim yok Liam... Ama yoneticilere sorarim, hayirli ramazanlar...

In other words:

I don't know nothing... I only work here... I might ask someone that has a bigger title than me but I probably won't. Have a nice ramadan.

I might have spiced up the vocabulary bur the translation is more accurate than you might think. So I took all of this information back to Oguzhan, giving him a chance to go back on the whole girl/boy divide arguement which was based on wild conjecture.

His reply:

Students are all girls. They do noot want them to fall in love with a teacher like you. Funny. Handsome.

My reply:

Your very kind, but what about classes with boys? Can't they fall in love with women teachers even more easily? It just makes me think they don't think I could handle it. And especially after the recommendations it wasn't nice.

His reply:

Oh yes, he didn't reply. That was it, although it has been some comfort to have got my friend Shabnam to work here. More on that next update.

2 comments:

  1. And for your next update, in a deliciously ironic twist, you end up falling in love with a 16 year old...

    Srsly tho, hang in there bud, hope it gets better for you. I'm weighing up that tefl offer...

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  2. the irony! yeah i might be onto something exciting right now. mum's the word. in the meantime just get the damn thing and the world be your oista.

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