I eventually make my way to my classroom where I teach my lessons. In the breaks between classes or before classes, some students I don’t teach like to try to say hello. There aren’t many that are up to it, but there are some. I’m told that the students I do have take great pride in being able to greet the foreigner, so others try as well. Hello, how are you? “Hello! I’m fine, and you?” Smile. Awkwardly look at me while other students look on and giggle. Sometimes the other teachers greet me as well, when I’m with my co-teacher. They ask me (translated through my co-teacher) how I like something Georgian (country, women, wine, food, etc….) and would I like to go with them to their village some weekend for wine and Mts’vadi? Of course, I respond. When? Oh, sometime when the weather is better.
Right now I don’t have many lessons, just a few per day, but I am told that I’ll have more in April. The way the school works is, it’s a 30 week program, where the students have one lesson per week. As a result, they really don’t pick up much. One of my co-teachers has tried to change the school policy to have three lessons per week for ten weeks, but to no avail.
So the students really have very, very basic levels of English, even if they’ve been having lessons for 20 weeks. The courses that have either all girls, or a mixture of the sexes, are generally good. They respect the teachers and try to learn things. The courses with only boys are brutal. The levels of English vary, but so few students ever say anything, that it’s hard to judge just how stratified the levels are. In my good classes there are usually three or four students who can speak and answer basic questions, about four others that write things down, and about five that do nothing. Well, they cause trouble and play on their phones or doodle or something.
Many of my lessons are recycled for all of the classes. Last week I did lessons with the verb “to be,” personal pronouns, and possessive adjectives. So the blackboard was covered with charts of 2×3, with the various words for singular/plural and first/second/third person. With one of my more basic classes, with all boys, most of the class was making sentences. I really enjoy making basic sentences in these scenarios, because I can make them completely ridiculous.
So I made fill in the blank sentences, where they would tell me the correct form of “to be,” the correct personal pronoun or possessive adjective.
Is she a desk? No. She is a girl.
Is it a pen? No. It is a car.
Are Bob and Joe girls? No. They are boys.
Are you girls? No. We are boys. (When I did this one, I got the one grammatically perfect phrase from any of my classes, F*** you! I had my back turned to the class at the time, but told them that they could only say that when they could have a coherent conversation with me, which they didn’t understand.)
Are Giorgi and Lasha dogs? No. They are students.
Is she a dog? No. She is a girl.
Am I a table? No. I am a teacher.
My co-teacher might say something like: Steven. Aren’t you tired. No, I’m not tired at all. Steven, sit down. They don’t want to learn. But this is important! I know, Steven. But they’re not listening. They don’t care. Well, one or two students are, so I’ll continue!
Am I a book? No. I am a man…
Bell rings, students begin to file out as I try to brush some of the chalk dust off of my hands, shirt and jacket. Most of the students, even those who did nothing or were disruptive, shake my hand as they leave and say goodbye. While discipline in the class itself doesn’t matter, there’s a still a certain level of respect that students have for the teacher. Stand up when he/she enters, make sure he/she has a chair to sit in, tissue to wipe chalky hands with, and chalk for the board, shake hand upon leaving, and (try to) greet when we meet in the street. Oh, the incongruity!