Escape of the Pod Children: Teaching in Mongolia

So… I have decided that constant writing about the trials of living in a country where you don’t speak the language will get old very quickly. On that note I have decided that this entry will not have the words “mime”, “Mongolian”, “English” or the phrase “My God, why don’t I speak the language already!” It is time to move on. Let’s see if I can do it! 

Have I mentioned that my classroom is in a slightly remodeled (they put in a window!) storage room? It is. About a third of it is still taken up with random things in storage. None of the classrooms have cabinets or counter space (seriously if you aren’t a teacher you probably can’t understand the travesty of that statement) so everything has to be stored in these huge wooden wardrobe like things. The strange thing about the whole situation is that I actually lobbied to get into the storage room as the alternative was the IT room downstairs. To make things even more entertaining the printer that all of the primary teachers share in my classroom with me. Needless to say I always have plenty of company. On the bright side I am close to all of my students in this room, have the best ventilation in the building (apparently ventilation is considered unnecessary in Asia) and the whole place has turned out rather nicely if I do say so myself. 

I am starting on my normal schedule at school this week. You may be asking yourself: “Tara, why if you have been in school for two and a half weeks are you just starting going into the classroom and/or pulling students out in small groups? Are you that bad a teacher?” The answer is unfortunately “yes”. Okay, “bad teacher” probably not the right word. Overly optimistic. I decided before school started that I was going to formally evaluate each and every one of the 40 children who are on my ESL caseload. I had the test and more importantly I knew how to give the test! I thought that three days would be plenty of time. Not so. And after reading the directions and questions, listening to that annoying audio CD while children point I have to say that I hope that I never have to give another formal assessment in all my life. I think that I could give the whole test from memory at this point! 

I work with the grade one to grade five children. There are two preschool classes and a kindergarten but, thank God, I don’t have to give services to them. I feel as if I am drowning in children! Oddly there are not nearly as many Mongolian children at the school as I thought that there would be. Apparently, there is a cap of 40% Mongolian (The people not the language! Keep your shirt on!). As it was explained to me that is to ensure that there are enough places for the expats. The largest group by far are Korean but there are also American, British, Australian, Norwegian, Finnish, German, Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, New Zealanders… The list goes on! It is fascinating to be in the classrooms as they are like little UNs and recess proves that childhood basically is a universal language. I watched a second grade girl from Korea (who speaks very little English) orchestrate the playing of a board game. She was making sure that the groups was taking turns (“No, me!” or “No, him!”), and that everyone followed the rules (“No, two!”). I can’t wait to see what she can do when she speaks English more fluently. She will probably take over the school! 

The Primary school had our “Fun Picnic Day” on Friday. I was expecting the usual chaos that I have come to expect at such events and was amazed that our half planned day went off with military precision! I am telling you these kids are freakishly good. They pay attention, get into the activities in the way that they are supposed to and they do what I tell them to. The idea of pod people has entered my mind more than once… 

That all for now. I am off to explore the corners of the school just to make sure there are no pods around...