Thursday, December 6, 2012

Staff English

I come up first when you search "Staff English" in Google images.
So earlier this year, I decided I need to do more work, and volunteered to take on a Staff English class.

Staff English is classes for people who work at the university, like in the tech services place and Human Resources and the gym and other mysterious university offices where people do stuff that has to be done.

The reasoning behind taking on the extra work was thus: I wanted to see what it feels like to teach grown-ups again. And I heard they're all motivated and grown-up and shit.

Also, I didn't really volunteer so much as offer myself. I'm totally getting paid for this. I'm not one of these dedicated teaching professionals that works for free, out of love for the profession. I'm a fucking asshole, didn't you know?

But the money is kind of a bonus. I actually do like teaching these people. They come to class, all in their places with bright shiny faces after a hard day's work. They shut their phones off (off, mind you, not on vibrate!) except for the ones who are parents, which is legitimate, I think. And sometimes one has on ongoing work crisis wherein he or she has to get berated by someone. But at least they ask permission to go outside the room to deal with it. And then they apologize when they come back. And they mean it.

Wanna learn future perfect continuous?
Here's another thing I like  about Staff English. They remind me a lot of the classes I used to teach in dershane, especially the housewife classes we had on weekday mornings. Lots of intrinsic motivation-- the Staff English people are there because they want to be there, and the classes are free for them. Kind of like the dershane housewives, whose husbands were paying for the classes. There's also a social aspect-- the Staff English people come because they want to do something different, and meet new people and interact with them in a new way. Same for the morning housewives. They were just bored at home, and came to English classes between their knitting lessons and ebru classes and afternoon shopping.

Here's what I don't like about Staff English. Like dershane students, they don't learn very much, and very few of them actually improve. But at least they're cheerful about it.

It was fun at first. Wait. No it wasn't.
The only reason I've been able to pull off this Staff English thing is that LE normally goes to his grandparents' on Wednesday nights. I say "grandparents'" because I know it's not his dad who takes care of him for half the week (his dad moved back in with his parents, as I'm sure I've mentioned). "Grandparents'" is even a stretch, because I know it's his Babaanne who does all the looking after-- the cooking and washing and arranging meetings with little friends and putting to bed and getting up in the middle of the night to make French fries on demand, because that's the sort of person she is. His dad takes him to the mall to play games, or to McDonald's, and his Dede engages him in Big Conversations to teach him stuff, and also plays with him for as long as it's fun.

What, this never happened to you?
But this past weekend, a cousin got married. It's not enough to say "a cousin." One has to be specific about the family relations. Last weekend, the daughter of the MIL's closest sister got married. So you can see it was big. Thursday night was the kına gecesi, and the wedding was Saturday. In response to all the Big Feelings, all the menfolk (LE included) got sick and needed constant Looking After. MIL got a stress rash on her face and couldn't find time to get her roots done for the wedding.

MIL (not the ex, mind you) asked if I could keep the boy over the weekend. Of course I said yes without even thinking about it. Not just because it meant I got to hang out with the boy for an extra long stretch of time. Also because it's rare the MIL stops sacrificing herself on the altar of Everyone Else for even one second, to look after her own well-being.

But I said "yes" without considering my obligations. Like Staff English, who were due for a midterm exam, as per the unreasonable request of Human Resources. There was also the President's dinner, a yearly event at Rektör Bey's house we all get invited to each year, and this was the first year I've accepted the invitation.

So I thought, "I'll be damned if I pay for a sitter for 2 nights. LE can just come to class with me."

Which of course was touchy, with the midterm and all. You can't have a kid running around and being cute and playing with the phone and demanding things while people are sweating through a useless midterm.

I prepared the boy well. We ate before class (tavuk döner, yay!), and then I brought him over to the room to show him how to find it, and where the toilets are, and to hook him up with some hot chocolate and a candy bar and a little desk outside the door. I searched his favorite cartoon on You Tube for him, gave him my phone, and instructed him how to knock quietly on the door if he needed anything. The other two Staff English teachers tried to lure him into their classrooms, but he wasn't having any of that.

The midterm I'd devised for Staff English was piss easy, but they sweated and struggled. At one point, I heard my phone clatter to the floor outside the room and went to check, closing the door behind me. I could hear the students cheating the moment the door closed. Seriously? A no-stakes piss easy midterm? I'll refrain from further commentary on that.

Turned out LE just wanted a different video, and he'd dropped the phone attempting to knock on the door softly, the way I'd instructed him, because the earphones had gotten tangled in his legs.

So the students finished their midterm. Like dershane students, half of them bombed it. The only part they all did well on was the part where I let them cheat, when I went out of the room to make sure my phone wasn't dead.

Oh, for fuck's sake!
I know I said I wasn't going to comment on the cheating, but the thing is, with adult people who probably in some ways have authority over me, I can't believe they waited till I was out of the room to cheat. I got all freaked out with my apparent authority over them.

As they finished their exam and left the room, most of them pinched LE's cheeks on the way out. One of them wrote me a list of stuff to get from the baharatçı, to deal with LE's cough. Apparently the cough was too much to deal with during the exam. The student who wrote it is the sweetest guy ever, and would have failed the exam, cough or not, despite the several answers I gave him in Turkish after the other students had left.

Pulled one of these.
After the break, LE joined the class for the remaining hour. He didn't want to come in, and made a big fuss about being shy. But the phone was almost dead, and I didn't want to play "I'm coming in, I'm not coming in" while I was trying to teach, so I had to pull a Mean Serious Mommy and tell him to man up and get in there. He went to the back of the room and buried his face in his arms and I started the lesson. As I was drawing some crappy shit on on the board, one of the students said, "Where's Ender?"

Because, of course, he'd melted onto the floor and crawled under three rows of tables to appear under the one in the front. He was rapt. Luckily, it was the can/can't review lesson, wherein I draw Superman and a Baby on the board and make the students say what they can and can't do.

Better than mine.
Not luckily. Actually, I'd planned the lesson while the students were taking their midterm. When I saw they'd done can/can't in their last lesson with their other teacher, I figured LE would enjoy the reinforcement and some crappy drawings on the board.

Should have followed the instructions.
The rest of the hour went fine. LE, fortunately, is very responsive to hand gestures, so I was able to make him stop whistling (Oh, yeah! He learned how to whistle last week after working on it for a year and half!) and make him wait when he wanted something mid-sentence. It was the most insane multi-tasking ever. Teach some grammar to the students. Still the boy. Answer some questions. Give the students a task. Locate paper and crayons for the boy. Take the coin he keeps dropping on the table and pocket it for later. Check the task. Ask questions. Answer questions. Ask the boy what Superman can do and write it on the board. Answer questions. Promise the boy he can have his coin back after class.

By the end of the lesson, LE had made his way into a desk in the front row. He just hung out there like it was cool.

He thinks I'm her.
Afterwards, he expressed his surprise that I am, in fact, a real teacher. Kids are so gullible. He complimented me on my board artwork. He pointed out that it was nice that even though the students didn't speak much English, they were trying really hard and doing a good job.

Ego permeable. I promise.
This week, he's back with his Babaanne. I was still feeling bad about bringing my kid to class because that was totally unprofessional even though they aren't paying for their lessons, so I started tonight's lesson by apologizing in Turkish and explaining the situation and explaining why I didn't explain it last week-- because I didn't want my kid to feel like he's a burden somehow. All the students were saying "No problem, no problem," but I could tell they didn't mean it. Or maybe they did. It's hard to say. So I told them what he'd said about them and they liked that. I've never spoken to a whole class in Turkish before-- not whole sentences, anyway. Granted there are only seven of them, three of whom I know from other university-related things and to whom I speak Turkish to all the time, but still. I'm extremely ego-permeable. I thought I wasn't nervous about speaking Turkish to them, but when I looked at my hand when I was gesturing after switching back to English, I saw it was shaking.

God dammit, but do ever I miss that little kid right now.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stranger,

I wanted to ask if you know what happened to Davidi's Elt World Discussion site? I thought you might know.

I know this doesn't have anything to do with your blog topic, but I liked the story about you taking your son to work.


Stranger said...

Hey Shawn. I figured he just shut it down, though I never asked him. There were some murmurings in the Mod Forum about how not much was going on with the discussion anymore, and that the medium had become obsolete for most topics (I know, right? Bummer. I felt super old because I knew they were right), and the whole forum had kind of been reduced to troll arguments. I know David's got a lot on his plate these days (he totally photo bombed Stephen Krashen a few weeks back) and when the forum didn't reappear for a few days, I figured he just killed it.

Thanks for liking my story :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stranger,

I hadn't posted much there recently, but I returned to the States for a few months and thought of traveling to Mexico. When I tried to check with some of the folks in the Mexico forum, the whole thing was gone. Too bad. Another Cipher in the Snow story, I guess.

Best wishes for the holidays.