I was a Secondary/Primary English teacher volunteer. I taught 3rd grade up to 11th grade. My first year I had three counterparts that I co-taught English with. Georgian schools are very different from American schools. Like any school system, there are pros and cons.
However, one of the things that I really liked about Georgian schools is that students learn foreign languages earlier than many students in the U.S. In addition, there are several languages that students can choose to pursue. Many of my students spoke English, Russian, and Georgian. French and German were also offered. It was very obvious that studying foreign languages is valued in Georgia. I also found Georgian students to be very resourceful. When you come from a place where you don’t have many resources, that can sometimes force you to find creative solutions to whatever is needed.
One of the things that stood out to me the most was the fact that languages are not taught in levels. Basically that means that if you’re in 10th grade and have never taken any English classes but you move to another school where English is offered, you will still be placed in 10th grade English. The problem with that is that there will be students who know no English whatsoever but are in class with students who have been studying English for years. That makes teaching very difficult due to having multiple levels of students in the same class. Another thing that was very apparent is that there is not a strong disciplinary system that is enforced in school. For example, there is no concept of detention, suspension, expulsion etc. If you have a problem with a student you can yell at them or perhaps talk to their parents but aside from that, there is no way to discipline the students. To be fair, I didn’t have many problems with students being disruptive but there were instances where I wished that students would have to deal with the consequences of their actions.The biggest challenge that volunteers faced was that cheating was the norm. That was quite shocking because most in the U.S we are taught from an early age that cheating is wrong. It’s something that is engrained in us from the very beginning that cheating is unacceptable. That was not the case in Georgia. Students would cheat openly and teachers didn’t do anything to prevent it. Students saw it as helping one another, they didn’t equate cheating with being dishonest. After some time, I addressed this with my co-teachers and I began to give students a 0 on their assignments if they were caught cheating. I forewarned them ahead of time as well as I did a presentation about why cheating is wrong. I would love to say that I drastically saw a decrease in cheating but I would be lying. Cheating continued to happen but the difference is that there were consequences now unlike before.
Day to Day in the Classroom
I really enjoyed teaching in Georgia. I loved walking into class and the students being so excited to see me. It was almost like being a rock star, almost. Typically my co-teacher would explain the grammar and I would do the reading and some of the other activities. We normally followed the book to a T but sometimes I would also find related activities online that I would use to supplement the book. My first year I had classes 5 days a week but the second year I had classes 4 days a week. Some days I would be at school from 9am-12 pm whereas other days I would be there from 9am-2pm. My schedule was very flexible which was also cool. Sometimes the schedule would change the day of and my class would get cancelled or my co-teacher wouldn’t show up which would mean that class was cancelled. Sometimes I taught by myself but when my counterparts were present, my students were less likely to misbehave. After class I would normally just go home and relax. I had a lot of really great students who I’m sure will continue to do great things in the future.
My first year I had a girl’s fitness club. We met for about 6 months before interest waned. I tried to continue it my next year but I couldn’t get anybody to participate. I decided to have a girl’s fitness club because in Georgia, boys are usually the only ones who play sports and are active.The girls seem to get left behind which is why I wanted to change that. We met in the school gym and I would lead them in an exercise routine. It was really fun. I also started an English conversation club where I had about 6-8 students depending on the week. We played language games and watched movies. Both the fitness club and the conversation club were important because in Georgia it’s not common for schools to offer extracurricular activities. Because Lanchkhuti is a small town, there aren’t many things to do. So when I wasn’t at school I spent lots of time watching movies and TV shows on my computer. In Lanchkhuti there was a public pool and sometimes I went there but even though it was an indoor pool, it wasn’t open all year round. I also jogged a lot which got me a lot of attention but more on that later.