Thursday, January 19, 2012

End of Marking Period

Today marks the end of my first semester teaching in Turkey so it seems like a good time to reflect upon the progress of both my students and myself. As teachers I think we all like to hope we make an impact, but in reality it's difficult to measure improvement. Here in Turkey, I am the "speaking" teacher and, as such, I've argued on several occasions, that giving a paper and pencil grammar test does not show their speaking ability, confidence, pronunciation, etc. I have asked the staff to let me develop and administer a speaking test. But, old Turkish fill-in-the-bubble-type habits are difficult to break so 1) I do not get to write the tests 2) I do not get to give speaking tests 3) I don't usually see the tests before they administer them to the students 4) I don't get to point out that the content of the tests (usually chunks copied and cut from workbook pages) might ask 90% of one type of grammar structure, miss some sections entirely, and place too much weight on irrelevant issues just to make the test point total equal 1o0 points and 5) I would answer many questions the same "wrong" way as the students because the directions are unclear...But, that doesn't matter.

So, aside from poorly designed paper and pencil tests...How do I measure improvement? My performance measures are completely subjective and would not pass a single "school improvement" benchmark, but here they are:

1)The number of students who talk to me at lunch and in the hallway has increased. When I started work here, I had a 2 or 3 students who sat with me everyday and practiced their English. But, now I have many students inviting me to their table. Currently, I'm reaching out to the shy, reluctant not-so-confident students and convincing them that they can understand at least a little of what I say or ask. Today, for example, one girl, who always used to turn to her "translator" friend for help is shushing her friend and saying "I understand. I don't need you to translate." I'll call that a win!

2) The number of English teachers who talk to me on the bus has increased. They all admitted that they were lacking confidence and did not understand me when I first came. They were afraid to talk to me because they did not think their English was "good enough". Luckily, they have all increased their effort to talk and they don't feel embarrassed to say, "They don't understand" or ask me to explain. They actually make me think...For example..They like to dance. And, they like dancing. The point is, who really cares if they use an infinitive or a gerund. Even better, they are starting to understand my jokes.

3) The number of Turkish teachers who passed their English proficiency exams to graduate from college but have never uttered a word of oral English (kind of like studying Latin) have started stringing some words together. Couple that with my rudimentary Turkish (nouns, pronouns, a few adjectives and verbs ..only in the infinitive form) we are getting to know each other and sharing some laughs.

4) The number of second graders who now understand me and then turn to their classmates to translate in Turkish word-for-word what I said in English has increased by about 40%. Now I have to tell students "no Turkish" because it's my job to help everyone understand. However, Fatih in 2B is so cute when he steps in front of his class mates, pounds his heart with his right fist, and then proudly explains in Turkish what I've just said in English.

5) The number of strangers from the sport salon (health club) and the number of school parents wanting to meet for coffee and speak English has increased. For example, I met the district manager for Coca Cola in Malatya who is very excited to practice conversational English (he is driven to rise in the Coca Cola Company but needs some English to advance) and his General Manager is so excited to hear that he is practicing English that I will probably get a nice all-expenses paid day trip to Eliza to visit the bottling plant/distribution center. Believe, any time I get out of town, it's a good day. Or take the parent who has met me weekly for coffee to build her speaking confidence. She can read and translate medical journals (she's a doctor) in English but has never had to speak English.

Unfortunately, as with all performance evaluations, I must be honest and look at areas where I don't see the improvement I would like. The first is discipline, or lack thereof, in both classes 2C and 2A. Today, for example in 2C, 6 out of 16 kids had already left on vacation and I honestly couldn't tell that kids were missing. It was still a zoo. I worry that I've become so non-nonplussed about choke holds, punches, hooks and jabs, that I might not even notice when there is a serious problem.. The second area needing improvement is moving students beyond the basic informal conversation to more interesting topics. I probably hear "I'm fine, thanks, and you?" 75-100 times per day. (I usually try to replace "fine" with many other adjectives but the students just don't seem to pick them up..And, seriously, I'd like to talk about something beside how I'm feeling anyway, because who's really honest with that answer anyway) I've started wearing a "Question of the day" on my jacket to spur some more creative conversation.

Speaking of "fine", however, it's time end this post. I'm "excited" because tomorrow I meet Eric in Istanbul and we begin a 2 week sojourn in Turkey. Yippee!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Sounds like the kids and adults are making progress! How great that so many people are having the opportunity to improve their conversation skills by conversing. You will figure out the discipline stuff…
    Have a great trip with Eric! Post lots of pictures!