21/11/2011

Greece, and Why I don't want to teach anymore.

Father forgive me, it has been a whole month since my last blog...
Far from representing a lull in my activities here, the last month has seen a remarkable renaissance in my time here.

I was at my wit's end a month ago. The school dynamic had changed so much and both kids and teachers were zapping my energy. With nothing to do in the evenings for inspiration I could see myself being easily drawn back into the monotone work-in-the-week-Taksim-on-the-weekends cycle so common amongst the foreign drones of Istanbul, but with none of novelty and excitement that the city's party capital offered in the first year. It's time to break out.


Two decisions have changed everything: Firstly, instead of spending breaks at school drinking chay and slamming my head against a black board, I started to invest in scouring craiglist – a fantastic website for finding apartments, roomies – and with enough persistence it transpires, new career opportunities in trade, business, journalism and er,miscellaneous.

My second decision was simply, as soon as possible, to get out of Istanbul to seek the kind of experience that inspired my Zaman article, written a few months ago with the aid of a long-time friend and a couple of cool dude Syrian activists.

The first decision has made me a busy fellow indeed. Writing articles for magazines here and there, going to interviews for jobs that would have had me travel from to Malaysia and back, and currently has me in the runnings for a sweet editing job for Today's Zaman. All this after failed attempts – but attempts none-the-less – with Hurriyet and a whole host of other newspapers. Needless to say, if there is a message that any foreigner in Istanbul can take from my rambling posts from this day forward it is that our addiction to Istanbul, the drug on which we all get hooked, needn't be funded by walking into rooms full of screaming children to explain the continuous tense. (Continuous being the keyword here, because it feels like it is going on FOREVER)

Simply go to the jobs page and scour every day those positions not catagorised a“egitim/ogretmenlik” (education/teaching) and reply to them and blag it from there. If you can get paid to walk into a room and talk your own language for 40 minutes at a time who knows what you can do if you actually put effort into it (this is the zeal of convert talking – repent and accept craigslist as your personal saviour).

My next decision took me to a place called Greece, apparently not far from here. By the golden bosoms of Athena, I have seen another world. I went to Salonika (Thessaloniki) with the expectation of witnessing the downfall of a government and anger on streets. Admittedly, by the time I left, Greece indeed had no government and a load of Socialist were outside being all angry, but from up-close this was no way as interesting as the left-wing press made out. What was interesting to me was far more personal – it was the first time I had gone to a country knowing little of the language and culture and with no particular job to do for a long time, and it increased my observational lens regarding Turkey upon return.

Istanbul has an English course centre on every street corner, people are paid to hand out leaflets for the many competing derhanes and meanwhile, the government is trying everything to increase language skills in the country. But this will take a long time to reach the levels of every surrounding country from Greece to Syria – a significant change has to happen in the education sector, and in society as a whole, if learning is to become a worthwhile endeavor for the population at large. Modern pedagogical techniques are a very recent development in Turkey, and private schools have lead the way – but they are constantly undermined by parent involvement, lack of disipline and over-emphasis on technology. Greece is another story. The average Greek's English skills range from average to near-perfect, young and old – and with a notable absence of language schools in the process.

I pray the best for Turkish teaching, but for now we have to part ways. I'm quite tired of being given money without contributing anything to kids paying top-dollar to complain all day that we are not playing games or watching films. Time to move on. Time for redemption.

3 comments:

  1. I've also questioned the value of private courses because it seems they tend to undermine the purpose of government schools. Why should a child have to go to a private course if they have already spent untold years in a classroom, allegedly learning English? if nothing else, it's a waste of time. (They could be learning something more valuable like civics or something)
    Also it reinforces the problem of a two-tiered system where people who are rich- who already have more than enough opportunities for advancement- are given yet another advantage by paying for private lessons. (Of course, the same thing is happening more and more all over the world.)

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  2. You should be a writer or a journalist, Liam! I really like your writing style!

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